Training in genetic medicine need of the hour

July 5, 2019 0 By FM

In the post-genomics era, a great number of technologies are enabling a better integration of genetics and medicine. One can understand the extent of this integration from the number of centers dedicated to genetic education, diagnostics and counseling. However, in India, such centres are low in number, resulting in a weak integration of genetics into clinical practice and leaving a huge gap in healthcare.

As the patient-to-doctor ratio has always been skewed, physicians are under tremendous pressure to learn about new technologies. This aspect needs a closer look in our country and better strategies of collaboration between non-medical, scientific and clinical teams must be developed.

80% of Indian doctors are in urban areas, suggesting that there is very low penetration of clinical genetic services to the needy. There is a need to create more training programmes for early-stage medical students and practitioners.

Overall in India, there are very few centers offering medical genetics training for physicians. Clinical genetics gained momentum due to the pioneering efforts of senior geneticists like IC Verma, SS Agarwal and IM Thomas. Today, most such training programmes are conducted at Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences (Lucknow), All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (New Delhi), Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences (Hyderabad), Sir Ganga Ram Institute of Postgraduate Medicine and Research (New Delhi), Kasturba Medical College (Manipal), Christian Medical College and Hospital (Vellore) and Sri Avittom Tirunal Hospital Medical College (Thiruvananthapuram). Considering the Indian population and the need for medical genetics, there is an urgent need of establishing more training programmes.

Unlike in many other countries, the Medical Council of India controls the medical curriculum in India. The student’s exposure to different subjects is today entirely dependent on the respective professors, who tend to be busy with the practice of medicine along with other, administrative duties. There is an uneven exposure of students to theory, practical and research expertise in this area. The concept of research-based and problem-based learning has not yet taken shape in India. Thus, the exposure to molecular biology, genetics and other important subjects are very low. Learning of new diagnostics, interpretation and research are an integral part of medical education worldwide. Opportunities for both MBBS and MD/MS students to pursue biomedical research for the translation of knowledge into a value proposition for the community must be encouraged. Similarly, non-medical researchers with Ph D must be given enough opportunities to be trained in clinical perspectives for better translational research. In a country like India, innovation is the need of the hour, and there is an urgent need to create new entrepreneurial strategies in training, technology creation and the delivery of affordable healthcare. In this extent, Institute of Applied Research and Innovation has started training programmes in molecular medicine, focusing more on the students. Such programmes, run in conjunction with medical colleges, can truly bring the changes needed for improved healthcare in India.

 

The author is medical scientist and former director of SGRF, Bangalore