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The mis-education of medical students: Righting a wrong

Publication Type : Scientific Paper

Thematic Areas : Medical Sciences

Publisher : J Indian Soc Toxicol

Source : , J Indian Soc Toxicol , vol. 3, no. 2, p. 2, 2007.

Campus : Kochi

School : School of Medicine

Department : Forensic Medicine

Year : 2007

Abstract : A few years ago, I delivered a talk at one of the annual conferences of the Indian Academy of Forensic Medicine on the terrible curriculum in medical toxicology that is prevalent in India, and in fact coined a new term for the rubbish that we are teaching our medical students - “Toxicomythology”. It is a term that I feel is fully justified, if one looks at some of the appalling notions and pre-historic concepts that are entrenched in the existing curriculum, which are reinforced as authentic by several well known authors of textbooks on the subject. While the situation appears to be improving with a new generation of teachers coming in who are not willing to be bowed down by the burdens of the past, nor by the dictates of their “experienced seniors”, the speed at which this is happening is far from satisfactory. The main reason for this is two-fold one, forensic practitioners are fond of hiding behind the excuse of overwork with regard to their medicolegal duties, which therefore sadly leaves them with little time for toxicology, and two, an inherent reluctance to update their knowledge not only with regard to toxicology, but also the entire discipline of forensic medicine and toxicology. After all, it is so easy to just carry on with a conventional approach (even if it is grossly outdated), than to take the trouble of finding out where we have gone wrong (and still going wrong) and search for solutions. Recently, at another forum I had asked this very same question to some renowned experts what real research has gone into forensic medicine in India ever since its inception as a new and independent specialty decades ago? Let us leave toxicology aside for the moment, I said to them; let us talk about forensic pathology. What has been done to make this subject relevant to the Indian scenario (instead of quoting from Western research, which is often not applicable in our country), and to keep updating our knowledge with more and more research initiativcs? Predictably, there was resounding silence. The answer lies in the very textbooks that we refer information present in the 1970s editions of an average book is not likely to be much different from information present in the current editions. If at all anything is new, it is the addition of more and more material blindly (mostly from Western books!), with no effort at weeding out or pruning the wild foliage of the past. Making excuses for inefficiency is the easiest way out in any sphere of activity; on the other hand, accepting our inadequacies and trying to rectify them requires grit and guts. So, while the Indian Society of Toxicology (IST) can do little by way of rectifying anything in forensic medicine (to which the subject of toxicology has always been attached as an unwanted appendage), we certainly can do a lot in improving the situation with regard to toxicology. And that is precisely the objective of the 4th annual conference of IST (TOXOCON-4) development of an effective curriculum in toxicology for undergraduate and postgraduate medical education, on the basis of which each medical college can re-design the syllabus, thereby giving the existing atrocious scenario a decent burial. The new curriculum will be sent to the Medical Council of India for approval and ratification. We have already coddled together a motley (but eminently dedicated) group of professionals from the fields of forensic medicine, toxicology, pharmacology, and clinical medicine, and we shall chew the rag to bits in January 2008 on the lush backwaters of Kerala, and hopefully come up with a curriculum that will right the wrongs of decades of neglect and apathy.

Cite this Research Publication : Pillay V. V., “The mis-education of medical students: Righting a wrong”, J Indian Soc Toxicol , vol. 3, no. 2, p. 2, 2007.

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