What the plight of students in Ukraine reveals about medical education in India

News: Odisha’s CM requested PM of India, to ensure uninterrupted education for medical students coming from Ukraine. He has requested him to enable their admission to Indian medical colleges.

Almost 18,000 Indian medical students have come back from Ukraine’s war zones. Such a situation also arose post-Partition, when the refugee medical students had migrated from medical colleges located in the newly-created Pakistan.

Why Indian students go abroad to pursue their medical education?

Read Medical Education in India and Associated Issues

Less number of seats available for medical education in India: Number of aspirants who want to become doctors after 12th are more than seats. For example, only 89,875 out of 1.6 million students who appeared in NEET-2021, were selected for 596 medical colleges in the country.

Thus, the remaining students are left with the option to either enrol in non-medical courses in India or seek admission to foreign medical colleges.

Problems faced by returning Indian medical students

Dilemma: It is unlikely that students may go back to Ukraine even if situation normalise. However, they also won’t be able to get direct admissions into Indian medical colleges due to regulatory and social issues. Thus, they will have to go through qualifying exam to get admission.

Qualifying Exam to Intern in India: On return, they need to pass a qualifying examination to intern in the medical institutions recognised by the National Medical Commission (NMC).

Poor passing rates: Mostly below 20% due to several reasons: (a) Varying Training standards across foreign institutions, (b) The language of instruction other than English and (c) Different curriculum in foreign colleges, for example, a student training in Russia or Ukraine is unlikely to learn much about kala-azar or malaria.

Vast Syllabus of Screeding Examination: Syllabus encompassed the entire gamut of medical education.

What can be done for overall improvement in the medical education in India?

Don’t hand over district hospitals to the private sector. It will exacerbate inequities in healthcare and disconnect secondary care from primary health care (PHC) which is organized by the government

Upstream and Downstream Linkages of the District Hospital: link downstream to primary healthcare services and upstream to tertiary care hospitals to provide the students with a full range of clinical exposure while functioning as the main centre of education.

Online Classroom Teaching: Common classrooms can be created by virtually linking several of the medical colleges in a state

Financial Assistance to State governments: It is to be done for transformation of district hospitals.

Reduce urban-rural disparities in healthcare: For example, a centrally sponsored scheme aims to set up 157 new medical colleges attached to existing district/referral hospitals in areas that do not have any medical college.

Paramedical Training: Nursing colleges and allied health professional training centres may also be added to district hospitals to create a multi-layered, multi-skilled health workforce.

As an ultimate solution, the government can enroll the returning students in a BSc (Public Health) program. The National Health Policy of 2017 calls for Public Health Management cadres to be established in every state. Thus, it can lead to initiation of a programme for large-scale training of public health professionals.

Source: This post is based on article What the plight of students in Ukraine reveals about medical education in India published in the Indian Express on 8th march 2022

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