By Deepak Sharma
It has been six months since the world witnessed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with tragic consequences affecting millions of people in that country. Closer home, it has disrupted the lives of many Indian students pursuing their medical education in the Eastern European nation.
According to the data from the Ministry of External Affairs, approximately 18,000 Indian students were pursuing their education in Ukraine during the war, the majority of these belonging to medical science. The Indian government has rescued these students, but their careers are now at stake as they are facing uncharted paths to resume their education and subsequently the ability to practice medicine in India as Foreign Medicine Graduates (FMG).
These students being considered foreign will have to go through the same set of rules to be a doctor in the country. However, due to their unique situation, the rulebook for the orderly process that applies in peacetime for such graduates may not apply and this has sparked a discussion on finding solutions that can salvage these careers. Here is how to understand the complexities involved:
Understanding the magnitude of regulations and guidelines
Like most countries, India regulates the absorption of Indian Citizens, OCTs who are foreign medical graduates (FMGs) by facilitating a pathway to licensing and practice. Except for MBBS equivalent courses obtained in some countries like the USA, UK, New Zealand, Australia and Canada, candidates who wish to practice in India must clear a screening test, the FMGE.
The NMC has made exceptions for the final year students from Ukraine provided they complete 2 years of internship instead of the usual 1 year, to compensate for the loss of clinical rotations in the final year. These perhaps account for 3000 of the returnees.
For students in earlier years, who enrolled prior to November 2021, an additional provision of having them transferred to other European universities has also been accepted. For others, NMC has proposed they appear for the MBBS NEET.
The NMC can be said to be walking a tightrope in addressing the concerns of these students while taking care not to dilute the standards of medical practice in the country to the detriment of society in general. For most of those adversely affected; clear, well-regulated pathways exist to be able to continue education and practice, though these involve additional time and money expenses and some hardship.
What more can be done
Preparatory or bridge courses can be offered to those who find themselves underprepared for these exams due to the unprecedented disruption. Also it may be a good time to devise and implement screening criteria for “exchange and transfer programs” with MBBS programs from a set of jurisdictions that meet certain basic minimum criteria of the NMC. This could be accompanied by a condition to serve underserved areas in the country after completion of the program. While this may take a bit longer to implement – it could solve a long-term problem as well for the immobility of talent.
India has to think ahead to meet its burgeoning demand for healthcare and attracting talent from anywhere should be kept in the foreground while taking care not to dilute the quality or create a back-door program.
(The author is Co-Founder and CEO, MedLern. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of FinancialExpress.com.)