Pakistan Medical Pakistan Medical and Dental Council, the statutory regulatory authority that oversaw medical and dental colleges in Pakistan, was dissolved following a presidential ordinance on October 20, 2019. Dr Sohail argues why the body that replaces it might actually be a step backward.

n October 21, 2019, under the authority of the President of Pakistan, the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) Ordinance 2019 was promulgated.As part of this Ordinance, the Pakistan Medical & Dental Council ceased to exist and was replaced by PMC. This precipitous action was perceived by many in the health care sector as officious and perhaps implemented under the political influence of the owners of private medical schools in Pakistan; a fact substantiated by the proposed membership of PMC and the premeditated exclusion of engagement of public-sector universities in conscripting this Ordinance.

Majority of private medical and dental schools in Pakistan are “diploma mills” owned and operated as “business” units by wealthy and politically influential Pakistanis

There are numerous glaring challenges in this Ordinance that will unfortunately have a deleterious impact on the education and training of medical and dental students in Pakistan with unintended downstream consequences. Detailed below is an abridged list of observations in this Ordinance that individually and collectively are disconcerting and need urgent attention of our elected leadership in Pakistan for immediate rectification. 

RECOGNITION OF INSTITUTES

  • Extreme lowering of standards favoring recognition of sub-standard private medical and dental schools in Pakistan
    • Majority of private medical and dental schools in Pakistan are “diploma mills” owned and operated as “business” units by wealthy and politically influential Pakistanis

FACULTY INCLUSION

  • Allowing MPhil and PhD faculty to teach in relevant basic science disciplines
    • No effort has been made to date by the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan to ensure the quality of the degree-awarding institution, thus eliciting a germane concern and a robust dialogue of the value of this action

ADMISSION POLICY

  • Abolishing standardized policy for admission in medical and dental colleges
    • Favors private medical and dental colleges to establish their individual policy for admission, thus potentially lowering the standards

TUTION FEE OVERSIGHT

  • Abolishing oversight of tuition structure in private medical & dental schools
    • Grave disadvantage for the students making medical and dental education unaffordable for many talented applicants

This missive must be not be viewed as a dictum against private medical and dentals schools in Pakistan. It is indubitable that some of these private institutions provide outstanding education and training to future healthcare workforce. However, what is being questioned is the rather unscrupulous process that was adopted by the task force which did not solicit any valuable advice from and/or engagement of key stakeholders in the public-sector universities of national and international repute in Pakistan. The outcome of any such overtly bigoted and perplexing process is always questionable and in large part not in the best interest of the nation. 

The abolition of oversight of tuition structure in private medical and dental schools will be a grave disadvantage for students

I request that we take a step back, reexamine our processes and engage key stakeholders in both public and private sector universities to ensure that the product of this exercise is “owned” by all involved and continues to improve the quality of medical and dental education in Pakistan…the Holy Grail of the Arthurian literature that we all aspire to achieve! 

Dr Sohail Rao is a seasoned medical professional with over three decades of experience in various academic and non-academic leadership positions in healthcare systems around the globe. He is the President & CEO of DHR Health Institute for Research & Development, DHR Health System, Texas, USA and Executive Vice President for Research and Development at DHR Health System, Texas.

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