The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Arsenic & snake bites in MBBS syllabus

Calcutta, Jan. 19: The government has decided to bring out a booklet on local and tropical problems like arsenic poisoning, snake bites and diarrhoea for the MBBS course.

Officials said the decision on the booklet was taken because details on tropical diseases were not available in the “westernised medical textbooks”. Would-be doctors will now have to go through the topics put together in the new book.

A major force behind the decision was health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra, who felt the medical textbooks available in the market did not mention much about the tropical problems faced by the people here. “As a result, the fresh pass-outs, when confronted with reality, are all at sea,” Mishra said, explaining the necessity for the additions to the MBBS syllabus.

The minister urged the associations of medical practitioners to conduct seminars and awareness camps to explain doctors about the local diseases that wreak havoc in rural Bengal. “The westernised textbooks do not highlight the actual mortality and morbidity rate from diseases prevailing here,” Mishra said.

Diarrhoea, hypothyroidism, protein energy malnutrition, snake bites, anaemia, arsenic and obstructive jaundice in surgical cases and hypertension are some of the common diseases considered fatal in Indian conditions and they will now be taught exhaustively in the medical colleges, said Mishra.

“The local problems have been ignored so far and now we have decided to make it mandatory for all MBBS students to go through these topics so that they know how to handle them when they become doctors,” said the director of medical education, C.R. Maity.

“The pass-outs are primarily posted at health centres where they are often found to have little knowledge of what is happening. We have, therefore, decided to take it upon ourselves to do something,” Maity added.

To start with, health department officials are working on 8-10 topics. These topics would be part of the booklet, which would be circulated in the medical colleges. “We will also organise workshops on these topics for the students. Our officials are working on this aspect at the moment,” Maity added.

The dean of Calcutta University’s medical faculty, Manoj Bhattacharya, however, said the college authorities and lecturers are to be blamed for not teaching tropical topics at great length and not the textbooks. “Relevant topics are often ignored by teachers. As a result, the students do not come to know about them. The medical textbooks cannot be blamed for that,” Bhattacharya said.

The president of the Indian Medical Association, Subir Ganguly, welcomed the move. “I don’t think booklets will work. But, at least the government has now understood the grim reality faced by new doctors at work and have woken up to the situation,” he said.

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