Medical College Director Interview: We have been following the same course for five decades, says Fortis Escorts Heart Institute Chairman
Abhay Anand, 01 Jun 2016
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UPES - School of Health Sciences

Careers360 in conversation with Dr. Ashok Seth, Chairman, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, brings expert insights what needs to change in India’s medical education system. Read this interview to know what Fortis Escorts Heart Institute’s Chairman shares on commercialization of medical education.

Careers360: How do you look at the growth of medical education in the country?
Dr. Ashok Seth: There has been good growth of private medical colleges and less in case of government medical colleges; so in a way medical education is also transforming into a business rather than just education. The quality of education is a major issue in such a situation and it has to change now. We have been following the same course for the last 50 years as the content and structure has not changed. The MCI in past few years has been trying to bring a change through various phases. It has to be made more practical-oriented, there has to be better understanding of patient-doctor relation and that is the change medical council is working at.


A greater emphasis is also being given to research that did not exist as part of medical education but now that is coming as a part of the curriculum. We need to understand how to do research, statistics and analysis. The curriculum revamp is also looking at the aspects like ethics, morality, societal needs and these things are being made a part of medical curriculum.

Careers360: Isn't there a perception that medical education has become too commercialized?
Dr. Ashok Seth: Medical education cannot become very expensive. We might open private colleges and the Public—Private-Partnership is the way to go forward or government should have had the intention to say that medical education is fully governmental and everybody has the mandate to serve five years at the primary or secondary healthcare centres. The other way can be that as it is highly subsidized under the PPP model, it must have the same mandate of people going out in the community and working for three to five years.

Dr. Ashok SethDr. Ashok Seth
Fortis Escorts Heart Institute

It is not just that research is not happening at private colleges but the situation is same at government medical colleges as well. If you link promotion to science and research people will start doing it.

Careers360:Can we encourage young professionals to work in smaller cities?
Dr. Ashok Seth: See, the problem is that there are more number of private colleges and the high fee that they pay there and when they come out it is almost like the US and they invest heavily for the education so their first priority is to pay back the loan. They start private practice and go to big cities where they can earn money. It should change and there is a need for a governmental road map for it and medical education or any education cannot be left in private hands. We should actually be very critical of our medical colleges. They can also increase the number of seats provided they have sufficient infrastructure to support education.

Careers360: Do you think that India needs more doctors?
Dr. Ashok Seth:India has shortage of doctors. But my concern is that just creating more doctors is not going to serve because 70 per cent of the doctors are still in the big cities and not going to smaller towns. So not only do we need to  create more doctors but also a system in which they work in smaller towns, in government and this will happen when we create good quality infrastructure.


Careers360: What about an exit exam for doctors like entrance exams to ensure quality? How do you look at this?
Dr. Ashok Seth: I do believe that the time has come to say that uniformity of the highest class of medical system should exist in the form of a uniform entrance exam, whether private or public, and they come out after taking a centralized exit exam. Wherever there is system of exit examination we have seen that it creates standards and the people who qualify also know that they are of uniform standards and it should form one of the important components of the revamp of medical education system in the country.


Careers360: You have spent over three decades in this profession. Has there been any change in the outlook of students?
Dr. Ashok Seth: When we went into medical profession 30-40 years ago it was a very noble profession and there were not many choices. Money wasn’t the criteria. Now the change is that what provides the best of living and nobility of the profession may not be the same. Many students now see this profession as a provider of better living standards. Many also plan to open nursing homes and lead a comfortable life. That goes for every profession now and there are more options now, each of them more attractive than the other.  


Careers360: How do you look at the demand for specialists in this field?
Dr. Ashok Seth:The demand is phenomenal, but the problem is that gradually we are transforming into specialized doctors though we need general doctors in a big way. What we are missing now are real general physicians who will take care of the patient and family as a whole, covering all aspects.  


Careers360: What are the problems in creating a pool of super specialists?
Dr. Ashok Seth: It takes 14 years to create a super specialist and then the super specialist starts at the bottom as a beginner. We need to value the super specialist for his 14 years of experience and knowledge. It means giving good remuneration because these are the people who are serving humanity. They should be paid in manner that they do not have to struggle for their existence.


Careers360: A recent report says that research output is negligible in India’s medical institutions. Why is it so?
Dr. Ashok Seth: It is not just that research is not happening at private colleges but the same situation exists at government medical colleges as well. People will take up research only when there is a reason for that. So if you link promotion to science and research people will start doing it. We have to also value it monetarily and by just making it mandatory or providing infrastructure will not change it.

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