The first medical school started by an IIT 10 years back has struggled to retain students and attract doctors -showing up challenges the IITs may face as they expand further into medical education.
A decade before the IIT Council last week reiterated its long-standing proposal to allow the IITs to enter medical education to promote interdisciplinary research involving medicine and engineering, IIT Kharagpur had already taken the first step.
The School of Medical Sciences and Technology (SMST) at the country's oldest IIT was started in 2000 and offers a carefully crafted postgraduate course - a three-year programme for MBBS graduates. The school was launched to coincide with the Golden Jubilee of the IIT, started in 1951.
Promoting interdisciplinary research has also been a key focus area of the school which does not offer MBBS courses. Other IITs are also already pursuing interdisciplinary research involving the medical sciences.
But almost 50 per cent of the MBBS graduates who joined IIT Kharagpur medical school left the MMST course mid-way, and the school failed to attract doctors as faculty, top sources confirmed to HT.
"It is a fact that we have struggled to either attract doctors or retain students - and this should serve as a mirror to the IITs as they plan to expand deeper into the field of medical education," an assistant professor at the school said on the condition of anonymity.
The school has only one professor rank teacher and all the other faculty are assistant professors - the junior-most posts in the teaching structure. Almost all the faculty have an engineering background.
Another faculty member at the school cautioned against concluding that the IITs should stay out of medical sciences. "On the contrary, what the problems faced at the SMST show up are the challenges that the IITs must be prepared for, if they want to expand into medical education," faculty member said.