Exclusive Commentary: Social Accountability and Medical Schools in India

By Edmond Fernandes, MBBS and R.P. Pai, MD

In recent years, the concept of social accountability in medical schools has gotten off the ground in India.

After Charles Boelen and Jeffrey E. Heck articulated in 1995 that medical schools have a responsibility to accept and acknowledge their role in improving the health of society, a few medical schools in India like the Christian Medical College in Vellore, and Father Muller Hospital, in Karnataka accepted the challenge.

In another example, Syndicate Bank helped facilitate informal efforts to offer social sector services through the Medical College of Wenlock Hospital in Mangalore. The bank’s rural branches helped rural health care services by financing building and infrastructure with low interest rates. We know health is not stethoscope and pills. Other colleges took notice when medical colleges with socio-political directives received tax benefits, spurring more interest in the model.

Eventually, regulatory agencies, like the Medical Council of India, came to expect medical schools to offer certain social services to enhance their clinical training. In the last decade, globalization and a growing awareness of social accountability have driven India’s medical colleges to obtain accreditation from various national bodies set up by the Government. It has become increasingly clear that social accountability is necessary to maintain a cutting edge and to excel in the market place.

Edmond Fernandes, MBBS, is CEO, Center for Health and Development and a resident and post-grad in community medicine at Yenepoya University. R.P. Pai, MD, PHD is a Professor in the Department of Community Medicine at Yenepoya University.

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