An Exclusive Interview with PMDC President, Dr. Shabbir Ahmed Lehri
The president of Pakistan Medical & Dental Council (PM&DC) Prof. Dr. Shabbir Ahmed Lehri after assuming office pledged to raise the quality of medical and dental education to match the international standards adding that there was an urgent need to improve PM&DC’s image. He expressed his resolve to implement a zero-tolerance policy against corruption within the organization. He promised that all PMDC matters will be dealt with transparently and on merit. He also promised to make the council an effective institution for medical practitioners across the country, promising to personally address doctors’ concerns and grievances. He took it upon himself as a challenge to change the image of PM&DC as a body which is there to address the issues concerning the medical and dental fraternity. He was recently interviewed by Medical News and the excerpts of the interview are as follows.
MEDICAL NEWS: As president of PMDC what are your immediate challenges and how do you propose to meet them?
DR. LEHRI: We inherited many issues when we took over. However, the first and foremost issue was the pending registrations of around 20000 doctors. We worked day in and day out and within 2 months we dealt with all the pending registrations and experience certificates.
Second biggest issue confronting the PM&DC was the nonexistence of a uniform curriculum at undergraduate level.
Third challenge was the central induction in all the medical and dental colleges. There was no set criterion for the admission at undergraduate level. There have been instances where someone with 80% marks was denied admission but those with 60% marks got in solely on the basis of financial muscle, completely disregarding the merit.
MN: Since taking over as PMDC president, what changes have you brought about with regards to making it a more effective body? What are the impediments to meet your avowed objectives?
DR. LEHRI: We have now made PM&DC a more vibrant body and have resolved all the pending issues of registrations and experience certificates.
MN: You have been recently elected the only candidate elected from Asia and representing Pakistan, how are our relations with the IAMRA serving the PM&DC?
DR. LEHRI: I am management committee member referred to as member at large, there are 5 to 7 from all over the world. As you know, the International Association of Medical Regulatory Authorities, Inc. is a nonprofit corporation.
The Corporation is organized and operates exclusively to support the purposes of the world’s medical regulatory authorities.
IAMRA strives to encourage the best practices among the world’s MRAs and to respond to both their current and future needs. PM& DC is now a member of this forum and results will soon start coming in.
MN: After your appointment in the IAMRA, you expressed your interest in having exchange programmes for Pakistani doctors, what is the progress on this front?
DR. LEHRI: We have developed a Faculty Exchange Program as we do not have trained faculty, and being a member of IAMRA I know how to bridge this gap. Therefore, we have passed a resolution to conduct a faculty training exchange program where our faculty will go abroad for training and vice versa.
MN: How would you compare the standard of medical education in Pakistan vis-à-vis developed countries? Has the CME played its role in keeping the professionals abreast?
DR. LEHRI: I have visited many universities globally and I feel that our education is not far behind, however we have limited resources. For instance we do not have 3D anatomy education tools. When I took over as president, there were international discussions going on that medical education in Pakistan is deteriorating to an extent that a ban was under consideration.
I took the initiative and made Pakistan member of IAMRA which is a big achievement and a stepping stone to move our medical education in the right direction. It is our achievement that this crippled institution has been revamped. It is through the efforts of this council that the credibility of the organization is now restored both locally and internationally.
As for CME, please understand that Teaching is an art – and those who do not possess this art need training to adopt it. It is like putting one concept into others and PhD’s are the ones who by and large have adopted this. CME is directly interlinked with it. A doctor serving in a tertiary care hospital having attended multiple CME is better equipped and that is why it is mandatory across the globe. The CME committee is already working on it.
There is a difference between a doctor sitting in a village or smaller towns than the one sitting in a tertiary care hospital and therefore the requirement of CME also varies accordingly and we are in the process of developing CME according to specific needs to cater to their specific requirements. Without CME, medical education cannot be strengthened.
For example, DHQ medical office cannot go to Islamabad or Karachi for their CMEs so for instance Polio or AIDS awareness programmes will have CME to facilitate such doctors.
MN: How is the issue of quackery being handled?
DR. LEHRI: At tehsil, district, provincial and national level, different people are handling the issue of quackery at different levels and in that long list PMDC is perhaps the last one. We have no court or force to apprehend the culprit so we inform the relevant people in the region. In most cases they are already aware of it.
MN: Have you taken or do you plan to take steps to upgrade the existing curriculum and & academic training of the faculty to bring it at par with the international requirements?
DR. LEHRI: We are in the process of introducing a uniform undergraduate curriculum to bring an end to multiple curricula being used including modular, hybrid or even traditional curriculum. A committee has been formed in this regard. Now we are working on the postgraduate curriculum and soon we will have a uniform PG curriculum.
MN: What is the future of medical professionals in Pakistan especially those without any post-grad qualifications?
DR. LEHRI: The way the medical education has evolved over the years the doctors will be dealt with according to their qualifications and those without any postgrad qualifications will lag behind. People without any postgrad qualifications will be dealt with the qualification that they have attained and this needs improvement.
MN: Can you tell us something about the doctor patient ratio in Pakistan and also whether the admissions into medical and dental colleges are being done keeping in view the desired ratio?
DR. LEHRI: We have about 180,000 doctors catering to a population of over 200 million. Whether it is in the public or private sector, medical education is the most expensive education. It is impossible for us to make everyone a doctor but we are working towards improving this ratio.
MN: What are the criteria for establishing Medical & Dental Colleges, and their implementation? Do you think there is a mushroom growth of private medical and dental colleges in our country? If so, what measures you have taken to control it?
DR. LEHRI: In the past PMDC criteria was not followed in awarding recognition to medical and dental colleges. The PMDC has laid down guidelines but unfortunately in the past they were not fulfilled. In one year alone 20 colleges were recognized.
MN: It is observed that the fee structure amongst the private colleges varies even though PMDC has put a ceiling on the maximum fee that can be charged according to the ranking. Is it legal and if not how do you plan to control it? The tuition fee for the Medical & Dental Colleges is now out of reach for a common man do you plan to check this trend?
DR. LEHRI: There have been instances where someone with 80% marks was denied admission but those with 60% marks got in solely on the basis of financial muscle, completely disregarding the merit. We introduced the uniform admission policy with the hopes that merit will be the sole criteria but it is unfortunate that some of the stakeholders have gone for a stay order against it. I would not comment on this any further as this is a sub-judiciary matter now.
MN: It has been observed that the stipend during house job is also a concern since some private entities pay as little as 7000/- is there no criteria to ensure that a bare minimum is paid during house job?
DR. LEHRI: We are working to fix this issue, the system is currently in progress. Whosoever has received medical education from a private institution, it will be required that they receive equal stipend in house job as those students doing their house job from government institutions.