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Politics of Medical Education in India

The impoverishment within the public health system is in stark contrast to the phenomenal rise of private healthcare, its international standards, medical tourism and its focus on servicing the rich. A meaningful change within medical education and the public health system, both predictors of healthcare delivery and of national standards of health, seems to be light years away. While the challenge of reforming medical education in India requires a revolution, much of the debate refuses to identify the elephant in the room, that is, the politics of medical education and public health.

The quality of higher education across many disciplines in India is said to have declined over the past few decades (Misra and Singh 2015). Anecdotal evidence suggests similar trends in medical education. Many have argued that the medical education system in the country has failed to deliver excellence in transmission of relevant knowledge, acquisition of skills, communication of professional attitudes, and in transfer of ethics and values (Zachariah et al 2010; Mathew et al 2010). They also contend that much of the teaching and training, carried out in tertiary care setting with its focus on specialist perspectives, lacks relevance for the care of the majority of Indians, who are poor and who live in rural parts of the country.

Reforming medical education and public healthcare delivery in India has been debated for many decades. The Bhore Committee, set up by the Government of India, argued for the need to improve the public health system in 1946.1 Despite lofty ideals, reforms to medical education and the public health system have been marginal. However, the country has moved on from its predominantly agrarian economy and is on the threshold of becoming a global economic powerhouse in the 21st century. Nevertheless, medical education has yet to see any meaningful change.

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