“Change is the only constant,” quoted Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher. With time, it is imperative to evolve in order to progress and achieve greater success and this holds true in the field of medicine and education as well.
In recent years, the governing bodies of medicine in our country have come under the scanner, drawing strong criticism from legal authorities regarding stagnation in the education system. On the other hand, India is emerging as a favorite medical tourism destination, citing the advances and expertise in the field. These contradictory view points raise the question as to whether the medical education system in our country needs to be revamped in order to enhance the quality and quantity of medical services and personnel.
The basis of a successful healthcare delivery system and universal access to healthcare depends on the status of the medical education system. The Indian Medical Council (IMC) Act was passed in 1956, to provide a solid foundation for the growth of medical education. However, with increasing population demands and the occurrence of diseases, there is a need to modify the approach to medical training in order to ensure improvement of clinical skills than focus predominantly on theoretical information. To this effect, the National Knowledge Commission was established by the Government of India (2005), to address the constraints and challenges relating to curriculum, infrastructure, and administration.
Healthcare services in India present with regional variations and challenges. For example, the medical needs of rural communities differ from those of urban dwellers. The medical curriculum; therefore, should train students to perform effectively at primary care settings without advanced diagnostic and multidisciplinary support. However, it is also important to familiarize doctors with the advances in the field. The task is to maintain a balance between the core principles and advances to ensure all-round proficiency among medical students/professionals.
Committees have recommended restructuring the curriculum to match with the needs of the community, and to adopt training methods that focus on attainment of clinical competence, through an integrated approach, preferably a modular one. Moreover, uniform standards of medical education must be ensured across states and institutions at both undergraduate and post-graduate levels. A robust quality assurance mechanism must be in place to evaluate any lapse in the system.
The task does not stop with revamping the curriculum for students. Teaching staff require periodic additional training as well to be conversant with the various aspects of education and imparting skills. Education does not stop once a student earns his/her degree. Professionals must take advantage of fellowship, certificate courses, workshops conducted periodically in order to enhance their knowledge in the chosen field of study.
The healthcare sector is one of the fastest growing in our country and quality education must be the driving-force behind the success of the industry. The increase in the ageing population, rising incomes of the middle class, occurrence of newer diseases, and the development of primary care facilities are expected to shape the industry in future. When dealing with human lives, it is imperative to ensure provision of the highest degree of professional expertise to benefit mankind. Medicine is considered a noble profession and it is the duty of the service providers to enrich their knowledge through continuing education to hone their skills for the betterment of the community.
(Writer is Dr Pradeep Mahajan, Regenerative medicine researcher. Views expressed are a personal opinion.)