Medical education in the country is now poised tantalisingly on the brink of wide-ranging changes that are likely to improve the quality of training and enhance access to the portals of learning. Outlining various incentives set apace by the Medical Council of India, its president Ketan Desai recently spoke of how these measures will be a call back to the basics access, equity and quality.
A National Faculty Development Programme has been kickstarted at the recent platinum jubilee celebrations of the Council to take up regular refreshers for medical teachers of the country. This will focus on the core concepts of “adult learning” and will incorporate innovations in the teaching, learning and evaluation process.
As part of actualisation of this programme, Dr. Desai said the Council's Academic Cell has structured a basic course on medical education technology to be conducted institutionally by each medical college. Mid-level courses are to be conducted by the 10 regional centres that have been identified by the Council in different regions of the country. The aim, he stressed, is to ensure the transformation of an efficient teacher into an effective one.
Addressing another key area of concern in the country, the Council has undertaken the rationalisation of minimum requirements for starting medical colleges and their equitable geographic location so as to promote the all-important criteria of promoting access to all.
Speaking at the convocation of the Tamil Nadu Dr. MGR Medical Varsity, Dr. Desai said, resultantly, the requirement of a unitary piece of land of 25 acres has been reduced and greater attention paid to serving hitherto under-served areas of the country, including the North East.
In terms of manpower requirements, it has been indicated that manpower could be increased at the postgraduate level by changing the ratio of PG student to professor from 1:1 to 2:1.
In the case of super specialty courses, this ratio would be applicable to the rank of Professor and Associate Professor, he added. In essence, this would create nearly 3,000 additional postgraduate seats in the country and will increase the total number of seats to nearly 19,000 in 2010 - 2011.
This measure has also a double-edged advantage, Dr. Desai added. It is hoped that it would curb brain drain, ensuring that medical students do not leave the country in search of a PG seat. Rough estimates indicate that about 10 per cent of medical graduates go abroad seeking a PG avenue.
Further, an amendment has been made to the minimum qualifications for teachers in medical institutions, and quantum of teaching experience required for promotions. On the other hand, the number of publications in index journals has been made a mandate for placement and promotion.
The MCI president agreed that there was an imbalance in provision of services, with the urban centres far outweighing the rural ones in terms of availability of care and super specialists. To address this, the MCI has formulated ‘an alternative model of medical education' to general rural health manpower with the stipulation that students from rural areas alone would be admitted to this course. A successful student will be conferred with the degree M.B.B.S. (Rural).
These graduates would be duty-bound to serve the rural population as per a formal commitment. No doubt, incentives have also been worked out for the purpose 50 per cent of PG diploma seats would be given to personnel working in rural areas for at least three years. Additionally, the PG student would be entitled to 10 per cent weightage for each year of rural service rendered for his PG Entrance Examination, for not more than three years.
Dr. Desai also insisted that these reforms, initiated to ensure that the model of medical education is student-centred and community-based cannot be isolated or “a one-time affair.” The reforms would have to be ongoing and would have to have a “holistic approach,” he added.