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Towards Improving Medical Education – What’s “New” in Medicine?

Submitted by on August 13, 2012 – 6:23 PM 2 Comments

It is common knowledge that medical students (especially, the undergraduate medial students) learn from one of many available text books (at least in India). The authors of these text books may range from the relatively new breed of ‘local’ authors, to their ‘foreign’ counterparts. Postgraduate students are expected to be better informed with a wider knowledge. But, in reality, are they?

My views are based purely in the context of the scenario that prevails in India as far as surgical teaching and learning is concerned. These are my personal views born out of some years of teaching, and interacting with students from various parts of India. Other specialties may find the situation rather familiar in respect of their own specialties. Given the increasing numbers of students from other countries in Indian medical colleges, it may not come as a surprise to think that this situation has the potential to percolate into other countries as well. Similar situation may also exist in other countries, independently.


There has been a prevailing view that what is given in the text books is the most “accepted” view and should be relied upon. It was believed in the past (and still is, by a handful) that it takes anywhere between 5-10 years for a new research, work or a procedure to become “accepted” by the surgical fraternity world over and then only it becomes fit enough to enter the pages of medical text books. The journals are looked upon as containing material that is mostly “unaccepted” and therefore, of dubious reliability.
Sadly, this erroneous view still continues to exist in the minds of several students. Gone are the days when one had to wait for 5-10 years. Realization is yet to dawn in the minds of some that medicine has begun to progress by leaps and bounds than ever before and so, one must read the journals of repute- especially, the review articles they carry. This will certainly help in keeping abreast of the recent developments. Even case reports are worth reading. If one has apprehensions about the case reports as being dubious, I suggest that one should only read the discussion at the end of the report which often is very useful.
Now let us get back to the postgraduate students. As I mentioned earlier, they are expected to be better informed than the under graduate students. In reality, what happens is roughly as follows. For some inexplicable reason, several post graduate students tend to acquire an uncanny intuition that they will somehow pass the final examination in their first or at least the second attempt: come what may!


With this sort of a conviction, they tend to stick to the text book they feel most comfortable with – “Bailey and Love’s text book of surgery” (at least just before the examination). Journals are only meant to be read out at the handful of periodic journal club sessions. Bailey and Love’s famous text book of surgery is looked upon as the major source of new, current and complete knowledge that is ‘more than enough’ to see them successfully sail through in the final examination (surely, they seem to do)!. This success story is passed on to the next generation, motivating them.
In conclusion, several questions remain.

– Is there anything “new” available beyond text books?
– Are medical journals getting the attention they truly deserve?
– Are the text books the beginning and end of current surgical information?
– Is the knowledge gleaned from text books alone is adequate to transform a postgraduate student of surgery into a fully fledged, well informed surgeon and superior in overall knowledge compared to an undergraduate student?
– Should the undergraduate students, the postgraduate students and sometimes even the faculty depend upon one common text book of repute as a quick-fix solution to suit their individual needs?
– Future for the text books appears as bright as ever, but what about the future of the budding doctors?

Herein, I conclude and join you to ponder over……


About the author: Dr. Aroon Kamath is a retired general surgeon from Father Muller Medical College, Mangalore, India as an Assistant Professor. He loves to teach, write for medical blogs and conduct medical quizzes.  He can be reached at: [email protected]


About this article: This article is competing for the JPMS International Medical Writing Contest 2012.

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  • Zunaira Abdul Ghaffar

    True. We as students have nill habit of reading current researches in journals, but being a medical student, there is a time constraint, since we can hardly give one read to the textbooks themselves!

    • Dr. Aroon kamath

      Firstly, i wish to thank you for your comment. My observations and comments mainly directed towards post-graduate students. Unlike the under-graduate students, they concentrate on one subject only. They MUST find the time by planning their study time. I suppose it is fair to say that….Aroon kamath