HEC, PMDC rift over non-medical PhD teachers

LAHORE, Aug 5: The issue that whether non-medical PhD degree holders should be hired for teaching basic medical sciences subjects at the government medical institutions or not has become a tug of war between the two top regulatory bodies of the country, Dawn has learnt.

The Higher Education Commission (HEC) had floated the idea of hiring non-medical PhD teachers in basic medical sciences to cover the country-wide dearth of PhDs with MBBS background. But the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) strongly turned down the scheme on the ground that such professionals were irrelevant to the medical field.

The HEC, which had taken up the issue on several forums in the past, also recently constituted National Committee on Medical Education (NCME) headed by University of Health Sciences (UHS) former Vice-Chancellor and HEC Senior Fellow Prof Dr Malik Hussain Mubashar to resolve the issue.

“There are hardly 12 MBBS PhD scholars all over the country and a majority of them are about to reach superannuation”, Prof Hussain Mubashar told Dawn.

He said the NCME met on July 18 to discuss the issue of the country-wide shortage of teachers in basic sciences and finalised its recommendations. The body proposed to the PMDC to at least appoint non-medical PhDs in the public sector medical varsities.

“The PMDC has allowed the FCPS teachers to act as supervisors of the PhD students and the shortage will be overcome in near future”, PMDC Registrar Dr Ahmad Nadeem Akbar said.

He said the Council would not allow the non-medical PhD holders to teach the doctors as they (such teachers) lacked education or research background in the medical field. Such permission would result in further deterioration of medical education standards in the country, he added.

“A majority of non-medical PhDs had done research work on plants and animals and not human beings, having altogether different anatomy and chemistry”, Dr Akbar said.

He said the PMDC wanted more FCPS professionals in basic sciences and that was why moratorium on new medical colleges had been imposed to meet the shortage.

According to the medical experts, the basic sciences subjects are considered foundation of medical education.

A source in the PMDC said the doctors with PhD qualification in basic medical sciences could be counted on fingertips as compared to around 80-90 non-medical PhDs and over 250 MPhil doctors available in the country.

As the PMDC’s own basic criteria gives preference to the MBBS PhD teachers in the basic sciences subjects, the Council’s refusal to hire the services of available non-medical PhDs irked the HEC authorities, the source said.

Earlier, in order to justify its stance and facilitate MPhil teachers, the PMDC had introduced some regulations in 2012.

A Ministry of National Regulations and Services notification issued on Jan 5, 2012 (SRO 26 (KE) /2012) said: “Keeping in view the dearth of qualified medical teachers in basic sciences, MPhil (degree) holder is eligible for Professor (slot) till 2020, however, nobody will be promoted upwards without (doing) PhD after this window period. Position shall be reviewed in 2020’.

The source said that at least 174 PhD faculty members with MBBS qualifications were required in basic medical sciences in public sector medical and dental colleges and universities all over the country.

The basic medical sciences include Anatomy, Physiology, Bio Chemistry, Pharmacology, Pathology, Community Medicine/Preventive Medicine and Forensic Medicine. Even the country’s premier medical institution, King Edward Medical University, has only two PhD teachers with MBBS qualification.

The KEMU had tired to hire some non-medical PhD holders but stopped the recruitment process after PMDC refused to recognise them, citing its laid down criteria.

A PhD scholar at KEMU dispelled the impression given by the PMDC that the non-medical PhDs were irrelevant to the medical filed. “At least 95 per cent of research work or thesis of a non-medical PhD teacher is based on medical field or topics related to human beings”, he said, adding that most of them completed their thesis work in the medical institutions like KEMU.

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