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PhD scholars in medicine

August 18, 2012


THIS is with reference to a news report ‘HEC, PMDC rift over non-medical teachers’ (Aug 6). One is baffled to see a strong opposition by the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council to the recruitment of PhD teachers without MBBS for basic medical sciences when there is an acute shortage of MBBS/PhD scholars in this country.

According to this report, “There are hardly 12 such scholars all over the country.” This proposal to recruit PhDs without MBBS, floated by the Higher Education Commission to cover the dearth of PhDs with MBBS background, was strongly opposed by the PMDC on the ground that ‘such professionals were irrelevant to the medical field’.

This is a very harsh and strong statement by the PMDC and not in line with the ground realities. Although it is extremely desirable that basic sciences in medical schools should be taught by scholars with PhD and MBBS, there are not enough monetary incentives for medical graduates to get attracted to PhD. As a result, there is a dearth of such scholars all around the world.

In several developed countries, including the US and the UK, basic sciences in medical schools are usually taught by scientists without a basic degree in medicine.

This does not mean that preparation of medical students in basic sciences in these institutions is not at par with international standards. Twenty-nine years ago the first private university in Pakistan started its medical school with a majority of its basic sciences faculty without an MBBS degree. However, those recruited faculty members were having an excellent track record of medical research and had years of experience of teaching in some of the best medical institutions in Europe and North America.

The graduates of this university in terms of their preparation in basic sciences were not less than the graduates from some of the best in the world. Many of these graduates are holding leadership positions not only in national institutions but all around the world.

Therefore, the PMDC is requested to focus on the scientific merit, expertise, training and experience of teaching in medical institutions of the individual rather than getting hung up on a basic degree in medicine.

Moreover, research is now getting a prominent place in medical curricula all over the world, including Pakistan. Faculty with sound scientific research background and PhD in one of the basic medical sciences, anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, community health sciences and microbiology, are more likely to enthuse the young minds with curiosity and creative thinking.

Scores of competent basic scientists who had gone abroad on HEC scholarships in some of the most advanced medical institutions in the developed world are beginning to return.

They could prove to be the most precious human resource in Pakistani medical colleges. If we failed to accommodate them because of our restricted vision, most of them would be going abroad again for greener pastures.

There is a need to look at this issue dispassionately in the best interest of the country.