Sunday, February 28, 2010

IITs' plan to offer medical courses rejected

Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) will have to put their plan to start medical education on hold as the health ministry has decided against allowing these elite engineering schools to start courses in medicine. In a high level meeting of experts chaired by health secretary K Sujatha Rao — the first to discuss this controversial issue — the health ministry decided to write to the HRD ministry suggesting that "IITs should start courses on health information technology, biomedical engineering and e-health rather than running a hospital or starting MBBS courses". The health ministry will ask IITs to partner with renowned medical colleges like AIIMS and PGI (Chandigarh) in jointly running these new courses.

Medical Council of India, which had come out in support of IITs' proposal to start medical degrees did a volte-face in the meeting and staunchly opposed the plan. "IITs wanted to start MBBS courses in a couple of years and wanted to be exempted from MCI's control. The MCI then joined health ministry officials to staunchly go against the proposal to let IITs even start an MBBS programme," sources who attended the meeting told TOI. Strangely, MCI chairman Dr Ketan Desai on Monday had told TOI, "We welcome the move. We know that if IITs start medical schools, they will have the same standard as their other courses. They will ensure they have the best faculty as their reputation will be at stake."

Experts who attended the meeting said IITs should focus on what they do best — engineering education — and that "imparting medical education wasn't IITs' core domain". Experts also said that except IIT Kharagpur which was planning to start its own hospital and medical college within its premises, all other IITs were planning to tie up with existing private hospitals to provide students with complicated cases. "Can private hospitals have as many footfalls as a government hospital? Can a private hospital deliver the variety of difficult cases required for under-graduate medical education. This was another important reservation of experts," a health ministry source said.

Those who attended the meeting included directors of AIIMS, PGI (Chandigarh), Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute (Lucknow), JIPMER, NIMHANS, National Institute of Communicable Diseases, National Institute of Paramedical Sciences and principal of CMC Vellore.

Some IITs, like Kharagpur and Hyderabad, had already started working on starting a medical school in about three years. IIT Kharagpur has supposedly signed an MoU with University of California, San Diego, to set up a hospital which will offer graduate, post-graduate and research programmes in medicine and bio-medical engineering.

Source: The Times of India, February 17, 2010

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