Mumbai’s KEM hospital will soon become the first institution in the state and one of only four in the country to offer a post-graduate degree course in immuno-hematology and transfusion medicine.
The other three institutions are in Chandigarh, Lucknow and Chennai. Experts in this field are particularly valuable during disasters, when lots of people are likely to need blood transfusions, and epidemics such as a dengue outbreak, when people need platelets.
Students will also learn how to collect adult stem cells, which hold the promise of treating a range of diseases. Already, doctors use bone marrow transplants to treat leukaemia.
The course, which the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences has approved, will begin by the end of this year after the Medical Council of India also sanctions it. By some estimates, about a quarter of the country’s blood banks are located in Maharashtra.
Candidates will be selected through an entrance test after they have cleared their MBBS degree and two seats will be offered each year, said Dr Jayshree Sharma, head of immuno-hematology and transfusion medicine at the Seth G S Medical College attached to KEM hospital.
“This is a multi-disciplinary area concerned with the proper use of blood and blood components,” said Sharma. “Despite the fact that we have ample blood-banking facilities, there are very few trained practioners who can go beyond mere storing and transfusion. This course will train people not just in blood-banking but also in specialised areas like stem cell research, bone marrow transplants, treating adverse reactions to transfusions, etc.”
She added that this course was especially important when breakthroughs were happening in the field of transfusion medicine and there was a need to develop trained professionals.
“Currently, there is a lot of promise in stem cell research, but not many people are engaged in it because there is very little training,” said Dr Sharma. “Besides, bone marrow transplants are complicated and expensive. With more and more trained practitioners, not only does research get a boost but it can help subsidise treatment for poor people.”
Dr Sanjay Jadhav, head of the state Blood Tranfusion Council, said that it was a much-needed course. “More than a fourth of the country’s blood banks are situated in our state,” he said.
“So we have the capacity to do maximum research and come up with low-cost high-quality technology, but we don’t have a super-specialty course.”KEM’s doctors had applied for approval three years ago.
After a rigorous process, approval has now been granted to the hospital.