A new Faculty of Biomedical Sciences at USI for the development of the Master in Medicine

Servizio comunicazione istituzionale

8 Ottobre 2013

The University Council has approved the Report on a Faculty of Biomedical Sciences at USI, during an extraordinary session last Friday, 4 October. The document has been handed over to the Consiglio di Stato that will prepare a communication within the next months which will then be discussed in the Gran Consiglio.

From an academic point of view, the outlines of the project have been clarified: now, it is up to the political players to evaluate the proposals of the study group Scenarios for structuring clinical education in medicine in Ticino. The new Faculty would include: an Institute of Human Medicine in charge of organizing and managing the Master in Medicine; the Research Institute in Biomedicine (IRB) and related educational activities on PhD level; continuing education in entrepreneurship, with the creation of a Center of Advanced Studies in Biomedical Entrepreneurship (CASEbiomed); other educational and research activities in collaboration with the Faculties of Communication Sciences, Economics, and Informatics.      

An opportunity not to be missed

The lack of Swiss doctors and the necessity to rely on foreign physicians, as well as the limited number of study places offered by Swiss Faculties are often the focus of national political debates. In this context, USI’s projectis in line with the principle decision taken by the “Dialogue of national health policy”, a continuous platform of the Confederation and the cantons, which foresees an increase of 300 places compared to the current level in Switzerland, starting from the academic year 2018/2019. Ticino consents to the necessity for new development strategies, which are needed also in order to compensate for financial difficulties: scientific research could represent a crucial element, especially in the fields of biomedicine, cardiology, oncology, and neurology.

Thus, both the national and cantonal environments seem to strongly favour the institution of a new Faculty which could significantly enhance Ticino’s scientific, social, and economic development. It is a great opportunity that should not be missed.

A Master in human medicine: an extended collaboration with various Faculties

Being situated within an Institute of human medicine at a Faculty of Biomedical Sciences, USI’s Master in Medicine would benefit from the collaboration with various affiliated universities, among which one will assume the role of a university of reference for the Master’s accreditation and for the recognition of the first degrees. All affiliated faculties will collaborate equally on a didactical, research, and clinical level, as well as in the acquisition of new students.

USI’s Master, which would welcome around 60 to 70 students in the first year, will only be successful if it is able to offer not only high quality teaching, but also opportunities that differentiate its programme from others. In due consideration of the Catalogue of Competencies of the BAG (Federal Office of Public Health), USI’s Master could distinguish itself based on two major characteristics:

  1. An in-depth investigation of scientific competencies for a better research preparation. Thanks to the competencies of the Research Institute in Biomedicine and the Institute of Computational Sciences, USI can offer right away good opportunities and thus make the new clinical education programme more appealing.
  2. An in-depth investigation of public health management with a particular focus on family medicine. Already the first report of the working group mentioned the possibility of creating an Institute of Family Medicine, which is planned by several Faculties and which is being advocated through a series of political initiatives. An education in family medicine is a specialisation after the Master, but single courses could already be offered within the study programme. USI’s competencies in Health Communication and Public Health and the respective scientific networks could represent a further interesting support.

Costs and next steps

The Rapporto di approfondimentohad only focused on the Master in Human Medicine. The proposal of a Faculty of Biomedical Sciences extends the field of activity, but represents an organizational context that is in line with on-going activities that are already financed through own channels. Therefore, there are no changes regarding the previous financial estimates: the difference between revenues (CHF 17'790'000) and expenditures (CHF 23'130'000) amounts to 6 million Swiss francs, which is the calculation base for the Canton’s extraordinary contribution. In the suggested model, the basic research will have to rely on financial support from private foundations that assume the management and financing role, and that enable a clear separation of costs. Already now, Ticino invests 21.5 million CHF in fundamental research and 9 million CHF in clinical research.

A clear and fast response, first of the Consiglio di Stato and later of the Gran Consiglio, are of major importance for the final success of the project. The following development phases are thus expected:

  1. From now until 2014, the approval of USI’s report by the Consiglio di Stato regarding USI’s decision to create a Faculty of Biomedical Sciences, i.e. preparation of a communication and its discussion, and the final approval through the Gran Consiglio.
  2. From 2014 to 2017, the new Faculty would have to consolidate its organs and the IRB would assume the role of one of its Institutes; meanwhile, the CRUS would have to decide officially on the increase of available places on the Bachelor level. Thus, in the fall semester 2014/2015, Bachelor programmes could start at the Faculties of Medicine of affiliated universities for those students who plan to later enroll in USI’s Master.
  3. In 2017, courses of USI’s Master programme will start (fall semester 2017/2018), the Faculty’s institutions will be completed, and Professors will be nominated. Subsequently, the first diplomas will be awarded, the first state examinations will be held (summer 2020) and the accreditation process will be concluded.