Ukraine crisis: Returning students’ long-term rehabilitation may be tricky

Even as the Medical Commission (NMC) allows foreign medical graduates (FMGs) to complete their internship, long-term rehabilitation of those back in India from Ukraine into Indian medical might be tricky.

For now, the NMC has asked state medical councils to process completion of internship of these candidates provided they have cleared the foreign medical graduate examination (FMGE). FMGE is a licentiate examination conducted by the Board of Examinations (NBE) in India as one of the mandatory requirements for Indian citizens who obtained a medical degree from a college outside India to practice medicine in India.

However, according to sources in NMC, taking any further steps to accommodate students who have returned from war torn Ukraine to India might be cumbersome since certain regulations under the NMC Act might need to be tweaked.

“For now, internship completion has been allowed. But NMC is an Act passed in the Parliament and certain regulations may have to be tweaked to accommodate them further. However, the government is working on ways to do so but only time will tell what shape and manner these steps will take,” said a source on condition of anonymity. Various stakeholders and departments of the government including NMC are likely to meet later this month to deliberate on such steps.

On their part, the Indian medical and academic fraternity too have cautioned against dilution of the standard of medical in India while taking such steps. Experts have also raised concerns over FMGE’s low pass percentages of sub-20 per cent in 2020 to 24 per cent in 2021. Held twice in a year, FMGE will be held on June 4 and December 17, 2022.

“FMGE is a licentiate examination whose standard cannot be brought down. Given such a low pass percentage the onus is on the students to work hard to clear FMGE to be able to enter the Indian medical system. At the end of the day, we need quality doctors in India,” said Pratik Patel, dean of NHL Medical College, Ahmedabad.

Similarly, speaking at a panel discussion hosted by the Federation of All India Medical Association (FAIMA), Dr Rajiv Ranjan Prasad, dean – faculty of medicine, Aryabhatta Knowledge University, Patna said that either tougher questions in FMGE or poor quality of teaching in foreign medical colleges could be the reasons for such a low pass percentage among FMGs. “The FMGE test is conducted to bring foreign graduates at par with the Indian system.”

However, offering a couple of solutions, Prasad said that with NMC regulations requiring FMGs to complete an program in 10 years, the returned students still had buffer time to complete their degrees as well as India could look at providing them special training to help with the FMGE examination.

On the other hand, according to experts like Dr G S Grewal, president, Delhi Medical Association (DMA) steps should be taken to bring FMGs at par with the Indian medical undergraduate courses, one such way being the introduction of FMGE licentiate examination.

In other potential solutions, Ravi Wankhedkar, treasurer, World Medical Association (WMA), said the students could look to rejoin their colleges once the war was over in Ukraine, even as there were possibilities of neighbouring countries like Poland willing to accommodate these students for the same fees.

“A thorough discussion with all stakeholders is needed for the government to come out with an acceptable solution without dilution of academic norms and standards,” said Wankhedkar.

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