Monday, October 10, 2011

Students opting medicine as career on decline

In 2004, there were 79,000 candidates who wanted to study medicine. Since then, each year, the number of students opting for medicine has seen a decline, especially in the urban areas of the country. The year 2009 saw a little over 42,000 students from Mumbai, appearing for the all India medical entrance test, that went down to 36,836 in 2011.

This can be attributed to a few factors. First, the number of career options that were available to students even a decade ago were limited. Secondly, parents wanted their children to choose from only a few options engineering, medicine, civil service and law.

Anupam Sibal, Group Director, Medical Services, Apollo Hospitals Group, Delhi, says, "What the youth today measure is input versus the output. Medicine is not the coveted profession for many of them especially because it takes comparatively longer to establish oneself. Four-and-ahalf years of MBBS, a year of internship, followed by six months of house-job amounts to six years. Add to that the time that one takes to prepare for an exam and get into a post graduate programme of three years, which takes the total up to nine years. After that, if you want to do a super-speciality cardiology, gastroenterology or oncology that would take another three-years. So we are looking at almost 13 years before you become a cardiologist or a paediatric gastroenterologist."

Agrees AK Agarwal, Dean, Maulana Azad Hospital, Delhi, "The first thing that parents want is to get their children settled early in life. In medicine, it does take a bit longer." For a physician, one needs - about 15 years of experience from the time one graduates, to be called an independent practitioner or consultant. "Now, compare this to an engineering degree with an MBA or an economics/commerce degree clubbed with an MBA; or even a Ph.D. followed by a management degree. The amount of time spent is lesser and the returns higher," explains Sibal.

Medicine, however, is a calling, not merely a career. It is a job, which has infinite gratitude attached to it and the highest respect, socially; one that is never affected by economic recession. Today, in medicine, there are several alternate career options to choose from. One can branch out into verticals like healthcare management, insurance or pharmaceuticals. A Masters degree in hospital administration (MHA) allows one to opt for administrative roles in hospitals. Many non-medical professionals and MBAs complete MHA and take up jobs in hospitals. B-schools across the world also offer courses in hospital management. Besides, there is the option of molecular biology, biotechnology, genetics, immunology,etc., both in India and abroad.

Across the world, efforts are being made to expose students to the medical profession, its potential and opportunities. In Canada, the head of a medical research lab conducts a survey of bright students who opt for biology as one of their subjects in class IX and X in Canadian schools and offers them internships to work in his lab to expose them to the latest research and opportunities, and in a way, to condition their minds. By the time they go to college or join medicine, they already have the scientific bent of mind that is critical to the profession, be it for a person who becomes a medical practitioner or branches out into research.

Hospitals in India too are allowing students with biology as a subject to visit the hospital, interact with doctors, etc., in order to give them grounding and build their interest in the profession. Finally, Sibal concludes, "Medicine is a calling. If you have it, the hard work you put in does not matter."

Source: Education Times (The Times of India), October 10, 2011

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