Colombian President Recognizes FETP for Achieving TEPHINET Accreditation
In December, the Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) of Colombia welcomed the country’s president, Dr. Iván Duque Márquez, during his first visit to the National Institute of Health (known locally as Instituto Nacional de Salud, or INS) in Bogota. Colombia’s minister of health, Dr. Juan Pablo Uribe Restrepo, also joined the visit. On December 7, both attended a ceremony hosted by INS to recognize the FETP on its recent accreditation by the TEPHINET Global Accrediting Body.
During the ceremony, TEPHINET delegate Dr. Mariana Mansur presented an accreditation plaque to the director of INS, Dr. Martha Lucía Ospina.
“With its accreditation, FETP Colombia becomes part of the elite training group of field epidemiologists in the world,” said Dr. Mansur.
At the event, President Duque highlighted the work of INS, saying, “It is thanks to you that Colombia has the human talent, tools and equipment to travel anywhere where there are risks. You represent an honor because you are the public health guardians of the country. For this reason, I want to praise the work of all the officials of INS. You are a pride for Colombia.”
Afterwards, Duque tweeted, “Hoy visitamos el @INSColombia que recibe la acreditación internacional por su alta capacidad de respuesta frente a epidemias y brotes, lo que confirma los avances del país para afrontar emergencias en materia de salud pública.” (Translation: “Today we visit @INSColombia which receives international accreditation for its high capacity to respond to epidemics and outbreaks, confirming the country's progress in facing emergencies in public health.”)
Launched in 2016, TEPHINET accreditation is an opportunity for field epidemiology training programs worldwide to align with common standards that support quality training and increased recognition of their value in supporting country public health priorities. FETP Colombia was recently accredited in the third cycle of TEPHINET accreditation along with FETPs in Australia, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania.
“Today,” said Minister of Health Juan Pablo Uribe Restrepo during the ceremony, “INS has the first Spanish-speaking field epidemiology training program [to achieve] the highest international accreditation, which means that the training of our epidemiologists promotes that our professionals will be the most responsive…for public health emergencies.”
The goal of TEPHINET’s accreditation initiative is to guide FETPs through a process of continuous quality improvement. All accredited programs will need to reapply for accreditation after five years to prove that they are maintaining the same high standards as before. Accreditation can help programs demonstrate their strength to external partners, which in turn can help them achieve their long-term goals.
According to INS director Martha Lucía Ospina, the institute’s goal is to train 1,500 field epidemiologists to protect Colombia from health threats. To date, FETP Colombia has graduated 129 field epidemiologists from its advanced level program and 300 more from the intermediate level.
“This is an international accreditation that leaves us at the level of the best. It means that the field epidemiologists we train at INS comply with all the international standards, because we have the best talent, the best technology, the best techniques and methods to do the detection, response and containment,” says Ospina.
President Duque encouraged INS to proceed with an initiative with the Ministry of Education that will lead to the FETP becoming a graduate-level, degree-granting training institution, solidifying its place as a leader in public health practice in the region.
“[TEPHINET] accreditation will be the basis for consolidating the Institute's specialized training offerings,” Ospina adds.
The TEPHINET Secretariat is currently preparing to launch the fourth cycle of FETP accreditation in early 2019. Interested programs should visit tephinet.org/accreditation for more information.
Q & A with Instituto Nacional de Salud
What was particularly challenging and/or beneficial about going through the accreditation process?
“The accreditation process meant organizing the information in a better way, improving the base documents of the program, internally verifying that we were complying with our processes, guaranteeing greater satisfaction for the current residents and fully supporting the [residents’] graduation…This also led us to reflect, to think about what we wanted and how we could improve. It led us to think about what we would be like in the next five years.”
-Dr. Maritza González, advisor to the general direction of INS
What advice would you give to other Spanish-speaking programs in the region that would like to pursue TEPHINET accreditation?
“The key is to recognize that we make mistakes, that we are very good in the field, in pedagogy, and in what we produce, but that we must stop and review our standards, our procedures, our quality criteria. Programs must prepare themselves to be better, to accept the challenge; at last the reward is great. Being an accredited program really puts you in the big leagues.”
-Dr. Franklyn Prieto, director of FETP Colombia and of public health surveillance and risk analysis at INS