Dr. A. Velumani’s Personal Blog

Medical Education: Is it reaching a common man?

It is obvious that the government is preoccupied with issues like ‘No-confidence motions’ and ‘ Ayodhya movements’, while there are far more burning issues concerning health that need priority attention. An apparent lack of attention for health care projects is largely due to lack of knowledge of diseases and their impact on the society. If only ‘people’ who are in the ‘decision making chairs’ paid more attention to ‘Medical Education’ it would benefit almost every living being and every organization, both governmental and non-governmental in healthcare.

Corporate hospitals need to justify the interests of their stock and share holders. In fact, a medically literate patient asks too many embarrassing questions and major hospitals who thrive on patient ignorance will never think of patient education. Also there are many well-meaning medical doctors, but are simply too busy and do not find time to talk to the patient for more than 2 minutes because he has his next patient waiting; has to wind up for the day and go home. Hence by and large education to society on health is rarely taken seriously and is largely ignored.

When I started Thyrocare, I wrote a simple black and white newsletter called “Thyrocare News Letter” in the year 1996 (when the turnover of Thyrocare was only 10 lakhs per annum) and that was a major tool for Thyrocare to reach a 40 crore annual turnover in such a short span of 6 years. But many healthcare organisations to whom business was the only motive have been struggling to retain their business. They think a color brochure of their hospital, visiting card and a price-list is all that is required for business promotion. If someone says people do not read nowadays, it is wrong. People read and even medical doctors read and this was obvious when a crowd of more than 500 medical doctors (including senior most consultants in Mumbai) were seen at a medical book exhibition at Sunderbai Hall (Near Marine lines, Mumbai) in the first week of October 2003. Another wrong myth is that inviting medical doctors with a dinner and cocktail is a route for medical education. If I have to state from my experience it is a wrong ‘spirit’ and is not a cost-effective exercise for both the organisers and for the participants. This is further complicated by politics, preferences and demands to chairs in organisations, events and even scientific sessions. Various bottlenecks have made medical education to both the common man and the general practitioner, a neglected area.

For AIDS, a programmer of Balbir Pasha in Mumbai or a Pulli Raja in Tamil Nadu can educate the common man. Yes it can and it is, achieving the objectives. At least something is better than nothing. Knowing the nature and impact of AIDS even the costs are justified. But are there not dozens of diseases where serious education is a must for general public as well as medical community? Doctors who have no time to speak can at least find time to write books in vernacular languages and such books should be subsidized by government and made available in book stalls and exhibitions at rates like, Rs. 10 to Rs. 50. There are enough people to buy and read if there are books worth reading. In case you are interested in writing books on diseases, tests and medical technologies, that will help common man to become medically literate and a general practitioner more laboratory oriented, please visit the site www.thyrocare.com where you will find a way to reach someone who is in need to know what you know. Let us try to do what is essential to make medical education possible, quantitatively. Quite a mammoth task. But nothing is impossible. If we start now, in another 2 decades at least 10% of the ideal level of medical knowledge can be achieved.

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