Preparing for an institutional self review using the WFME standards - an international medical school case study.

BACKGROUND: Curriculum reform poses significant challenges for medical schools across the globe. This paper describes the reforms that took place at the medical school of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) between 2005 and 2008 and the institutional self review process that accompanied these reforms. RESULTS: Although fully accredited with the Irish Medical Council the RCSI sought additional detailed review of all aspects of its undergraduate medical program. Five medical educationalists were invited to visit the College in 2005 and again in 2008 to act as 'critical friends' and guide the self review using the World Federation for Medical Education (WFME) standards which had recently been adopted in Ireland. CONCLUSION: The process of institutional self review (as opposed to more high stakes accreditation) can bring about significant reform, especially when supported by a panel of 'critical friends' working alongside faculty to help guide and support sustained curriculum reform. The WFME standards continue to provide a useful framework to consider all medical education activities within a medical school engaged in continuous renewal. Adequate preparation for such reviews is critical to the success of such an undertaking and should be supported by a comprehensive communication strategy and project plan.