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Medical Education in Pakistan: A Need for Change?

Submitted by on September 7, 2013 – 10:29 PM

Dr. Abdul Manan, a surgeon at the Nishtar hospital in Multan, points to x-rays of a glass bottle lodged in a man's lower abdomenMedical education is education related to the practice of being a medical practitioner, either the initial training to become a doctor (i.e., medical school and internship), additional training thereafter (e.g., residency and fellowship), or physician assistant education. Medical education and training varies considerably across the world. Various teaching methodologies have been utilized in medical education, which is an active area of educational research. The economic crisis in the last few years has reduced the role of government in social development and transferred it to the private sector. These changes have affected medical education too.


Lack of resources has created a situation where outdated equipment and educational methods produce medical graduates with outdated knowledge, skills and attitudes. Students’ are understandably frustrated when they discover that their long journey through medical school has yielded knowledge that does not match the requirements of their profession. Failure to structure criterion for proper selection of students and societal needs has resulted in indiscriminate admittance of thousands of students, causing many dropouts in the first two years and, eventually, ill-prepared medical doctors. Clearly, medical teachers are feeling the pressure to adapt to changes in the health care system while maintaining excellence in education. The question on their minds is, “How can we change our medical education program to meet the society’s needs?”


This article suggests certain changes which could be considered as the first step at the beginning of a long journey. Medical education has to train future doctors and practitioners in a way that they are capable of managing the health problems of those who seek their services in a competent and humane manner. Today’s medical graduates not only need adequate knowledge but also the skill to use it. But this era of rapid advancement of information technology, may declare today’s knowledge to be obsolete tomorrow.


Therefore students must also be equipped with skills for self-directed lifelong learning. They need the competence to analyze and interpret clinical findings and translate them into a rational diagnostic and management plan. Additionally, education should be aligned with the needs of society.


Doctors need to adapt their medical practice to new epidemiological or demographic patterns. Therefore, medical students must acquire an integrated, community-oriented body of knowledge, and the ability to update, extend and improve that knowledge and use it effectively in the care of their patients or in a health care environment. The need has arisen to assess and improve the quality of care by responding to patients’ comprehensive health needs and providing integrated preventive, curative and rehabilitative services; making optimal use of new technology, bearing in mind the ethical and financial considerations; promoting healthy lifestyles by means of communication skills and empowerment of individuals for their own health protection; reconciling individual and community health requirements, striking a balance between patients’ expectations and society’s needs; to work efficiently in teams within the health sector and socio-economic sectors affecting health.


The role of quality assurance in medical education is to ensure that future physicians attain adequate standards of education and professional training. This requires evaluation based on a clear understanding of the goals of university-based professional education and the context of its application. Quality assurance must strike a balance between ideal and institutional reality. Institutional/Internal quality evaluation starts by setting goals and aims and periodical self-evaluation to monitor the attainment of goals, followed, if necessary, by modifications.


External evaluation is managed by a governmental office (universities) and has three components: accreditation/affiliation, control and improvement. Improving research standards is another challenge in medical education. High quality relevant research needs more interdisciplinary collaboration.


Conclusion: The improvement of medical education should be a priority for all of us. Medical education is ultimately aimed at improving clinical practice and the competent management of health problems. To be competent is to use clinical tools and economic resources rationally. The speed of social changes demands skills at adapting our tools and resources to new situations and societal needs. Thus medical education is a practical and dynamic discipline that needs constant review and research to become and remain a useful tool to society.


About the Author: Wafa Arshad is a graduating student in the field of Microbiology from University of Karachi, Pakistan. Her areas of interest are networking, research and blogging. She can be reached at [email protected]


About this article: This article is competing for the JPMS International Medical Writing Contest 2013

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