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Kovind calls for more undergraduate seats to address gaps in medical education

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Stressing the urgent need for filling the gap in the number of healthcare professionals in India, President Ram Nath Kovind has called for reforms in medical education so as to create room for more colleges and more medical graduates.
 
Delivering his address after inaugurating the centenary celebrations of the Christian Medical College (CMC) here yesterday, Mr Kovind said that, in comparison to 1.47 million undergraduate engineering seats, the number of undergraduate medical seats was only 67,352.
 
“About 20% of those seats were added in the past four years. As a country and a system, we need to address this gap quickly,” he added.
 
“Public health is a global public good and a basic human right. Despite the strides we have taken as a country, there remain regional, rural-urban and gender and community imbalances in terms of health provision. Without adequately addressing these, we cannot rest.
 
“As societies evolve, economies develop and population patterns change, countries go through epidemiological transitions. India too is experiencing such a transition. It is marked by three challenges in disease control. And we have to manage all three simultaneously,” the President said.
 
“First, India has to reduce maternal and infant mortality as well as communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, vector-borne diseases such as malaria, water-borne diseases such as cholera, diarrhoeal diseases, and vaccine-preventable like measles and tetanus.
 
“Second, India has to find an answer to the rise in non-communicable or lifestyle diseases – like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and many cancers. And finally, we need to develop systems to detect and cope with new and re-emerging infectious diseases like HIV, avian flu and H1N1 influenza.
 
“In a globalised world, with people travelling in and out of our country in larger and larger numbers, a few small cases can very quickly scale up into a large outbreak,” he added.
 
The President said this three-pronged challenge calls for interventions across the continuum of care. It calls for prevention of disease, promotion of good health practices and treatment and cure in case of an illness.
 
The impact of a health problem is cross-cutting – it affects a variety of sectors. The meeting of this challenge should also follow a multi-stakeholder approach. The Government and civil society, private and public health care providers, charitable and economic institutions all have a role and a stake, he added.
 
Referring to the centenary celebrations, he said completing 100 years was an occasion to both look back and take fresh guard.
 
“In this, CMC must take inspiration from the values and the idealism of its founder. In the early 20th century, shortly after graduating from Cornell University in the United States, Ida Sophia Scudder returned to India. This was the country where several generations of her family had lived and served. This was the country where medicine became her mission.
 
“India was under colonial rule then and most people lived in tough conditions. Health indices were very poor. Average life expectancy was just about 24 years. One person died every minute of tuberculosis,” he said.
 
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“One in four babies died in the first year. Cholera, smallpox and polio – several epidemics and diseases were rampant. Independence was still a dream. It was in such an India that Ida Sophia Scudder devoted her life to healthcare. In 1918, she set up a medical school that was initially open only to women. From 1947, both girls and boys began to study here.
 
Mr Kovind said, “India has come a long way since then. Revolutions in our economy, in agriculture and in technology have changed how we act, think and live. Inevitably, our health outcomes have also improved.
 
“Average life expectancy is now above 68 years. Diseases such as polio and smallpox, which once claimed so many lives, have been defeated. Our immunisation programme is gaining strength. The government has launched Mission Indradhanush primarily to target hard-to-access areas and ensure all children benefit from immunisation,” he added.
 
Primary and secondary healthcare facilities have undergone a change for the better. In this context, it must be said the state of Tamil Nadu has exceptional health indicators and remains a model for our country. Institutions such as CMC Vellore have contributed to this deserved reputation, he said.
 
“CMC Vellore has a justifiable reputation for excellence. India’s first reconstructive surgery on leprosy patients was carried out here, and so was the first successful open heart surgery and the first kidney transplant. These are only some of your many achievements,” he added.
 
“A range of research takes place at CMC. Recent research on the rotavirus vaccine, hepatitis, malnutrition, bio-engineering and stem cells underlines your commitment to research that is relevant to India’s health needs.
 
“I have been told that the medical education programme here combines professional expertise with social relevance and ethical practice. I understand clinical training in your hospital is complemented by placements in villages and underserved areas. This is commendable. Please keep it up. Doctors need a sharp mind – but much more than that, they need a warm heart. And CMC Vellore must continue to train doctors and nurses with warm hearts,” the President said.
 
NNN
 
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