This Mini-Med School programme is solving the mystery around medical schools in India and abroad

Dr G Richard Olds talks about the Mini-Med School programme for high school students and the great scope for veterinary medicine in India 
Dr Olds believe that the high school students still have time to think over it
Dr Olds believe that the high school students still have time to think over it

Twenty four high school students from Legacy School in Bengaluru recently participated in the Mini-Med School programme organised by St George's School of Medicine (SGU), Grenada, West Indies. The programme helped them understand anatomy, basic medical sciences, how doctors are trained, functioning of medical schools and what one can do if they don't get into medical school. Dr G Richard Olds, President and CEO at St George's University, who held three different sessions for these students, says, "These high school students still have time to think if they are really interested in becoming doctors. I have only answered the questions they have regarding medical education and institutes." He adds, "In order to ensure that students get into a good medical school and become great doctors, the government and country should strive to set up medical schools that provide quality education and not fake accreditations. I think the All India Insitute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi is one of the best medical institutions from where even I have selected some doctors and students to work with." Excerpts:

What is the idea behind initiating the Mini-Med School programme for Indian school students?

The training of doctors is different in every country. In India, students decide that they want to be doctors even before they graduate from high school. They begin their NEET prep while still in school and then, apply to medical schools. In the US or Canada, however, students attend pre-medical classes after they graduate from high school and then write an entrance exam before they get into medical school. One plus point with the US education system is that students decide their course of study at the age of 21 as opposed to kids in India. They are making life-changing decisions at a very young age. Most Indian parents want their kids to either become doctors or engineers as soon as possible. This puts the kids under tremendous pressure and when the kids are halfway through their medical education, they discover that their interest lies elsewhere.

We started the Mini-Med School programme to give students an introduction to studying in med school. It's almost like a mystery for them as to what students or doctors do in medical school. On the first day, we helped them understand the basic curriculum of medical sciences, terminologies in heart diseases, diabetes and anatomy. On the second day, students went with doctors around the hospital to learn how to examine patients, use a stethoscope, ultrasonic machine and so on. The third day was a wrap-up session where we discussed with children what one must do if they are not able to get into medical school. Suicide cannot be a solution if one fails NEET. We advised students not to neglect co-curricular activities in the process of preparing for competitive exams. I believe that one should not only have good grades to be better doctors, but they should know how to communicate with patients and provide medical solutions.

Leading the team: Dr G Richard Olds is the president and CEO of SGU

Do you think that there is a shortage of staff in the health sector? If so, how do we address it?

The problem is that it takes many years to train doctors. Most of the countries, including India, have not expanded their education system according to the needs of the country. India is facing a shortage of doctors and there is no possibility of making it up with the existing medical schools. In such cases, doctors from other countries must be allowed to come and work here and expand the number of medical schools as well as train the existing doctors to make them more efficient. But this problem exists in England and the US as well. 

The government should plan 20 years ahead and not just for a short period of time. India has the highest population of young people. They can become good physicians. There are several medical schools mushrooming in Asia which don't provide quality education. Again, the government, parents and students should know which institutions are genuine.

Early medicos: Students worked with doctors and learnt the rules of thumping the chest 

What is the eligibility criteria for St George's University of Medicine?

We have been an international medical school for 42 years now and students from 140 countries come to study with us. Offering US-centric medical degree programmes, entry points are available for students from any education system around the world—including a four-year programme for those entering with a traditional bachelor's degree and five, six and seven-year programmes for those entering with international degrees. Students enrolled in our medical education programme spend two years studying the basic sciences followed by access to clinical training opportunities at over 70 affiliated hospitals and clinical centres in the United States, West Indies and the United Kingdom.

Is there enough scope for students to study veterinary medicine?

Yes. Currently, there are students from 60 countries who study veterinary medicine in our institute. There are only two veterinary schools outside the United States accredited by the US Accreditation Agency and we are one of the two. Students enrolled in our veterinary medical education programme spend three years in Grenada studying the basic sciences followed by clinical training at AVMA-accredited veterinary schools in the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia. Students coming from Asian countries typically enter into the five-year DVM programme. Like physicians, India also has a huge shortage of veterinarians. There is bound to be a big demand for veterinarians in India in the future following a growth in the agriculture sector. Apart from this, wildlife sanctuaries will need a lot of veterinarians. 

Future doctors: Students learnt about various instruments used in the hospitals 

What is your opinion on NEET?

I have an objection to how NEET exams are being used. Since a lot of medical education is funded by the government, grades or marks in the NEET exams are given more importance but I feel that marks are not enough as India will leave behind many students who can be good doctors though they have not scored well in NEET. India and other countries like the US have a shortage of doctors in rural areas. People who write exams like NEET usually come from urban areas and well-to-do families. I think that the government should pick students from rural areas so that they work in the same place in the future. Aside from this, the government should implement more programmes to train doctors in rural areas and upgrade them with the latest technology.

Do you provide scholarships for students who come from abroad?

Yes. We do have different scholarships for students but it depends on the programme they are pursuing and their academic credentials. While some students get over 100 thousand dollars, others get about 45,000 to 75,000 USD.

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