Government Medical College Chandigarh Old Students Association
IN CONVERSATION WITH PROF JS CHOPRA
Anuj Sharma, '07 batch
Prof. J.S. Chopra is a Padma Bhushan awardee and was the first Director Principal of the Government Medical College, Chandigarh
How was GMCH conceptualized and how did you become involved?
There was a need to start the undergraduate courses for the students of the region. P.G.I. couldnít start with UG courses as it would have affected the level of their research and be an additional burden on their faculty. So the Chandigarh Administration requested me as the then HOD Neurology PGI to join in as the first director principal of GMCH. With a nod from Prof. Chuttani the then director of PGI, I confirmed the request. I think they chose me because of the strict discipline and order I maintained in my department. I had my own conditions that there should be less bureaucratic interference and more autonomy. I was allotted an office in the Chandigarh administration building with a few subordinates to work with. There was pressure to start the first batch from August. A request was made to the then Vice Chancellor of PU and the entrance exam and admissions were conducted. Meanwhile furniture was borrowed from the other colleges of the university. The de-facto Medical College was started in the Prayaas building, Sector 38 after the foundation stone was laid by the former Prime Minister, Shri Chandra Shekhar on 20 January, 1991 in Sector 32 on the 36.09 acre land allotted by the Chandigarh Administration. The first academic session was inaugurated in September, 1991 by Sh. Baleshwar Rai, the then Adviser to the Administrator of Chandigarh.
Please shed some light on the early struggles GMC went through:
Admissions to this Medical College have strictly been on merit on the basis of Combined Entrance Test conducted by the Panjab University. The first batch of 50 students was admitted in August, 1991 and each subsequent year similar batches have been admitted. The first batch of students passed their final MBBS examinations conducted by the Panjab University in January, 1996 and completed their 12 months compulsory rotating internship in January, 1997. It was indeed a tough time fighting for the MCI recognition. I make it public for the first time in an interview that I myself encouraged the college students to organize peaceful protests and strikes and to fight together for the college. Luckily the college was recognized for the award of MBBS degree by Govt. of India, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare w.e.f. 30 December, 1996, vide letter No.34(41)98-Med./21035 dated 9.11.98, and included in the list of recognized Medical Colleges by the Medical Council of India vide letter No.MCI-34(41)97-Med/2276 dated 25.4.97.
Getting, retaining and shaping the faculty must have been a challenge. Any memorable incidents!
The standard and the future of the college depended on the faculty members. Through a request from the Chandigarh administration faculty members were brought on deputation from the Himachal, Haryana and Punjab colleges. The running of college in terms of the pay scale and faculty retirement ages should be similar to PGI.
How do you view the trend of GMCH students leaving for the US or joining the IAS?
There has been a remarkable upsurge in job opportunities in India. Things have really changed for good inside and for worse abroad. There are jobs out there abroad but they are only present at subordinate levels. Of course the idea of going out for training and learning experiences is a welcome step. Regarding IAS itís really disappointing to see that in current arena the system has become totally corrupt and you certainly canít differ in choice with it. It used to be a good profession earlier but now it certainly has landed up in a quagmire.
GMCH becoming a deemed university: Comment?
A deemed university should means that the institution should generate its own funds for its functioning. But if we see the nature of patient load (poor strata) of the hospital this seems to be a difficult task. Instead, the college should start management seats to increase college funds. I feel that the working of the college should be on the basis of PGI. The two premier institutes of the region should work as sister institutions. This will also provide a logical solution as to why UG courses canít be started in PGI.
Please do some crystal gazing for us. Where do you see GMCH going from here?
There has been a serious lag in the progress of the institution. The whole work of the college building was to be completed till 1999. The rate at which the work was done in the initial years has surely slowed down. I feel the root of the problem is that the college is still running on the same lines that the other colleges in Punjab run. The thing that the babus donít understand is that the other colleges are a mere investment of around Rs.50 lakhs while GMCH has a potential investment of Rs.500 cr. The reason behind this is that the bureaucrats in Chandigarh (deployed from Punjab, Haryana & other states) are complacent.
There is trend among GMCH students to ignore the internship to be able to concentrate on the PG Entrance exams. How do you view this?
I feel a well prepared student can balance both the intense rigorous work during internship and prepare for the exams. On the whole I feel no harm if students want to do their internship in some other hospital. It should be their choice to complete their internship in any hospital in India.
How can research be integrated into MBBS schedule? Do you think it is worth the studentsí time?
Well I prefer to say that the basic aim of MBBS should be to impart good quality education to the students and better orientation towards clinical practice. Medical research should be treated as a secondary approach. If the students feel that they can divert ample time from their studies they should consider research as an option.
When you meet your former students and learn about their success, how does that make you feel?
As a teacher it really gives me sense of pride when I learn about the success of my students. It gives me enormous pleasure seeing my students striving towards excellence all over the world. I wish good luck to all of them.
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