September 23, 2010

IIT-Kharagpur's experiment in medicine course a non-starter

Despite a lot of hype around IIT Council's decision to start courses in medicine, the decade-old performance of School of Medical Science and Technology (SMST) in IIT-Kharagpur shows the programme is yet to catch popular imagination.

SMST was started in 2001 with an inter-disciplinary three-year post-graduate programme in medical science and technology, where MBBS pass outs are eligible for admission through an all-India entrance test.

"It has failed to create a niche," says a professor of IIT-Kharagpur. According to him, students have dropped out in phases despite a monthly assistantship of Rs 15,000.

To make matters worse, SMST, says the professor, has been severely hamstrung by an acute shortage of practicing physicians.

Over the years, IIT-Kharagpur could not hire even a single practicing physician as a SMST faculty. Most of the SMST faculty are from engineering background, while others have medical degrees from abroad and consequently cannot practice in India.

"In the absence of any practicing physician among the SMST faculty, which is the hall-mark for the success of such an inter-disciplinary programme, IIT has outsourced one of its practicing physician from its hospital to SMST," the professor explains.

The entire SMST faculty is at the level of assistant professor save a superannuated professor.

"The faculty profile of SMST is similar to any private engineering college, where the faculty comprises junior people," the professor says.

Absence of senior-level faculty has led to outsourcing of the SMST head from other engineering departments of IIT-Kharagpur. For instance, the present SMST head belongs to the department of electrical engineering.

"The SMST programme is lop-sided. It is more in favour of engineering than medical science," the professor admits, claiming that this is not the first time that talks are on to start courses in medicine in IITs.

For instance, in May 2007, the then President, Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, had laid the plaque for starting a medical school offering MBBS and super-speciality degrees in IIT-Kharagpur without seeking clearance from Medical Council of India that was rejected later.

Subsequently, IIT Council has decided to amend the Institutes of Technology Act.

Link: Original Article

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