Revolutionising medical education
Oct 15 2013
Hence, the admission process is still a major component of medical education and not education, per say. It is the curriculum that has seen limited change which is covered mostly in classrooms using age-old delivery processes with minimal provision of the direct hospital experience. Several medical colleges create medical hospitals with quite modern equipments, but teachers (who are mostly professional doctors) use it for expanding their own practice and allow students to just have a feel of what comprises the medical treatment. Also, student graduates, who are supposed to work in rural areas, cleverly avoid such rural tasks.
The academic reason for low experienced graduates is that medical colleges and doctors involved in teaching processes are uncomfortable in using electronic technology-driven delivery methods. The avoidance of practical projects that link with hospital patients, along with complete ignorance of research components, is a well accepted way of teaching. Indeed, association with research gives a true picture of ground reality experiences to graduate students.
Now medical doctors have to have generic knowledge of all disciplines that are the heart of the medical profession. In addition, they need to understand many other aspects related to growth of the society in general, which are deeply linked with the health scenario in the country.
Economics and sociology are deeply linked with medical science. Since we talk of demographic dividend, demography is also deeply linked with medical science. Researches conducted in many countries on demographic dividend, that China and India had in the 60s and 70s, mostly indicate that the entire world is going to collapse because the population of these two countries is growing enormously. There was even a predication of a major disaster in both the countries. Today, in 21st century, these two nations have successfully addressed the issues connected with both hunger and health. This story can continue even in future if both these countries have a large number of highly trained medical graduates. In addition to that, they also need to create many second-level graduates (from science and other subjects) with appropriate skills, who provide medical service to people. Hence, there is an urgent need to look at medical education in a larger perspective.
Since Independence, we have created a very complex education system. We have 13 professional subject councils created by the Parliament. They are all equals in regard to their working and powers of operations, but they need not necessarily have links with other councils. This has certainly created a very unacademic environment in the country. There is a need to create vibrant linkages between the councils so that the medical education goes into a converging mode. This would create an improved environment that meets the 21st century’s expectations in the medical education domain.
We are also very weak in creating secondary-level medical graduates, who are experts in technology support, that today’s medical profession requires. I have seen what Dr VD Deo’s medical academy, in the Kokan area of Maharashtra, is doing at present, with the help of B.Sc. students who have done clinical research. It is a good example that reflects on the need for bringing people from other discipline in the medical domain. Once you acquire a sound science degree and appropriate medical profession-related skills, you immediately become highly constructive. When we talk of an information-linked economy change, health science is a critical component of such a change. And for strengthening of health science, the foundation is medical education. Therefore, we have to inculcate the spirit of understanding and fraternity in the entire domain of health sciences. Thus, the importance of research connected with medical sciences starts coming into the picture. We need to inculcate the spirit of research, right at the undergraduate and postgraduate level.
In western medical schools, these changes are now an integral part of their education. Their schools focus on medical discipline-related research and the students are directly a part of the same. Teaching is an integral support of the medical research and just classroom teaching in medical colleges is not the first advantage of the health discipline. Such a spirit is to be brought in our medical colleges as well. If we can nurture such an environment in this country, we would have a huge demographic advantage that is linked with the health and socio-economics of the society.
(The writer is former chairman of UGC, former vice-chancellor of University of Pune and founder director of NAAC)