Medical Research in India- Can we ever make it there?
Dr.Susmita Reddy K
Topiwala Nair Medical College and BYL Hospital, Mumbai
Science, in particular medicine, is ever evolving and we all seem to agree that investing in medical research is the only way to keep up with this constant change. From increasing the longevity of human life to making palliative care much more comfortable, medical research has indeed made some serious advancement. Although India is known to be a pioneer in providing quality and cheap health care across the world, we are often left wondering whether we should emphasize more on medical research.
A study published by Ray et al in the year 2016 compared the research output from 579 medical hospitals and institutions in India with some of the leading academic centers in the world over a decade. The results showed that only about 4% of the institutions in India published more than 100 papers a year and a shocking 57.3% of medical colleges did not publish a single paper in 10 years.
So where do we fall short? Can we ever make it there?
Firstly, our education system is to be blamed. Right from our school days, we are taught to follow whatever is mentioned in the books. Any out of box thinking is quick to be dismissed by our teachers and over the years, as we grow up, we learn tune our minds to blindly follow the print rather than think creatively and analyze the content. It is high time that our education policy makers realize the importance of encouraging rationale thinking and developing a strong clinical acumen which can act as a foundation for young doctors to further train in research methodology.
Lack of infrastructure is another major cause. Very few medical colleges in India have dedicated faculty and trainer
s in medical research. It becomes very difficult for young doctors to proceed with their thoughts and ideas without proper mentorship.
Furthermore, the government funding in this field has been poor. This is largely due to the fact that our government believes that investing more money into providing quality health
care is much more important than medical research. While this might seem to be correct to a large extent, how difficult is it to allot a few millions for medical research when our economy is pegged at a whopping 10.51 trillion dollars this year is what makes me wonder.
Despite all the drawbacks in our system, we have seen some amazing research papers being published in India like devising the pulse polio immunization drive which ultimately led to the eradication of polio in India, the directly observed treatment-short course (DOTS) for tuberculosis or proving the utility of clinically directed selective screening to diagnose HIV infection in hospitalized children. This means that it is certainly possible to have quality research in India. All that is needed is a bit of self-willingness and organizational support towards accomplishing the goal.
A strong democracy needs strong science. So let us all pledge to encourage research and creative thinking in order to create a the INDIA of our dreams, a new INDIA 2020.
1.Ray S, Shah I, Nundy S. The research output from Indian Medical Institutions between 2005 and 2014. Current Medicine Research and Practice 2016; 6 (2): 49-58
3.Tuberculosis Chemotherapy Centre. TRC Chennai. Intermittent treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis – A concurrent comparison of twice-weekly isoniazid plus streptomycin and daily isoniazid plus p-aminosalicylic acid in domiciliary treatment. Lancet 1963;281:1078-80.
4.John TJ, Pandian R, Gadomski A, Steinhoff M, John M, Ray M. Control of poliomyelitis by pulse immunisation in Vellore, India. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1983;286:31-2