The Union Health Ministry has finally approved a post-graduate degree in infectious diseases (ID) in collaboration with the American Board of Internal Medicine.
The degree course is slated to start in 2010 and the first batch will graduate by 2013.
“The United States has a specialisation in infectious diseases (ID) for over 35 years, the UK offers courses in tropical medicine for even longer,” said US-based urologist Dr Navin Shah.
The Pune-born American doctor was instrumental in getting the speciality approved in India. In 2006, he met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and health secretaries to draw attention to the need for an ID speciality.
The same year, Dr Vedprakash Mishra of the Medical Council of India (MCI), submitted a report with recommendations to start a degree in ID.
The government and the MCI, which is in charge of medical education, took three years to process the proposal.
“The Health Ministry issued a notification on July 24. Medical colleges have been invited to apply if they want to offer the speciality,” said Dr Mishra, heads of MCI’s post-graduate committee.
Infectious diseases have been claiming lives for centuries. So, why train doctors only now? “For a long time, it was felt doctors trained in medicine were competent to deal with infectious diseases. Now, with a gigantic proportion of patients, the need for specialised manpower is felt,” said Dr Mishra.
“I gave the MCI a proposed curriculum for the course in January,” said Dr Shah. “They’re still to finalise it. I have offered to send specialists to India to train doctors but there has been no response,” said Dr Shah.
Doctors, however, question the decision to have the course as a speciality instead of a super-speciality.
“Ideally, a doctor should do a three-year medicine speciality and then do ID,” said Dr F.D. Dastur, head of medical education at Hinduja Hospital.
He said the lack of a degree was not the only reason for the poor number of ID specialists. “It’s not a lucrative career as specialists just advise hospitals and other doctors. Also, there is resistance among doctors to refer patients to a specialist.”