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Where teaching is the casualty

Seven thousand patients in the OPD a day could be one reason why senior faculty at AIIMS is often too tired to teach.

india Updated: Jun 25, 2006 02:36 IST

Seven thousand patients in the OPD a day could be one reason why senior faculty at AIIMS is often too tired to teach. Over the past few years, the senior professors have increasingly been delegating teaching responsibilities to their junior colleagues.

“Increasingly, classes are being taken by assistant professors instead of professors. Even the time spent on bedside rounds has been reduced to whirlwind tours,” complains a third-year medical student.

Teaching at AIIMS has three major components: classroom lectures, case presentations or topic reviews with students, and practical lectures while doing bedside rounds with the students. “In the eighties, bedside teaching would start at 7 p.m. and at times go up to midnight. Three to four hour rounds of the wards were routine. Now the rounds get over in an hour, there is no case discussion and all the professor does is give instructions with no benefit to the students,” says a professor.

Some doctors claim the rot started in the eighties. “Afternoon specialty clinics such as the ones at the RP Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences used to be an excellent learning experience for residents. Now these clinics are run by senior residents as assistant professors and above hardly go there. AIIMS is undoubtedly still the best medical college in India but it could be a lot better if more attention was paid to academic excellence,” says Dr Mahipal Sachdev, director, Centre for Sight, and former associate professor at RP centre.

Critics claim that the teachers are not as overburdened as they pretend to be. “A professor typically has OPD three days a week (9-10 hours a week), one hour classroom lectures two to three times a week, and ward rounds usually twice a week. The rest of the time they are supposed to spend on research, topic reviews with students and attending seminars and conferences to update their skills and share knowledge, but I don’t see much of that happening,” says a senior resident. “In fact, some spend more time hanging around politicians and knocking on ministry doors to get out-of-turn promotions and other benefits,” he adds.

“What is needed now is teacher evaluation by students as well as a monitoring committee so that teaching skills are better factored in when promotions are done,” says Dr Anoop Mishra, who left AIIMS for the private sector. Says Dr Arun Aggarwal of the 1980 batch and practises in the US, “I studied at AIIMS and my children are students in medical colleges in the US, but I haven’t seen training such as the one I got at AIIMS in the seventies anywhere in the world.”