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LAHORE, May 24: Two prestigious post-graduation degrees in various medical disciplines are virtually diminishing, partly owing to apathy of those supervising academics and heads of medical institutions who went through another scheme of studies and partly for students’ poor academic profiles.

Still being taught in the premier medical institutes of the UK, the Masters of Surgery (MS) and Doctor of Medicine (MD) were introduced in the sub-continent during the colonial era as research-based programmes. The MD and MS qualified doctors are called specialists.

Citing a major reason behind the declining standard of these two qualifications, an expert said initially, only the talented under-graduates were admitted for the prestigious degrees. However, gradually nepotism and favourtism replaced merit in selection of aspirants for MS and MD degrees, he added.

“With the passage of time, the nomenclature of the two degrees changed altogether --- the MS meaning ‘My Son or My Son-in-Law’ while the MD stands for “My Daughter or my Daughter-in-Law,” the expert said, sarcastically pointing to rampant favouritism in the field.

The students were admitted for the programmes on such grounds instead of entrance test, he said. Resultantly, the failure ratio in these two qualifications remained alarmingly high, he added.

Substantiating their assertion with the help of MS and MD pass percentage and relevant data over the last one decade or so, experts term the state of affairs pathetic and predict replacement of the research-based programmes with somewhat new scheme of studies – the FCPS.

According to documents, of the total 353 students who appeared in MS exams in various specialties, only 45 could get through during the last 10 years or so. Likewise, of the 153 students who opted for MD, only five had been declared successful so far.

The data pertains to the results since the UHS started the MD and MS programmes in 2003.

The statistics reveal amazing facts. A student enrolled by the Post Graduate Medical Institute (PGMI), Lahore, for MD (Medicine) some 26 years ago (in 1986) could not get through despite innumerable attempts. Similarly, another four admitted there 20 years ago (in 1993) for MS in the disciplines of anesthesia, neurosurgery and surgery are still struggling to complete their respective programmes.

A total of eight medical institutions were offering postgraduate teaching and training in these two programmes in Punjab. Of these, the PGMI is the leading institution which has registered the highest number of students, including 131 for MD out of total 151 and 293 for MS programme out of the total 353 students.

However, it has failed miserably to produce specialised doctors despite making tall claims of offering ‘state-of-the-art’ teaching and training facilities.

The aims and objectives of PGMI were to provide ‘exclusive’ postgraduate education and training to doctors in both clinical and basic disciplines, while the major focus of other institutions remained mainly MBBS.

Interestingly, PGMI head Prof Dr Tariq Salahuddin and his team members are focusing their attention these days on the establishment of a new undergraduate medical college at a time when the PGMI has failed to deliver what it had pledged while admitting students for MS and MD programmes. The PGMI administration is also demanding degree awarding status for the institution.

The documents further revealed that a total of 15 students had appeared in MS Pediatrics and 10 in MS Plastic Surgery exams and they all failed. Similarly, a total of 100 students appeared in 13 specialties of Doctor of Medicine exams but ‘unfortunately’ none of them could pass the exams putting the administrations of the premier medical institutions in an awkward position. Of these 100 students, 31 had appeared in MD Internal Medicine, eight in MD Operative Dentistry, nine in MD Oral & Maxillofacial, five in MD Prosthodontics, nine in MD Radiology, two in MD Developmental, seven in MD Endocrinology, two each in MD Nephrology and MD Oncology, one in MD Psychiatry, five in MD Medicine and 12 in MD Paediatrics exams.

The result of exams of other specialties in the same programmes was also not satisfactory.

Of the 45 students who appeared in MS Urology exam, only 12 could pass. Similarly, of the 67 who appeared in MS General Surgery only three passed, of 53 in MS Neurosurgery 10 passed, of 15 in MS ENT exams one could qualify, out of 74 appearing in MS Orthopedic only 7 passed, of 23 in Anaesthesia two passed, of 18 in MS Cardiac Surgery seven passed, of 10 in MS Ophthalmology one passed and only one student appeared in MS Thorasic Surgery exam who failed.

Similarly, of the 24 students who appeared in MD Cardiology exams only three could pass, out of 24 appearing in MD Dermatology exam, only one could qualify and of five students appearing in MD Gasteroenterology only one had passed.

The experts believe if sharply declining standard of the medical institutions admitting students for MS and MD specialisations was not stemmed the situation may not only lead to further brain-drain in near future but also push these once prestigious institutions to ‘point of no return’ with regard to these two major qualifications.

The affected students and teachers are blaming each other for the deteriorating standards.

A student alleged discrimination on part of the FCPC qualified trainers/supervisors who, he said, were preferring the FCPS to MS and MD programmes. He said there were hardly a few senior doctors who had MS or MD degrees in Punjab while the rest, including the PGMI principal, were FCPS qualified who wanted FCPC ‘monopoly’.

A senior doctor, requesting anonymity, dispelled this impression, squarely blaming the students themselves for the situation. He said most of the students who got enrolled for these programmes had done MBBS from low-profile foreign institutions or universities.

“Their ability to learn is always questionable owing to their dubious academic backgrounds,” he added.

He said most of these students had done MBBS from the universities of Russia, China, Afghanistan, Georgia, Philippines, Ukraine, Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan Republic, Romania, where educational standards were not so enviable.