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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 18  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 344-345

The need to introduce research initiative in the undergraduate medical curriculum

Department of Pathology, SVS Medical College, Mahabubnagar, Telangana, India

Date of Submission11-Mar-2020
Date of Decision19-Mar-2020
Date of Acceptance11-Apr-2020
Date of Web Publication19-Oct-2020

Correspondence Address:
Dr. K P. A. Chandrasekhar
Department of Pathology, SVS Medical College, Mahabubnagar, Telangana
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/cmi.cmi_30_20

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How to cite this article:
Chandrasekhar K P. The need to introduce research initiative in the undergraduate medical curriculum. Curr Med Issues 2020;18:344-5

How to cite this URL:
Chandrasekhar K P. The need to introduce research initiative in the undergraduate medical curriculum. Curr Med Issues [serial online] 2020 [cited 2020 Nov 26];18:344-5. Available from: https://www.cmijournal.org/text.asp?2020/18/4/344/298588

The current undergraduate medical curriculum is not research oriented. There has been a lot of debate over many decades on the introduction of a research module and a mandatory initiative at the undergraduate level. Disappointingly, there has not been much progress on this front and undergraduate research remains in its infancy across the medical colleges in the country.

The effect of a largely quiescent curriculum on undergraduate research during the foundation laying years of a medical graduate is seen regularly during their postgraduation where a dissertation is mandatory. The sight of a postgraduate student being clueless and absolutely incapable of initiating a mandatory research project is commonplace in all medical colleges. The current avenues for undergraduate research are limited to ICMR Short Term Studentships and a few institutions with dedicated boards or committees to promote institutional research among the undergraduates. Could a strong structured curriculum that could entrench concepts of research methodology and experience in initiating and completing a research project during their budding undergraduate days be the solution for the problem of “dissertation inertia” faced by post-graduates? I would like to say “yes.”

A review of the current state of undergraduate research shows that research methodology and biostatistics are largely limited to being high-yield topics in a community medicine examination.[1] This really has pushed active interest in research to being an “extra-curricular” activity at the undergraduate level. The fact that there is a gross asymmetry in the distribution of research activities across institutions in our country also does not help the case in the road ahead. Funding, which plays a significant role in determining the expanse and quality of the research, is almost nonexistent in research at the level of undergraduates. There is also a notable scarcity of guidance and mentorship accessible to students who are genuinely interested, both qualitatively and quantitatively. Unlike most Western models, India has not yet seen enough studentships and fellowships to find a solution in this regard.[2],[3] Another major deterrent for students who step into undergraduate research is a lack of recognition for their efforts, in the form of unpublished research activity. However, umbrellaing these factors are a giant void for consolidated curriculum to be incorporated in to the schema of medical education in our country.

Primary redressal to this lacuna lies in incorporating medical research as an integral part of undergraduate syllabus in a staged or phased manner, starting from emphasis on recent advances in subjects and topics of significance from an academic point of view. This can also help the students realize the importance of critical appraisal as well as information literacy at a very early stage of medical education. Ironing out the differences between various institutions with respect to the research undertaken and the output produced, also offers a level playing field to students who might otherwise be constrained due to their resources. Funding can be multisource, from institutional funds to government funds, targeted exclusively at the purpose of uniformly bankrolling projects involving medical students. Improvement in the quality as well as the number of available mentors, with adequate experience in teaching and research, and the introduction of mentorship and studentship programs can provide the much needed impetus for students embarking on ambitious projects. It is heartening to note that multiple institutions in India have started partnering with foreign universities for studentship programs, thereby opening up further opportunities for inter-institutional collaborations, even at later stages in careers.[4],[5] Recognizing and appreciating undergraduate research in the national and regional conclaves and conferences is another idea to be dwelled on. Another long-term target to set eyes on can even include a peer-reviewed, indexed journal by the students, for the students!

The horizon does appear bleak. However, it is not without hope either. With appropriate targeting of resources and channeling of efforts in the right direction, steady progress can be achieved in spite of the distance to be covered.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Deo MG. Undergraduate medical students' research in India. J Postgrad Med 2008;54:176-9.  Back to cited text no. 1
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Dowell J, Merrylees N. Electives: Isn't it time for a change? Med Educ 2009;43:121-6.  Back to cited text no. 2
Laidlaw A, Aiton J, Struthers J, Guild S. Developing research skills in medical students: AMEE Guide No. 69. Med Teach 2012;34:e754-71.  Back to cited text no. 3
Dangayach NS, Kulkarni UP, Panchabhai TS. Mentoring medical student research through studentships and fellowships: Reflections from India. J Postgrad Med 2009;55:152-3.  Back to cited text no. 4
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Garg R, Goyal S, Singh K. Lack of research amongst undergraduate medical students in India: It's time to act and act now. Indian Pediatr 2017;54:357-60.  Back to cited text no. 5


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