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‘How the Health Professions Education be transformed in the 21st Century.’ – The Award ceremony for the International Essay Competition

The voices of young people are crucial for the shaping of our future. We need to empower them and ensure that their contributions count. The Academy for Health Professions Education and Academic Development (SBV- AHEAD), under the auspices of Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth, (Declared Under Section 3 of the UGC Act, 1956), Puducherry, India, organised an international essay contest on ‘How the Health Professions Education be transformed in the 21st Century.’ The aim was to harness the energy, imagination and initiative of the health professionals-in-the-making to promote a culture of transformation in the health professions education. The contest was open to all undergraduate students from medical, dental, nursing & allied health sciences.

The Need

Globally, health and well-being of all the people are of vital importance for global peace and security. In the 21st century, we need a health system that provides optimal healthcare and healthier quality of life for all, in a sustainable manner. To do so, the system must eliminate inequities in healthcare access and provide protection from existing and emerging health threats.For which, the healthcare education itself needs to change.

The challenge we posed to the young people of health professions are, How to go about transforming the health professions education, while facing the challenges of the 21st century? This is a poser that needs vision and out-of-the-box thinking.

The awards

The awards are dedicated to all the unsung primary care physicians of the World,  (Exemplified by Dr KN Raman, a primary care physician from Anaimalai village, on whose Centenary Commemoration this contest was held) who overcome various challenges and continue to provide patient-centred health care.

The following awards are being given respectively:

Dr. K.N. Raman centenary Commemoration Awards

  • 1st Prize (1000 USD), was awarded to Mr. John Michael Deblois of St. Luke’s College of Medicine, Philippines.
  • 2nd Prize (500 USD), was awarded to MrDhamodharan Hariharan of Sri Manakula Vinayagar Medical College, Puducherry.
  • 2nd Prize (500 USD), was awarded to Ms. Teh Xing Hui of A.B. Shetty Memorial Institute of Dental Sciences, Mangalore, Karnataka.

Certificate of Merit was being awarded to all the published essays and Certificate of Participation for all valid entries.

The awards distribution ceremony was held on Friday, April 3, 2015, 2.30 PM – 3.30PM, Lecture hall, Ground floor, College block, SBV Campus, Puducherry.

Dr. A.R. Srininivasan, Registrar, SBV welcomed the gathering. Dr. K.R. Sethuraman, Vice – Chancellor, Sri Balaji Vidhyapeeth, presided over the function. Dr. Suresh Kumar, Director, Institute of Palliative Medicine, A WHO Collaborating Center for Community Participation in Palliative and Long Term Care, Calicut Medical College was the Chief Guest and distributed the prizes. Dr. V. N. Mahalakshmi, HOD, Paediatric Surgery and contest coordinator, proposed the vote of thanks. A compilation of the selected essays was also released during the occassion. The following is the abstract of the chief guest’s address.

Transforming Health Care – What to do when cure is not possible

The average life expectancy of human beings is going up steadily. It is predicted that the life expectancy is likely to touch 100 years by 2060. There is a gap of 12-20 years between life expectancy and healthy life expectancy.  Advances in medical technology are now ensuring that conditions which were killers in the past do not kill the patient immediately. Hence, most people suffer from chronic illness, disability and dementia when they get old. The quality of life suffers.

Most of the people with an incurably ill disease suffer from multiple complex problems like pain, nausea and vomiting, paralysis of limbs, etc. which can make life unbearable not only for that person, but also for the family. In addition to physical problems, they usually suffer from social, emotional, financial and spiritual issues caused by their condition.

Suffering that the incurably ill, terminal and elderly people undergo can be effectively reduced by sensitive care with effective control of physical symptoms, good psycho social, emotional and spiritual support. The system of care aiming to improve quality of life of the incurably ill, dying and bedridden people is called palliative care.

Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual. Palliative care offers a support system to help patient’s live as actively as possible until death and to help the family cope during the patients’ illness and in their own bereavement. It uses a team approach to address these needs of patients and their families, including bereavement counselling, if indicated.

Patients with a wide range of chronic conditions throughout the world have been recognised as benefiting from palliative care. This includes patients with dementias, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and cirrhosis of the liver, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, end stage kidney disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis and drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) in adults.

Globally, in 2011, over 29 million people died from diseases requiring palliative care. The biggest proportion, 69% are over 60 years old. The great majority of adults in need of palliative care at the end of life belong to low and middle-income countries.

In most regions of the world, palliative care services are either non-existent or in its infancy. In India only 2% of the needy get any services. Lack of national policies, inadequate education and training facilities and non availability of essential medicines have been identified as some of the major barriers for development of palliative care services in these regions. According to the World Health Organization, about five billion people currently live in countries with insufficient or no access to medications to control severe or moderate pain.

Though the number of people in need of palliative care services is huge, most of the possible interventions to improve the quality of life of these people are not complicated or high tech. Palliative care services need to be developed as part of primary health care to ensure continuity of services from prevention through early detection of diseases and curative treatment to palliation at the end. A primary health care approach is necessary also to make sure that the majority of the needy are covered in a meaningful way. Home based care should the corner stone of such a community based palliative care as most patients have limited mobility. Development of palliative care in regions like Kerala (India) over the last two decades have proven that it is possible to develop palliative care services with good coverage at the grass root level with community participation even in low and middle income countries.