Government Medical College Chandigarh Old Students Association
NOSTALGIA...WITH PROF JAGDISH CHANDER
We are inviting our faculty, past and present, to share their stories and perspectives on the ‘growing-up’ of GMCH. This time, we asked Dr. Jagdish Chander, currently Professor and Head, Department of Microbiology, to share his views.
Ø Editors (Eds.): How long have you been teaching at GMCH?
Ø Dr Jagdish Chander (JC): For the last 15 years; I joined GMCH on November 4, 1992.
Ø Eds: Please tell us a little about yourself?
Ø JC: I grew up in the deep interior of Hisar district in Haryana. After completing my Matriculation in 1975 from Government High School, Uklana Mandi, I joined Dayanand College, Hisar, from where I completed my Pre-Medical in 1977. In the same year, first PMT of Haryana was held through which I got selected and joined Government Medical College, Rohtak, which is now called Pandit Bhagwat Dayal Sharma Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences. I graduated in 1982 and then completed post-graduation in Microbiology from the same Institution in 1986. After that I joined as Senior Resident at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh in 1987. Subsequently I became Assistant Professor in the same Department and then joined the GMCH in 1992. At present I am working as Professor and Head, Department of Microbiology in GMCH. I was actively involved in students’ movements and socio-medical activities in addition to my academic work. My wife, Dr. Anuradha is running her own private clinic in Chandigarh. I have three kids; my elder daughter, Anjuman, is in 12th standard (Medical) and is interested in joining our profession. My second daughter, Aarzoo, is studying in 7th and son, Avijit, is in 4th standard.
Ø Eds: You came from the PGIMER – how has the GMCH experience been different from PGIMER?
Ø JC: I started my career as Assistant Professor at PGIMER. This new Medical College had just started in 1991 and I decided to join here as faculty. The PGIMER was already an established institute and had a very good academic work culture in the medical field. On the contrary, our Department at GMCH was started from scratch and it took quite some time to develop a similar type of work culture.
Ø Eds: You were among the first faculty in our Microbiology Department and were closely involved in establishing it. Can you remind us of some of the hurdles you had to go through?
Ø JC: When I joined the GMCH, I was the Head and Tail of our Department. There was not even a single chair or any other thing in the Department. The entire 4th floor of Prayaas Building was lying empty and our then Director Principal and Secretary, Medical Education and Research, Prof. JS Chopra, told me ‘kake tu department set up karna hai’. I started making specifications for instruments/equipment to be purchased. In due course of time, Prof. Saroj Sharma joined as Head of Department. However, the total strength of faculty/teachers remained very thin and it was a challenging task to teach the first batch of Second Professional. We had to do medical as well as all sorts of non-medical work at a large scale.
Ø Eds: I recall the hard work that went into organizing the first Microbiology Professional exam. Can you again remind us of what it took to get the first batch through this exam?
Ø JC: For the first University Examination of Second Professional MBBS, we had tried our best to teach everything we could to the students since we were apprehensive that final examination would be very tough. We were able to arrange External Examiners from the best institutes like AIIMS and PGIMER. Everything went smoothly and the result was also excellent. Incidentally, I was also Centre Superintendent of Panjab University at our Medical College and technically completed all Annual Examinations till the first batch went through its Final Professional Examination.
Ø Eds: What has been your most memorable event/time/episode in GMCH?
Ø JC: I conceived an idea of writing a book ‘Textbook of Medical Mycology’ after joining GMCH, which became fruitful when its first edition was published in July 1995. Now its third edition is due by end of this year. This is the only textbook available on this subject in South-East Asia by an Indian author.
Ø Eds: Overall, how has been your experience at GMCH?
Ø JC: My experience at the GMCH was very eventful. For a period of about one decade (1996-2006), I remained busy with a series of litigations due to the follies of our Administration. My regular appointments, as Reader in 1998 as well as Professor in 2006, were through contempt of court. Therefore, I had a very tough time fighting red-tapism and the indifferent bureaucracy of the Administration.
Ø Eds: How would you describe the progress that GMCH has made in the last 16 years?
