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Examining an Island Medical School

Examining an Island Medical School
January 5, 2007

The number of medical schools in the Caribbean has shot up in recent years, and with it the number of graduates of those programs who seek to become doctors in the United States. With both of those increases has come growing concern about the oversight and academic quality of offshore medical schools, which are seen as varying wildly.

One such institution, Saint Theresa’s Medical University, is under investigation by officials on the island of St. Kitts, amid charges, which school officials contest, that its dean is not licensed to practice medicine and has claimed to have a doctorate (when his degree appears to be from an unaccredited institution).

The minister of health for the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, Rupert Herbert, said that his government’s review had been prompted by recent articles in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, which reported that Saint Theresa’s chancellor and executive director, Thomas M. Uhrin, has portrayed himself as a medical doctor even though he is not licensed. The Tribune also reported that Uhrin was fired from the International University of Health Sciences, another Caribbean institution, for falsely claiming to have a doctorate. Saint Theresa’s main administrative office is in Latrobe, Pa., not far from Pittsburgh.

Vernon S. Veira, a lawyer and chairman of the university’s board, said that the newspaper’s allegations are false and that he plans to sue the Tribune. “We will prosecute for defamation of character,” he said.

Prior to setting up St. Theresa’s, Uhrin was employed by another Caribbean institution, the International University of Health Sciences. R.J. Sims, that university’s chief operating officer, said that he had let Uhrin go after concluding that Uhrin’s Ph.D. was not real. “In so many ways, he wasn’t the guy we needed to run the school,” he said.

Uhrin disputed the allegations made against him and said that some of the Tribune’s facts were wrong. “We have no secrets,” he said. “The school is what it is. It’s struggling.” The Tribune reported that it could find no records to support Uhrin’s claim that he had earned a doctoral degree in philosophy from the University of Health Sciences, College of Medicine, in the United Kingdom.

“They must have been calling the wrong place,” said Uhrin. He added that he did not know where the newspaper got the idea that he had received a Ph.D from that institution. He said he had earned his doctorate from another institution -- the American College of Metaphysical Theology.

The Web site of the American College of Metaphysical Theology states that its degree programs are “not designed to meet any particular local, state or national licensing or credentialing laws, nor to meet any requirements established by any private independent associations.” The college is not accredited and the fee for a doctoral degree is $249.

Veira said that Uhrin never claimed to be a licensed physician. “He is not board certified. He is an academic,” he said. Veira stated that the university opened in 2005 and has approximately 30 students enrolled this semester. He added that Saint Theresa’s is accredited by the island’s government, a fact that Herbert, the health minister, confirmed.

 

 

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