Background: The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have witnessed over the last 40 years a rapid and major social, cultural, and economic transformation. The development of medical education in the region is relatively new, dating from the late 1960s. An important goal among the medical colleges in the region is to graduate national physicians who can populate the healthcare service of each country.
Aim: The aim of this study is to provide understanding of undergraduate medical education in each of the six GCC countries and the challenges that each face.
Methods: This is a descriptive cross-sectional study. Fourteen senior medical faculty were requested to submit information about undergraduate medical education in their own countries, focusing on its historical background, student selection, curriculum, faculty, and challenges.
Results: The information provided was about 27 medical colleges: 16 from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), five from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), two from the Kingdom of Bahrain, two from Sultanate of Oman, one from Kuwait, and one from the State of Qatar. It was found that older colleges are reviewing their curriculum while new colleges are developing their programs following current trends in medical education, particularly problem-based learning and integrated curricula. The programs as described 'on paper' look good but what needs to be evaluated is the curriculum 'in action'. Faculty development in medical education is taking place in most of the region's medical colleges.
Conclusion: The challenges reported were mainly related to shortages of faculty, availability of clinical training facilities and the need to more integration with the National Health Care services. Attention to quality, standards, and accreditation is considered essential by all colleges.