New Delhi: The National Medical Council’s (NMC’s) recent decision to reduce the number of posts for non-MBBS teachers in medical institutions has sparked fear of job losses among currently employed teachers. According to the website of the Medical Council of India (MCI), which was recently replaced by NMC, in 2017, around 13% of the teaching faculty in medical colleges are 'non-medical' degree holders.
In a statement protesting this decision by the NMC, National M.Sc Medical Teachers' Association (NMMTA) pointed out that in the “Minimum Requirements for MBBS Admission Regulations 2020” released by the newly established medical education regulator last month, the permissible intake of non-medical faculty has come down from 30% to 15% in anatomy and physiology, from 50% to 15% in biochemistry, and from 30% to 0% in microbiology and pharmacology.
NMMTA said, “India's clinical scientists with medical M.Sc postgraduate degrees are now facing an existential crisis of the highest magnitude. A hostile MCI-turned-NMC and an indifferent government that is rife with policy paralysis are making matters worse. Those pursuing medical M.Sc courses in medical colleges are trained and skilled to render their services as consultants in diagnostic laboratories, teachers in the non-clinical disciplines of the medical curriculum and scientists in research establishments. Shrinking job opportunities and intensive lobbying have resulted in incorrect portrayal of these courses and denial of opportunities in the area of their expertise.”
The teachers have accused the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) of not displaying any interest in dealing with the crisis being faced by the non-MBBS teachers. NMMTA said, “This policy paralysis has existed since several decades with no interest among successive governments to address the issue.” It added, “The medical colleges and universities that have conducted these courses for years/decades and profited from such courses have never stood up for their alumni and have not supported the roles played by the medical M.Sc person,” and pointed out that the present and future of the clinical scientists with medical M.Sc qualifications in teaching, laboratory diagnostics and research are uncertain.
Medical M.Sc courses were included in the First Schedule to the Indian Medical Council Act (1956); yet the MCI refused to regulate these courses. The practice of seeking MCI's approval to start medical M.Sc courses by medical colleges have stopped since the 1980s. Registration of such degree holders too have been discontinued by the MCI.
The practice of such appointments, for teaching pre and para-clinical subjects started in the 1950s when not many doctors were pursuing PG in non-clinical specialties. While teachers who teach the clinical subjects in medical colleges are always doctors with MBBS and MS/MD degrees, there are also around 6000 teachers who teach the non-clinical subjects. These teachers do not have MBBS degrees, instead they have medical M.Sc or PhDs. The designations of these teachers range from tutor to professor to even heads of departments.
Talking about this recent decision, Sridhar Rao, the president of the NMMTA said, “This means that a non-medical teacher would be forced to stay put in the same college until retirement, and all possibilities to seek new employment in any college, whether new or old, would be denied.
The first draft guidelines of the NMC’s new policy were the adoption of the MCI's guidelines, which had stated, "In the department of Anatomy, Physiology, Pharmacology, and Microbiology, non-medical teachers may be appointed to the extent of 30% of the total number of posts in the department. However, in the department of Biochemistry, non-medical teachers may be appointed to the extent of 50% of the total number of posts in the department". The NMC sought feedback from the stakeholders over its proposed guidelines. However, these numbers were changed in the final draft.
"Medical M.Sc courses are not only similar to the MD courses, but the students of Medical M.Sc courses study human anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry in addition just as the first year MBBS students do. We are not laypersons as it is projected to be. Although our graduate degrees are different, our postgraduate degrees are similar and our practice is based on our postgraduate teaching. We are wrongly called non-medical teachers; we have been awarded Medical M.Sc degrees under the faculty of Medicine by the health universities", said Mr. Arjun Maitra, general secretary of NMMTA.
"Like our medical colleagues, we too have undergone the mandatory training on the implementation of the new competency-based curriculum and we are capable and confident of imparting the teaching as envisaged by the NMC," stated Dr. Sridhar. "Instead of shunting us out, there must be more efforts to train and integrate us. We can consult the clinical colleagues for inputs on the horizontal and vertical integrations", he added.