After Wonca Mumbai, Family Physicians Noticed In India

February, 2012

The following article which records a big advance for family medicine in India was published in The Times Of India Delhi on January 3, 2012 (p9).

Family doc concept back in business

MCI starts 3-year pG In Family medicine, asks states to Roll out Course

by Kounteya Sinha TNN

New Delhi: Family physicians — medical practitioners that were fast disappearing — are now being revived.

With India witnessing a rush of medical students keen on becoming “specialists”, the health ministry and Medical Council of India (MCI) have notified introduction of a new three-year postgraduate course - MD in family medicine.

Chairman of MCI’s board of governors, Dr K K Talwar said, “The curriculum has been prepared and sent to all state governments that have been told to roll out this broad speciality course.”

Experts say a doctor with MD (family medicine) will be the one “who will know a little of every discipline, from pediatrics to gynecology and will be able to treat the community as a whole.”

This will soon bring back the family physician in the forefront of primary healthcare. The steering committee on health has also been pressurizing the ministry to endorse family medicine.

In its recent report finalized last week, it said, “family medicine discipline needs to be introduced in all medical colleges so that they can effectively manage most of medical problems encountered at primary level, and referral to specialists occurs only when necessary.” Till now, most family physicians were MBBS doctors. “The MD course on family medicine is more advanced than a simple MBBS and will help doctors wanting to increase their acumen in community health,” Dr Talwar said.

At present, the only available post-graduate programme on family medicine was the DNB family medicine qualification, conducted by the National Board of Examinations-accredited community hospitals.

NBE executive director Dr Bipin Batra said, “The demand for DNB (family medicine) course run by the NBE is seeing a major increase. We have 300 seats for this discipline. As against just 50 MBBS students enrolling to become family physicians a couple of years ago, the numbers reached close to 300 in 2011. This is mainly because private hospitals have increased their recruitment for general practitioners.”

Students pursuing MD (medicine) are taught more in-depth on diseases, functions of various organs and their treatment.

Professor Ranjit Roychoudhury, former member of MCI’s board of governors, said, “A person with a postgraduate degree in family medicine will look at preventive, prophylactic and promotive healthcare. He will have extensive knowledge on healthcare for the elderly who cannot move out of the house and will be taught on everything from gynecology, psychology to pediatrics.”

Introduction of family medicine as a PG discipline has been emphasized by the Bhore Committee, National Health Policy 2002, National Knowledge Commission and the taskforce on human resource for NRHM.

Dr K Srinath Reddy, president of Public Health Foundation of India, said, “Family medicine is a required discipline. The rush for specialization has deprived doctors of the ability to look at individuals as a whole and families as one unit. We require large number of persons trained in family medicine, which combines a broad set of clinical competencies.”

American Academy of Family Physicians defines it as “medical specialty that integrates the biological, clinical and behavioural sciences. The scope of family medicine encompasses all ages — both sexes - each organ system and every disease entity.”