Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Generation X Lady Doctor

Female medical students are putting up a unique case to oppose the scheme that all medical students before being awarded their degrees must serve a year in the states where they are studying, possibly in the rural hinterland. They are saying that because of this requirement, their marriages are going to get stalled that therefore the health minister should go around hunting for life partners for these damsels. Listening to this story, one does not know if one
should laugh or cry. These students are studying in government institutions – Nalanda Medical College is the institution mentioned and the ruckus is because the new requirement would increase the duration of the course to six and a half years from the five and a
half years (including internship) as is the arrangement now.

Now consider this. The students are going to government medical colleges which means that their education is to a very significant extent subsidized by the tax payer. These are not students of snazzy self financing institutions - and even if they were, the agitation
would still be questionable. Secondly, these students are students in one of India's poorest states and if any state in India needs doctors in their rural hinterland to serve, it is probably Bihar and its neighbors. Thirdly, by extending the duration of the course to six and
a half years, the ministry is not stepping beyond any kind of line. The norm in fact for medical colleges in most countries is to have courses of exactly this duration and actually much more before one can actually get down to practicing medicine.

It is a symptom of the consumerist culture these days that has so seeped into our marrow today that the state requiring its citizens to perform a civic duty in lieu of subsidized education is met with opposition using the most ridiculous of reasons. When I read these
sort of articles and the grossly selfish mind set that is perpetuated by these sort of demands, I wonder if for certain kinds of professions at least, meritocracy and the entrance examination driven system that decides who enters the portals of our medical colleges and other such
institutions is a flawed methodology.

Professions like medicine require and demand a certain kind of moral fiber, character and aptitude that determines whether one has the basic service mentality to enter into this kind of a profession. But these things are never assessed in our exam driven system except in a
handful of institutions like the Gandhian college at Wardha and the Christian Medical College, Vellore and the one who gets the nod to get admissions in the government colleges are the ones who head the merit list and in the private colleges, the ones who have some money and
some merit.

In a profession like medicine which is part science and part art, is the merit list the best indicator of who is going to be the best kind of doctor - the most humane, the most caring and the most ethical? hat kind of medical ethics might I expect from some one who even as a
student is so self centered as to only worry about when they can get arried and settle down even before they have done a day's work? If they are on emergency duty in the casualty ward, would these doctors of tomorrow be tracking the well being of their patients or tracking
their watches so that they can go back and attend to their families?

There is nothing wrong with wanting to get married and having a family but these things need to have a perspective. Imagine a soldier in the midst of a conflict wanting to go home to his wife and kids. That they don't is largely why the armed forces survive as an institution and
the country is safe in their hands. A doctor's situation is some what similar. If I were in need of acute and a pretty intense level of medical care I would worry if I knew that the treating physician was some one trained in Nalanda Medical College with one eye on my pulse
and another on the clock because she wanted to fix dinner for her husband. But till we change our methodology of evaluating candidates and look at other intangible factors other than the academic score card, I guess I will have to just keep worrying.

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