Ø JC: The GMCH came into existence as an unplanned child but it has made substantial progress during a small period of only 16 years. However, the growth was more rapid during initial years when our first two Director Principals were also Secretary, Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh Administration. After that growth became somewhat slower and that is continuing till date. The Chandigarh Administration has reduced GMCH as one of its any other ordinary department. One of the senior bureaucrats is now designated as Secretary, Medical Education and Research; consequently the post of Director Principal has been deciphered as Manager of the GMCH. He does not have any administrative power and consequently no prestige associated with being the Head of Institution. Moreover, in this new type of axis, the Administrative Officer has direct tie up with the Secretary, bypassing the Head of Institution. From infrastructure point of view, the GMCH still does not have its own College building. In academic side also, it does not have postgraduate courses in many subjects including major ones like Medicine and Surgery so what can be more parameters to measure progress of this infantile Institution.
Ø Eds: Which accomplishment of GMCH are you most proud of?
Ø JC: The building of our hospital has been constructed on modular basis, which has been specifically designed to be patient friendly. Lift services are provided in every block. The latest information about facilities available in our hospital is being displayed to public through LCD projectors at prominent places. Barrier free environment has been created for the handicapped. More emphasis is given on cleanliness of the hospital premises.
Ø Eds: Can you recall any interesting anecdotes or events with the first few batches?
Ø JC: I remember an incident when I was Centre Superintendent and a student was to appear for the University Exam, who did not turn up till 9:30 AM. After enquiring from his classmates, I found out that he was staying in the Punjab Engineering College hostel, where our students used to stay. I sent a vehicle to his hostel where he was found sleeping. He was picked up and was made to sit in the exam. He passed and a supplementary was averted.
Ø Eds: What do you think has been the biggest hurdle for progress at GMCH?
Ø JC: The gross Administrative lapse is the biggest hurdle in the progress of the GMCH. The Institution will have to groom its own faculty and its own cadre at various levels, including the Head of Institution (DP) as well as the Head of hospital services (MS) for a better perspective. The adhoc system of employment through contract system in all cadre posts will have to be scrapped off completely for developing sound footing of the Institution.
Ø Eds: How would you compare the 1991 (first) batch and the 2006 (most recent) batch?
Ø JC: The first batch of GMCH was entirely different from the current batches of MBBS. The sense of sincerity, modesty and respect to their elders as well as teachers was prevailing among the old students, which is being eroded day by day in the present batches. They justify it by calling it ‘generation gap’. The students of first batch came to the GMCH with a mission and accountability to ailing humanity, whereas present batches come to attain a graduation degree as a license to appear for IAS examination. The sense towards ailing masses is not even in their dreams. The circumstantial factors in career prospective may be responsible for such a drastic change in their minds.
Ø Eds: How has the teaching of microbiology changed in the past 16 years since the first batch passed through your Department?
Ø JC: The teaching in the subject of Microbiology has entirely changed. We started teaching by writings on black board by chalk. In due course of time, we shifted to overhead projections of transparencies and then to slide projectors. Now, recently we have adopted teaching through PowerPoint slides with LCD projectors by laptop computers. We have introduced four-tier system of teaching, where (i) Theory is followed by (ii) Practical (iii) Tutorial and (iv) Class Tests covering a particular area of Microbiology, thereby dealing with entire syllabus of our subject. Since 2002, MCQ’s have also been introduced in all Cass Tests to sensitize students for their subsequent competitive examinations.
Ø Eds: Do you think our current medical education system achieves what it should? What can be done to make the current system better?
Ø JC: The current medical education system is not achieving what it should achieve. The teaching is more or less cramming and bookish type and it is not evidence based. The target of learning of students is only to pass through either regular or competitive examination and not to serve the patients. The MCI is now adding two more years before awarding MBBS degree to make such lengthy course of 7½ years more burdensome. However, in the prevailing circumstances, progress can only be made by honest, dedicated and visionary medical teachers, who can change the face of GMCH.
Ø Eds: How can we make GMCH better?
ØJC: The GMCH can be made better from medical teaching as well as hospital service point of view by active cooperation and joint efforts of faculty, students and administrative officials of Chandigarh Administration.
Ø Eds: A final word of advice for the alumni?
Ø JC: My final word of advice is that all alumni of the GMCH should have an optimistic approach with a missionary zeal in handling the ailing and suffering masses. The socio-medical interest should be put before our personal interests.
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