Medical Education Under Economic Sanctions in Iran

Tavakol, Mohsen PhD, MClinEd

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181b6552b
Letters to the Editor

Assistant professor of medical education, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Department of Medical Education, Tehran, Iran; (

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To the Editor:

Medical education in Iran is a sturdy phenomenon. Despite the eight-year war with Iraq, 30 years of U.S. sanctions, three United Nations economic sanctions, and consequent reduced government budgets for public spending, Iranian medical educators have not been disheartened from undertaking training programs in a wide variety of medical specialties.

The number of medical schools has increased from 13 in 1979 (before the 1979 revolution) to 48 today, representing approximately one school for every 1.5 million people. Iran has been ranked ninth out of 235 countries in terms of the number of medical schools.1 Study in state universities is free. The basic medical education course lasts seven years. Curricula are mostly based on a post-Flexnerian doctrine, in which basic sciences are taught before clinical sciences. In 2007, Graduate Entry to Medicine was established in the Tehran University of Medical Science for the first time. (This means that graduates from university programs besides basic sciences programs, such as biology, can apply for medical school.) Currently, 25 specialty and 20 subspecialty training programs are offered. Furthermore, 39 PhD basic science programs, including medical nanotechnology, have been launched in Iranian universities of medical sciences. There is a highly competitive national examination for entering these programs.

However, the qualitative and quantitative growth of medical education have not been parallel. The quality of medical education in Iran still needs much development in several areas, including the standardization of curricula to provide consistently high-quality health care; improvements in pedagogic practice, assessment systems, and student selection; and more emphasis on patient-oriented care, international collaborations, faculty development programs, medical education research, and research funding.

Until now, little has been accomplished in those areas. There is a need for medical educational leaders with inspirational qualities to foster the development of better medical education programs.2 But even if such leaders emerge, progress in Iran’s contribution to the quality of global medical education will probably be limited until sanctions are removed.

Mohsen Tavakol, PhD, MClinEd

Assistant professor of medical education, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Department of Medical Education, Tehran, Iran; (

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1 Boulet J, Bede C, McKinley D, Norcini J. An overview of the world’s medical schools. Med Teach. 2007;29:20–26.
2 Tavakol M, Murphy R, Torabi S, et al. The involvement of clinicians in medical education research. Qual Prim Care. 2008;16:335–340.
© 2009 Association of American Medical Colleges