Undergraduate research in India hoping for a new dawnKrishnarpan Chatterjee1, Chetana Sen2
1 Department of Medicine, ESI Medical College, Kolkata, West Bengal, India
2 Department of Medicine, Medical College, Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Correspondence Address: Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None DOI: 10.4103/0022-3859.173215
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
We read with interest the article titled "Short-term outcomes of a program developed to inculcate research essentials in undergraduate medical students" published in your journal. 
Integrating a mentored student program into the Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (M.B.B.S.) curriculum would be a good way to expose undergraduate students to the basic methodology of medical research. But that will only be the beginning. At present, research methodology and biostatistics form a tiny part of the M.B.B.S. curriculum and is dealt with almost exclusively by the department of community medicine. The basic tenets of medical research as relevant to various specialties must be dealt with by individual specialities so that students realize that medical research can be successfully combined with clinical practice.
Medical research probably occupies the farthest recesses of the minds of not only medical students but also their educators. A study from Pondicherry, India showed that a perceived lack of recognition was the constraint in students opting for a research career among a majority of respondents.  This perceptual gap is the first impediment to medical research flourishing among undergraduates. All medical colleges should have an undergraduate research monitoring committee to facilitate and foster the spirit of enquiry that fuels good research. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has shown the way with their flagship Short Term Studentship (STS) fellowship for undergraduates.  But this scheme is limited in number and very few undergraduates are lucky to experience it. This scheme should be scaled up without compromising on quality. Individual colleges may come up with similar schemes for their students. All researches conducted under such schemes must be goal-oriented and the students must be encouraged to publish their findings. Seeing their articles published in peer-reviewed journals is the biggest positive reinforcement young minds can receive early on in their research careers.
Finally, undertaking research during M.B.B.S. must be seen a clear career progression pathway to students where pursuing research does not require leaving mainstream clinical practice. To bring about this, our postgraduate degrees must be integrated with intercalated Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees. Faculty positions at premier institutes must also be modified to accommodate this new breed of researcher clinicians. This is often seen in the developed economies where a professor of internal medicine also holds the additional charge of academic chairs in basic sciences and translational research. This is certainly the way to go forward.
Trends show that more undergraduate students are getting involved with research today than even a decade back.  While this is an encouraging statistic, the untapped potential among India's undergraduates is still significant and collective steps must be taken at all levels to harness this.
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