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Physician assistants can be trained to run clinics in rural India, says expert

January 05, 2017 01:14 am | Updated 01:14 am IST - CHENNAI:

There is a way to address the issue of insufficient doctors in the country. If enough number of youngsters is trained in public health, they can be given charge of clinics in rural areas, suggests C.V. Ramakrishnan, who pioneered the concept of physician assistant course in the country.

In an interview on the sidelines of the graduation day of Madras Medical Mission College of Health Sciences here on Wednesday, Dr. Ramakrishnan, adviser to Vikram Sarabhai Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology, Maharaja Sayaji Rao University, Baroda, who initiated the physician assistant course at the college in the 1990s, said the four-year physician assistant course run by the college could serve as a model for the country.

The students do four hours of clinical training every day and in the afternoons learn theory, which includes courses in basic medicine, biology, computer and information technology. Students also do internship in multi-disciplinary hospitals every year for two months.

“A rural clinic is known for preventive medicine, maintaining hygiene of the surroundings and nutrition of the population,” said Dr. Ramakrishnan.

Instead of disinterested doctors being asked to spend a year in a rural primary health centre, an interested physician assistant could be given the job by incentivising him to improve his qualification and knowledge, he said.

The model used by the Gandhigram Institute of Rural Health and Family Welfare Trust where doctors adopt two or three families in a village for which they would be responsible is what he has in mind.

Since physician assistants cannot work abroad they could be motivated to do a masters degree in Public Health and be employed in rural clinics. Candidates could be offered an opportunity to do Ph.D by allowing them to pick up research material from the community, thus retaining them in the clinics. “The graduates can be used to prevent diseases, control mosquitoes and take care of vaccination,” he noted.

“The course offered here [MMM] is a model course that could be adopted. For recognition the course could be affiliated to a University,” Dr. Ramakrishnan said.

Colleges offering the physician assistant courses must be accredited by a Central board. The regulatory board should also ensure quality. “Every five years, the candidates would have to take tests to continue practice,” he said.

On Wednesday, 86 graduates of the 2015-16 batch received their certificates and two meritorious students were awarded the gold medal.

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