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Orphaned Non-clinical Postgraduates of Basic Medical Sciences

The write up on step motherly treatment meted out to non-clinical subjects and the risk of many faculty positions remaining vacant because of non-availability of qualified medical postgraduates may be true. It is also true that many medical graduates do not opt for non-clinical postgraduate courses. It will be worthwhile here to recollect and remember the vision of Dr A L Mudaliar, an eminent medical man and former vice chancellor of Madras University, who opted to give recognition for the Basic Medical Sciences and was the visionary responsible for starting such a unique campus in 1968.

Dr D S Sheriff
Dr D S Sheriff

Being a medical educationist, Dr Mudaliar saw the need to develop basic medical sciences like anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, microbiology, pathology and created a separate institute and named it as Post Graduate Institute of Basic Medical Sciences at Taramani, Chennai. He wanted postgraduates specialized in these subjects with a view to teach these subjects in medical colleges and also to act as potential candidates for furthering research in the respective basic medical subjects. Science graduates were screened and selected to join these courses by the Director of Medical Education and the committee constituted by the Directorate. These candidates were selected to join Madras Medical College, Madras for a three-year postgraduate course to undergo a common Human Anatomy Course, Physiology along with the subject of specialization from the respective departments in the first year. At the end of the first year they had to face a university examination to qualify to undergo further specialization in different departments attached to the PG Institute of Basic Medical Sciences for the next two years. The candidates would be examined at the end of the third year by the university. These candidates once qualified could join medical colleges to teach, develop research or continue to do their doctoral studies to obtain their PhD degrees in the respective subjects. For example, a candidate who got an MSc in Medical Biochemistry awarded by the Faculty of Medicine would get the PhD degree in say Biochemistry from the Faculty of Medicine of Madras University. The award of the degrees by the Faculty of Medicine was to show that these candidates were qualified from the Faculty of Medicine and eligible to teach and join medical institutions as faculty members.

This vision of Dr A L Mudaliar to create a bank of human resources in Basic Medical Sciences did result in the production of a cream of teachers and researchers to help promote the cause of medical education. Madras Medical College was the mother of these basic medical courses which initiated their studies in the campus and then prepared them to join the respective departments in the PG Institute of Basic Medical Sciences. The creation of the PG Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, Taramani and its development resulted in producing trained teachers of basic medical sciences along with contributing immensely to medical research evidenced by the number of publications stemming out the institute. The non-clinical postgraduates and doctorates from the institute helped to provide faculty to the medical colleges as well as to continue develop basic research in basic medical sciences. These postgraduates who were carrying the mantle of teaching were slowly replaced by medical postgraduates qualified in basic medical sciences. The Medical Council of India needs to encourage and give proper recognition of such non-clinical faculty. Rather some of these non-clinical teachers at times are looked down upon by the MCI inspection team during MCI inspection. This is when teachers with a doctorate who were holding professorial positions in medical colleges coupled with good number of research publications in their prior appointments have to be motivated and guided to do more in their academic pursuit.

The complaint that step motherly treatment given to basic medical subjects by medical graduates clearly states that many medical graduates wish to continue to specialize in clinical subjects. They join these basic medical courses as a last resort failing to get admissions in clinical subjects.

It is a paradox to witness a situation that many faculty positions remain vacant in spite of many non-clinical postgraduates available to offer their services in these departments. Basic medical sciences departments apart from teaching offer diagnostic services. These departments require both teachers and laboratory experts to run the medical institution. With the growing population there is a need for more medical colleges to be opened to reach a standard doctor to patient ratio. Therefore, we need non-clinical postgraduates as we need more medical colleges and more medical students to be trained for two years in these subjects to cater to the growing population in the coming years.

It is to be noted that the birth of Tamil Nadu Dr MGR Medical University (1989) in Tamil Nadu helped to maintain, regulate medical undergraduate and postgraduate education. But slowly, there was a divide between the medical university and the PG Institute of Basic Medical Sciences. The short sighted vision of the two which instead of bringing closer the two institutes created a division so severe that the future of the many of students studying in the PG Institute of Basic Medical Sciences was compromised and the vision of Dr A L Mudaliar blurred. Yet the students and the staff of the PG Institute did their valuable contribution for the development of medical education. The sudden dearth of many eminent medical professors of the institute and the lack of it slowly gave way to doubt the credibility of some of the courses offered lately.

The Medical Council of India (MCI), which had a great regard for the faculty qualified from the Faculty of Medicine, Madras University, had to deal with a situation where Tamil Nadu Dr MGR Medical University and the PG Institute of Basic Medical Sciences do not see each other on the same objective jeopardizing the postgraduates and PhDs from the PG institute. With medical colleges producing Doctors of Medicine (MD) in basic medical sciences the postgraduates from the institute have become a minority. There is a great competition between the two (though sometimes not healthy). The role of postgraduates named as non-medical (non-medical is a misnomer, non-clinical could be appropriate) from basic medical sciences is dwindling and resulting in the introduction of special clauses in the required qualification for the recruitment of teachers in medical colleges by the Medical Council of India.

The fact of the matter is there is no comparison here between the two. Each have their unique place in medical education and research. Healthy union of two essential segments of medical education will promote the teaching of the subjects efficiently and train medical students to learn the science in medical education.

Dr D S Sheriff
Professor, Faculty of Medicine
Benghazi University, Benghazi, Libya

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