PM’s convocation address at AIIMS
Delhi , October 1,2010 15:27 IST
The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh delivered the Convocation Address at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi today. Following is the text of the Prime Minister’s address on the occasion:
“I am delighted to be here on this occasion of the 38th Convocation of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. The All India Institute of Medical Sciences is truly a proud symbol of the advances our country has made in the area of medical science and health care. Today we honour the achievements of men and women who have been privileged to graduate through the portals of this most prestigious institute. But it is also a day of thanksgiving – to the teachers and professors who have shaped and nurtured the brilliant minds we see assembled here today.
I congratulate each one of the students and scholars who are receiving degrees, awards and prizes today. They are being honoured on the eve of the birth anniversary of the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi. I can suggest no better guiding light for a young doctor than the ideal of service to humanity at large, especially the poor, which the Mahatma’s life and work exemplified.
Over the years, AIIMS has functioned in a complex working environment with multiple and growing demands on its resources. It is called upon to educate top quality health professionals, serve as a hub of biomedical research, provide extensive hospital services and increasingly provide leadership in the area of public health. Despite the enormous challenges, the Institute has established itself as the country’s pre-eminent medical institution, attracting the best and the brightest young in the country.
In meeting its onerous mandates, the Institute has grown considerably– both physically and in terms of what it is doing. But can one say that the growth has been organic or faithful to a central purpose or mission? What does AIIMS aspire to become in the year 2025? What relationship should it have with the Government and with its other stakeholders?
As all of you are aware, the Veliathan Committee reflected on some of these issues and produced I beleive a very good report. I suggested to the Health Minister Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad last year that we should have an ambitious and befitting vision of what this great institution should aspire to become and that we should therefore work on a far reaching agenda of reform. I compliment Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad and his colleagues in the Health Ministry for the efforts they have made to improve internal governance and management of the Institute.
I understand that a high-powered group is looking in to changes in the statute, rules and regulations governing AIIMS that are considered critical for the Institute to function effectively in an environment that nurtures innovation, talent and excellence. The Government will consider the recommendations expeditiously and do what is in the best interest of the Institute.
We should aim at nothing less than making AIIMS one of the ten best medical universities in the world by the year 2020. This is not going to be easy. But it can be done. The Government, on its part, will support all endeavours in this direction.
In recent years, the Government of India has adopted a more inclusive and holistic approach towards providing health security in our country, emphasizing therein the importance of improved sanitation, nutrition and clean drinking water.
The challenges are particularly acute in our rural areas. Whether it is child mortality, immunization coverage, maternal mortality or awareness of HIV-AIDS, rural populations lag far behind their urban counterparts. This is partly due to inadequate availability of health services in rural areas but it is also a reflection of the lower levels of education and income which are important social determinants of our nation’s health. The National Rural Health Mission, the Right to Education, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the measures being taken to provide food security are, therefore, complementary initiatives intended to protect and promote the health of the rural populace.
We have tried to address the critical lacunae of inadequate public provisioning for critical health services. The Eleventh Five Year Plan envisaged an increase in public expenditure on health to at least 2% of GDP. This percentage was below1% of our GDP at the start of the Eleventh Plan and has increased to only 1.1% in 2009-10 according to the Mid-Term Appraisal of the Planning Commission. There is clearly much more to do and a large effort will be required in the Twelfth Plan period to achieve the goal of taking the total allocation for the health sector to 2-3% of our GDP. Since most of the expenditure on health is in the State budget, the State Governments will also have to substantially increase their expenditures.
In India and globally as well, there is a growing sense that medical education needs a revamp to adapt it to contemporary needs and realities. The need of the hour is to produce professionals who address health not only from the perspective of the individual patient but as part of a team integrated into the larger health system. Inter-disciplinary and health system connectivity have to be the key coordinates on which medical education has to advance. In the future, it is not biology alone that will drive medical care. Disciplines such as epidemiology, economics, social and behavioural sciences, ethics and human rights will all influence the manner in which health will be promoted and healthcare provided to our nation.
India needs many more health professionals, of different categories, to fill the huge short fall in the health workforce. Many of our medical colleges are deficient in the learning resources needed to train specialists. High quality faculty is in short supply. AIIMS, and similar institutions which are leaders in medical education, have to show the way ahead. They should develop strong distance learning programmes. They should assemble a repository of learning resources which can be easily accessed by undergraduate and postgraduate students all across India. In this era of advanced communication technologies, the whole world can be one’s classroom and every eager learner a potential student.
The Government of India is reviewing the existing regulatory system for medical education. After extensive consultations, the Ministry of Health has prepared a draft bill for setting up a National Council for Human Resources in Health that will be introduced soon in Parliament. The bill will seek to create an enabling environment that will address issues of quality, quantity and equitable distribution of medical education resources.
The government has taken several steps to augment the availability of healthcare professionals. Work on setting up of six new AIIMS-like institutions and strengthening of several medical colleges is well under way. A new scheme has been approved for strengthening and upgrading state government medical colleges to enable them to increase their intake at the postgraduate level. The scheme has the potential of adding about 5,000 postgraduate seats, starting with the 2012 academic session. Norms for starting medical colleges have been rationalized to encourage establishment of medical colleges in un-served and under-served areas. A new scheme has been launched for setting up 269 nursing colleges in districts that do not have any nursing college and which have poor health indicators. To boost the availability of quality paramedical manpower, a scheme has been approved for establishing a National Institute of Paramedical Sciences and for creation of nine regional institutes, besides supporting state government medical colleges conducting paramedical courses.
Excellence in the knowledge sector must spearhead our plans and ambitions to attain world standards in health care. There is no greater priority for the Institute than to produce doctors who possess high order professional skills, are imbued with a sense of dedication and public service and who can drive the changes we need to overhaul our healthcare system.
I urge the member of the faculty, students and staff of AIIMS to see themselves as being part of a great enterprise of change and to work unitedly in the larger interest of the institution. If we are to make a fundamental change in the way we manage things, then every programme and every Department and Centre of AIIMS will have to imbibe a work culture that shuns bureaucratic red tape, factionalism and unhealthy competition and emphasises a service orientation, promotes creativity and new thinking and is truly result-oriented.
In conclusion, I would like to recall the words of Rajkumari Amrit Kaur who, while piloting the AIIMS Bill on the floor of Parliament in 1956, said,
“Ultimately the future of the Institute will be in the hands of the director, professors and other teaching staff and the students.”
I hope that many of those we honour today will contribute to the future of this great temple of learning nation’s pride. I wish all the awardees success in their professional endeavours and a life of fulfilment and dedication in the service of our nation. May God bless you all.”
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