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Care for the family

Posted on Monday, September 28, 2015

A UK-based university has collaborated with an Indian medical institute to offer a distance-learning Master’s in Family Medicine to improve the family medicine scenario by training physicians in rural India. Ruchi Chopda reports

While the rise in demand for specialists may have triggered a rush among medicine students to pursue niche specialisations, experts in the healthcare industry are realising the importance of age-old primary care physicians. This has given rise to institutes offering a specialisation in family medicine to encourage medicine students to once again turn the focus towards providing immediate attention to patients, thereby eliminating the need for unnecessary expensive treatments.    

The two-year, part-time Master’s in Family Medicine, conducted by the University of Edinburgh in partnership with Christian Medical College (CMC) Vellore and the Indian Christian Medical and Dental Association (ICMDA), is aimed at providing a model to improve primary healthcare outcomes in India. It is designed to help general practitioners working in underserved and rural communities acquire the skills to become expert family medicine doctors who refer less and resolve more. This is supposed to not only provide the first point of contact but also the continuum of care to patients. The training is further meant to provide participants the essential medical knowledge and management skills for the most common health issues. 

Elaborates Liz Grant, director, Global Health Academy and assistant principal for global health, “Family medicine recognises that an individual’s illness affects everyone in their family. Family medicine training, therefore, seeks to focus on the patient in their home and community. It aims to embed effective health promotion, disease prevention planning, and early detection of illness and it aims to diagnose accurately, treat efficiently and manage effectively without resorting to expensive and unnecessary diagnostic tests or drugs.” 

The programme consists of seven taught courses of 120 credits, an internship and a dissertation (60 credits). Delivered through the blended-learning format, it covers modules in family medicine, reflective practice and principles of general practice and evidence-based medicine for rural family medicine in rural settings. Additionally, there are three compulsory contact teaching periods in a hospital setting, each of a 10-day duration and an internship mentorship period of 30 days. Adds Dr Jachin Velavan, co-ordinator of the college’s department of distance education, “The course demands a study commitment of about 10 hours per week to allow students to continue frontline duties while participating in interactive and problem-based learning modules especially designed for a busy practitioner. It is open to students in India and Africa (with hospital internship sites in India, Nigeria, Uganda and Egypt.”

Upon graduation, students receive a degree from the University of Edinburgh. Talking about the employment opportunities afterwards, Grant says, “As the programme is delivered part-time over two years, many students are already in employment. The goal is to build a global community of practice where family doctors are recognised as the capstones of the health service in every country. It is also to build such a clinical staff that can provide immediate, long-term, continuous, quality care for people as near to their homes as possible helping them avoid unnecessary hospital admissions, ensuring that the prescribed medicines are the best and most appropriate for the conditions, monitoring illness and keeping a watchful eye on all family members as they live well and hopefully age well together.”  

At a Glance
Duration: Two years, part-time
Course commences: September 12, 2016
Eligibility: Applicants must have completed an undergraduate medicine degree from a nationally recognised institution and graduated; they should also currently be in practice or be involved in health policy or health policy management. Students must also provide proof of English language proficiency as prescribed at www.ed.ac.uk/schools-departments/global-health/family-medicine/entry-requirements
Fee: £9,650 (for 2015/16), payable in yearly instalments of £4,825. Students are also responsible for the cost of travel to the hospital-based contact teaching periods and for their food and board during the stays at the hospital
Scholarships: Students are eligible to apply for the Rural Community Investment Scholarships that covers £4,300 of the total cost. Candidates are assessed regarding their eligibility for the scholarship on the basis of their income level, previous experience of working in a charity hospital, and commitment to working for two years to further the cause of family medicine following completion of the programme
Application deadline: August 22, 2016


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