"Introduction of the programme will not affect clinical practice"
Chennai: The Dental Council of India (DCI) will collaborate with Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) to launch post-graduate distance learning courses in endodontics and oral implantology, DCI president Anil Kohli said on Saturday.
Addressing a two-day DCI-IGNOU workshop organised at Meenakshi Ammal Dental College and Hospital to evolve a framework for the diploma courses, Dr. Kohli said the modalities of the distance learning programme such as curriculum, faculty and training centres were being worked out through exercises such as the workshop.
Dr. Kohli reaffirmed the DCI's consensus approach in introducing anything new and upheld the regulatory body's responsibility in addressing concerns relating to the future of young dentists across the country.
He assuaged the concerns among a section of junior dentists that the introduction of distance education would affect their clinical practice.
Taking cognisance of the concerns, the DCI was deferring its plan to launch a distance learning programme in oral surgery and, instead, choosing implantology.
To illustrate the dearth of facilities for young dentists to pursue postgraduate education in specialities, he pointed out that while half the annual intake of 20,000 MBBS students could enrol for PG courses, barely 1,300 candidates out of an estimated 15,000 dental students got to pursue higher degrees.
According to Dr. Kohli, though the national oral health policy had been shelved for several years, it was a positive sign that the XI Plan had accorded importance to the oral health portfolio.
C. Bhaskar Rao, DCI vice-president, said apprehensions among a section of dental students about the impact of the new distance learning programmes on the profession were misplaced.
According to Dr. Rao, distance education would become the most popular form of learning in the country in the next decade as it already was across the world. IGNOU's countrywide network offered several higher education programmes, which benefited a large section of students who required only to pay nominal fees.
Compared to modern medicine, which offered a variety of about 200 courses, dentistry choices were extremely narrow. He urged dentistry practitioners to look beyond MDS degrees and seek higher qualifications as their medicine counterparts had done.
A. K. Agarwal, Professor, School of Health Sciences, IGNOU, said distance education in allopathy stream focused on medicine and nursing. Postgraduate programmes were available in maternal and child health, geriatrics, hospital management and community cardiology.
Citing the experience of the community cardiology programme with its strong rural orientation, Dr. Agarwal said contrary to fears, community cardiology recruits were expanding the clientele of existing practitioners through referrals rather than erode their practice.
E. Munirathnam Naidu, Vice-Chancellor, Meenakshi Academy for Higher Education and Research, P. Jayakumar, principal, Meenakshi Dental College, and D. Kandaswamy, professor of conservative dentistry, participated.