Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What is the scope of MSc in medical microbiology in India?

M.Sc (master of science) courses in medical subjects including anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, microbiology and pharmacology are offered by Kasturba Medical College (Manipal and Mangalore). These are the only two colleges in Karnataka that offer these courses. Similar courses are offered by Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamilnadu and Kerala universities too. Every year several students from Karnataka and outside take admission in these two colleges. Not many are aware of its value and utility. The fee structure has been on the rise ever since I took my admission.

I shall concentrate only on M.Sc in medical microbiology only. Even though this is a postgraduate course, it is not considered a PG course by (Medical Council of India (MCI). Typically, any PG course lasts only for two years but medical M.Sc courses are offered for three years. The first year is dedicated entirely to learning medical subjects like anatomy, physiology and biochemistry just the way first year MBBS students do. The only difference lies in Anatomy where brain and limbs are not included in the syllabus. After the student clears the first year, he/she can then proceed to the subject of specialty, which lasts for two years.

During the two years of study, the student has to take up 2-3 internal assessment examination and undertake a dissertation. The course, curriculum and system of examination are exactly similar to that of MD a course. The only difference between M.Sc and MD course is the duration, MD student get three years to study the same portion. During the course the student has to present subject and culture seminars besides undertaking a research work leading to submission of dissertation. At the end of two years a final examination would be held, consisting of theory and practical examination. Practical examination is held for three days and the examiner panel consisting of internal as well as external examiners. The pattern of examination is same that of MD examination. Since Manipal University is a deemed one, answer booklets are evaluated in the same university. The successful candidate is then awarded a masters degree in medical microbiology and a certificate is given to this effect at convocation.

The options these students have next is limited. Unreserved candidates securing 60% or above and reserved candidates with 55% can pursue higher education by undertaking doctoral study (PhD). Clearance of UGC CSIR/NET and Gate exams with good results would be added benefit as they would be given preference to those without these exams. Besides, a regular scholarship too would be given. A student can pursue PhD in any institution or university in Karnataka or outside provided it is recognized by MCI. Obtaining a PhD in non-medical universities will not be recognized by MCI. Those not interested in PhD or unable to purse may opt for other studies such as bioinformatics, clinical research, medical transcription, biotechnology, genetics etc. Other less desirable study options includes computer courses. Students not interested in further studies can find employment in diagnostic laboratories, call centers, pharmaceutical companies or biotech companies. If you are lucky you could land a technician job at any hospital in Gulf. Or worse, one can join a medical college as a teacher.

Scope of M.Sc students joining in medical colleges as faculty: In simple words, there is no scope at all. There was a time when there were no takers for paraclinical subjects like microbiology by MBBS graduates, the M.Sc degree holders were in demand. Now almost every college has full admission to MD microbiology. Each year 20-30 MD students pass out of medical colleges from Karnataka alone and the number of M.Sc students from both the colleges too is almost same. With so many MD degree holders around, the scope for M.Sc degree holders is scarce. Many institutions are not appointing M.Sc degree holders these days. Some colleges appoint them as tutors or demonstrators and not even as lecturers. Even if a M.Sc degree holder is appointed as lecturer, he/she is entitled to promotion as Assistant professor after three years, which is wrongly and unjustly denied in several institutions. The pay package in private institutions too may vary with the degree, where M.Sc degree holders may be underpaid. MCI does not recommend promoting M.Sc faculty above the post of Asst. Prof. without a medical PhD. In simple words, a M.Sc faculty can not expect any growth in medical college without a PhD. The post graduate course (M.Sc) is not considered as a post-graduate course by MCI at all. The discrimination between M.Sc and MD degree holders is intense and many times unhealthy. In simple words, M.Sc holders have no place in a medical world. A M.Sc degree holder is branded as "non-medico" and is looked down upon in many cases.

To view the list of differences between MSc & MD microbiology, visit www.microrao.com/msc.htm

It makes sense that a person with no teaching experience has no eligibility to be an examiner. What bewilders me is that while MSc's are considered perfectly capable of teaching undergraduates, they are not considered capable of examining them. What extra skill does one need to be an examiner? Only PhD holders are allowed as examiners. I always wonder how a research study on a narrow topic can confer upon an MSc teacher a "skill" to become an examiner. The reasons for not letting MSc's become examiners are more than what meets the eye. It is simply a denial of opportunity in order to consider themselves (MDs) superior to MSc's.

How does one become bigger than the other? There are two ways to do this; a) outgrow and outperform the others, b) don't let others perform/grow by denying them opportunity. It is obvious that the second one is felt more appropriate. People want "differences" and how do you create differences? By denial of all opportunities and benefits.

Government has a policy of upliftment of backwards by promoting them via reservations. But what is happening in the medical education is quite the opposite. When the need of the hour is to unite and serve the education with a common goal, the system ends up creating differences. The differences are not only highlighted but every attempt is made to keep the difference not only intact but also to widen it. While the motto should have been to "live and let live", the scenario is quite unlike that. Worse, there is no reservation, no rights or no bodies to fight against oppression for MScs.

There is no denial that the two these two groups are not the same. A demand for equality is also uncalled for. Both these come for different backgrounds and different UG degree. Hence, the concept of superiority of MDs over MSc's is bound to occur. There is no point challenging their superiority or demanding equal status. But it is disheartening to see the denial of opportunities just to make these differences obvious. Agreed that the graduate degrees of both these groups are different but the post graduate degrees are qualitatively the same. When the nature of work is based on the PG degree and not UG degree, why should there be discrimination? The discrimination (if any) should be on merits and not based on UG degree. This is exactly similar to the caste based discrimination, race based discrimination that exists in the society. We now have a new “degree based discrimination”, what I call "academic apartheid". When rights are demanded, MSc's are often told bluntly that they already have been given more than what they deserve. Some day someone should thank them for their generosity. When the education sector itself is infested with this kind of academic apartheid, we can't expect much change to occur in the society.

Do not pursue M.Sc in any medical subjects and if you must undertake M.Sc course, then; pursue higher studies, do a PhD and never join a medical college as teaching faculty.

Caution: No degree is good or bad. It is up to the individual what one can achieve with it. The purpose of putting up this article is to highlight the ground reality of value medical MSc has in medical institutions. There is indeed better prospects outside it.
Please don't post questions seeking guidance as they will not be entertained anymore.

If you still want to join this course, you are either a dumb stupid or a very enterprising individual. Make your choice carefully! If you have read this far, I suggest you read the comments at the bottom of this page.