In April 2019, the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and the National Board of Medical Examiners® (NBME®) signed an agreement with representatives from the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) that was nearly a year in the making. Specifically, the HPCSA asked FSMB and NBME to help them deliver a high-quality written exam that can be used as a standardized assessment for those international graduates who wish to practice medicine in South Africa.
Like the US, some physicians who desire to practice in South Africa received their education and training in other countries. To practice in South Africa, these physicians must pass a written exam and then a clinical skills assessment.
Discussions with HPCSA covered the physician regulatory system in South Africa, the concept of an examination for physicians seeking to join its registry, and an overview of services potentially available through the FSMB and/or NBME.
To assist in advancing healthcare worldwide, FSMB and NBME presented examples of assessment tools to the HPCSA and other attendees at the August 2017 Association of Medical Councils of Africa (AMCOA) conference in Cape Town, South Africa. Staff from the two organizations then travelled to Ghana in July 2018 to attend AMCOA and meet with African nations about high-quality assessments.
HPCSA selected an assessment currently administered as part of the Post-Licensure Assessment System (PLAS) in the United States, the Special Purpose Examination® (SPEX®). Using SPEX, FSMB and NBME will create a pilot for administration this fall at a Prometric Center in South Africa to a group of specially selected candidates. SPEX is a secure computer-based examination and is an objective, standardized assessment of current knowledge requisite for the general, undifferentiated practice of medicine.
In the future, there is the potential for further discussions with other African nations interested in exploring the feasibility of independent assessment as part of a formal licensing examination.