MUMBAI: Aspiring doctors in the state will now be taught bio-ethics and communication skills in the classroom. In a first, the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences (MUHS), which governs all medical colleges in the state, will introduce ethics and communication skills in the curriculum from June 2015. In a move to overhaul the exam pattern, the university also plans to introduce more scenario-based questions in the winter exam this year, where students’ diagnostic skills will be assessed in addition to their theoretical knowledge.Arun Jamkar, vice-chancellor of the health sciences’ university, who announced the measures at a media interaction in the Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER) on Tuesday, said, “Ethics was never a part of the curriculum as we believed it can be learned on the job. But now there is a need to train students in bio-ethics too. There should be transparency while discussing the error margin in procedures, etc.”

Four modules on medical ethics for 40 teaching hours and three on communication skills will be incorporated in the curriculum for all health science courses. The modules in the curriculum are drafted by Unesco. The university will also set up the National Bioethics Centre at its Nashik campus with support from Unesco.

“Doctors need to communicate effectively with patients or their relatives when they need to explain the severity of an illness. Medical terms also need to be simplified,” Jamkar said. The university has set aside Rs 60 lakh to get resource persons to teach the modules on communication skills. Five marks will be dedicated in the question papers for testing students on their communication skills, he added.

Emphasizing the need to test medical students on their understanding of subjects, the university will include scenario-based questions in both the UG and PG question papers from the winter exam this year. “Around 50% of the marks dedicated to multiple-choice questions will now be for scenario-based questions. Instead of asking students to explain the medical process, we will give them case studies where they will have to diagnose the problem. If this is implemented successfully, we can soon move to an open-book exam system,” said the vice-chancellor. There are around 300 health sciences colleges in the state.

The university, with the help of the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), will also devise parameters to grade medical colleges in the state. “We had long focused on infrastructure of institutes. Now we will also look at the quality of education imparted there and insist on the academic auditing of all affiliated colleges,” said an official. He said that the university has a system in place to de-affiliate colleges if they do not meet the norms, but the grading system will help students choose colleges during admissions.

To train doctors to teach medicine, the MUHS has tied up with the University of Michigan to offer a Masters in Health Professions Education (MHPE). The two-year programme, starting from this June, will train candidates in competence-based education. “In non-medicine courses, teachers need to have a BEd or a DEd degree to start teaching. But in medical colleges, any doctor with the required qualification can teach. This course will train teachers in medical colleges,” said Jamkar.

MUHS has also proposed to form a medical college network and will ask all hospitals—private and government—to have attached colleges too. This will help increase PG seats in the state by four times, claimed an official. There are currently 3,000 PG seats in the state. About incorporating new developments in health sciences, Jamkar said that recent diseases such as swine flu and even dengue have been updated in the curriculum from time to time.