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Have faith in the country’s healthcare systems, says PIMS Jalandhar Director-Principal, Dr. Rajiv Arora

In an interview, Dr. Arora talks about the sea-change in medical education with the introduction of the new competency based curriculum and how citizens can help curb the spread of Covid-19

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An alumnus of Apeejay School, Mahavir Marg, Dr. Rajiv Arora (MD) recently assumed charge as the new Director-Principal at Punjab Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), Jalandhar. In an exclusive interview, he throws light on his journey and the skill-based revolution in the medical field, as he credits his alma mater for his illustrious career. Edited excerpts:

Please give us a glimpse of your journey.  

After completing class 12 in 1985 from Apeejay School in Jalandhar, I got selected to pursue MBBS at the prestigious Armed Forces Medical College, Pune.  Thereafter, I pursued post-graduation from Christian Medical College and Hospital, Ludhiana. I joined as a Professor and Head Physiology at PIMS in 2009. Thereafter I was promoted as the Vice-Principal, in-charge of Academics. Currently, I am serving as the Director-Principal at PIMS since December 2021.

How has medical education changed over the years?

Till recently, the focus was on acquiring knowledge. However, since 2019 a new curriculum has been implemented, which is a competency-based medical curriculum introduced by the National Medical Commission (NMC).

Following this change, there has been a renewed focus on attaining skills along with sound medical knowledge. It includes a comprehensive approach towards having the right attitude and communication, as these skills are pertinent for a medical professional.

Apart from the foundation course that introduces students to the various facets of medicine, students now have an early clinical exposure in the first year itself.

Through simulations and video-lectures, they are equipped with the necessary know-how and experiences like never before. There is a technological revolution in the medical profession and it is important for new doctors to keep pace.

Self-directed learning sessions are another important new introduction. At these sessions, students take ownership of their learning, identify their learning needs & plan the learning sessions & assessments under the guidance from faculty-facilitators.

Skill-labs have now been established at medical colleges where students are able to practice & learn the skills like IM/IV injections, inserting catheters, how to perform deliveries, basic life support procedures etc. This is done with the use of mannequins and dummies.

The most important change that I would like to highlight is the improved gender ratio in the medical profession in these years. We have been able to achieve that parity now and at PIMS more than 60% of our students are girls. Over the years the medical profession has increasingly become open to women and this is a welcome change.

Do tell us about your school years. Any interesting anecdotes you would like to share?

I joined Apeejay as a nursery student. At that time, the school operated from two rented houses and a new building was just coming up. I completed my class 12 in 1985 and in 1983 I was the School Head-Boy. My wife too is an Apeejayite and she was the Head-Girl. Both my daughter and son are Apeejay School, Model Town and Mahavir Marg alumni. I have had a fulfilling school experience and that is why I wanted to ensure that my children get the same. I am happy to say that Apeejay has maintained its legacy over the years.

I vividly recall our Principal, Mr. K.K. Dubey at school. Every once a year, the Founder-Chairman of Apeejay Stya and Svran Group,  Dr. Stya Paul, used to visit our school. I have had the privilege of receiving several accolades from him. Mr. Dubey used to share with us Dr Stya Paul’s journey and how he had very humble beginnings. His vision and mission and the manner in which he became a successful educationist, industrialist and philanthropist inspired us. He was an excellent role model and we have tried to emulate him in our lives.

What would be the life lessons that you picked at school?

Mr. K. K. Dubey, our school principal, taught me several lessons. To begin with, I learnt punctuality from him: Even today, I would make sure never to be late for any of my appointments. The other most important thing I learnt from him was hard work: No matter how intelligent a student is, if one is not working consistently to achieve their goals then intelligence would be of no help.

I credit Apeejay School for helping me get through a good medical college and shaping my overall personality.  

As a nation, we are under the threat of another Covid-19 variant. What should we be prepared for?

Whenever there has been any healthcare crisis, be it Polio, Small Pox, HIV-AIDS in the early 90s or Avian Flu, Swine Flu etc. we have been able to overcome them thanks to our healthcare systems. What course the pandemic may take, it is difficult to predict as of now.

However, under the able guidance of our Hon’ble Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, despite challenges, we have been able to successfully prepare vaccines in our country and vaccinate our citizens. This has been achieved with the timely support of our entrepreneurs and doctors. Due to Covid-19, the entire country has surely faced a tough time, and even at PIMS, we were a Covid-care facility catering to hundreds of patients. We too witnessed shortages at that time but were fortunate to receive 13 ventilators from the PM-Cares Fund. The government has been working towards equipping us and other healthcare organisations with the necessary resources. Therefore, I urge citizens to have faith.

The greatest learning during this time has been to invest in healthcare. We definitely need to refurbish our healthcare infrastructure in India. After the massive oxygen shortages that we witnessed throughout the country, at PIMS we have equipped ourselves by establishing a PSA oxygen plant that supplies 1000 litres of oxygen per minute.

What would be your advice for aspiring doctors?

For students preparing for the NEET examinations, I would say: Read instead of staying glued to the mobile screens. Due to increased competition in the medical field, students at present are more focused to cram the concepts to clear the papers. My suggestion would be to learn at school rather than spending the crucial last four years of your time at coaching centres. Your course books have everything you need!

For those who have just about entered medical college, I would say that they have to focus on the fact that they are there to take care of their patients. See the face of God in your patients, they are the books you are going to read! Don’t pursue the profession because you think that it is a lucrative option, and dedicate yourself to alleviate the suffering of a patient. Getting into a medical school is one thing, and graduating from there successfully is another. It is a long and hard career.

Your final word of caution for citizens?

My word is to keep following Covid-19 safety precautions, and wear a mask at all times. Don’t become lax and avoid vaccination. Be part of a global effort to eradicate the virus. Have faith in your country’s medical infrastructure and stay away from misinformation.  

Mrini Devnani is Senior Correspondent (Newsroom). She covers student achievements, interviews and contributions for the website. She was a former Correspondent covering Edutech for the India Today Group, and has a passion for Social Media and Digital Marketing. You can reach her at [email protected]

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