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Revival of pharmacy education in India is the need of the hour

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Over 33 years of experience as a pharmacy professor and five years as President of APTI has empowered Dr Pramod Yeole, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Rashtrasant Tukadoji Maharaj Nagpur University, Nagpur with traditional and modern teaching arts. In an interview, Dr Yeole suggests partnering with pharmacy programmes in other nations for teaching and research

Tell us about your roles and responsibilities at the R.T.M. Nagpur University? How does your past experience as APTI President empower you in the present role?

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Dr Pramod Yeole

I feel proud to be the first pharmacist to be a Pro Vice Chancellor of any Public University in the state of Maharashtra.

When I embraced the office of the Pro Vice Chancellor of the University on June 30, 2015,  the public universities in Maharashtra state were governed by Maharashtra University Act 1994 in which the duties and responsibilities of Pro Vice Chancellor of the University were not prescribed.

During the last two years of my tenure, I brought a lot of reforms in the examination system of the university by using advanced technology. As a consequence, results of all 1250 examinations conducted by the university in summer 2017 were declared in the stipulated time, which is a record in the state. I upgraded the standards of Ph.D. and D.Lit degrees of the universit and established state-of-the-art answer book centre and on- screen valuation centre in the university, which is the largest in the country.

While executing all these, my 33 years of experience as a pharmacy teacher and five years as a President of APTI  undeniably empowered me in the present role.

Tell us the five major problems in pharmacy education? What role can be played by teachers to mitigate it?

In this era of specialisation and globalisation, pharmacy education in India is suffering from serious setbacks and flaws. There is an urgent need to initiate an academic exercise aimed at revamping of curriculum and keeping pace with current and emerging trends in the field of pharmacy. Unfortunately all these years, adequate emphasis was not laid on strengthening the components of ‘Community Pharmacy’, Hospital and Clinical pharmacy, while designing curriculum at diploma and degree levels of teaching. The curriculum followed by almost all universities in India does not match up to the world standards and students are still getting 20-30 years older compounding practical exposure in labs during the graduation level. Application of Total Quality Management (TQM) to the educational system can improve the present situation.

An emphasis on the concept of quality teacher must be included. Revival of the pharmacy education in India is the need of the hour, which in turn will pave the way for upgradation of the pharmacy profession in the country.

Existent flaws in the system:

  • w Entry of unqualified and non-meritorious students into the course
  • w Outdated curriculum and educational regulations
  • Lack of industrial exposure
  • Unskilled ways of practical and lab training in the institutes
  • Research output from Indian educational labs rarely lead to commercialisation and revenue generation
  • Non focused and unspecialised way of learning
  • Given the market needs for trained manpower, teaching takes total priority over research in our universities
  • Institutional base of research in India is extremely narrow; serious research is limited to a few ‘elite’ institutes

These imperfections need to be strictly eliminated for upgrading our current education system into a perfect world class structure.

What can pharmacy professors in India learn from our counterparts?

Definitely the pharmacy professors in India have to learn many things from their counterparts specially teaching learning methods, advance curriculum, research and development. Pharmacy professors should consider the opportunities to partner with pharmacy programmes in other nations for teaching and research, as well as to better prepare students for practice in an increasingly diverse ethnic population. In many abroad universities each professor has 15 to 20 patents and each university has five to six noble laurels. We have to analyse where we stand?
In India, professors are involved in too many non-academic activities resulting in poor research output. There are only a handful of universities and institutions with a serious focus on research. However, in the US and Europe there is a strong bond between industry and academia with the industry sponsoring many projects in universities and institutions as a consequence of which many universities have undertaken pioneering research project. In India, research academia and industry lack patent awareness and are mostly dependent on research that is done abroad.

According to you, why are students not opting for pharmacy teaching as a career option?

Those days are gone when rank holders from our colleges used to join the teaching profession. Today, the rank holders have better options and are least interested to join the teaching profession. Most of them prefer teaching not out of interest but as a last resort in there career choice. They are least motivated for the job. Institution has only one option now, to select those who are available and train them to be competent and committed teachers. They need regular training in subject updating, educational technology, teaching methods and management aspects. The low level of attraction among students towards a teaching career can be linked to factors like uncertainty regarding the future of the profession; poor salaries, especially in private institutions; limited possibilities for personal ascension and precarious working conditions.

There is still a gap between industry and academia, how to bridge these gaps?

In India, over the years the industry and academia have been seen as the north pole and the south pole rather than being viewed as two sides of the same coin – the economy. Some may argue that academia exists only for knowledge creation and dissemination which has no connection with wealth and that industry exists only for wealth, and has no connection with knowledge. The fact remains that both are interwoven!!

India has the potential of becoming a global hub for providing high-end manufacturing services to the world. There is still a need to have a clear and unambiguous perception in the direction of leveraging strength towards actualisation of excellence. This can be nurtured and nourished by a fulfilling academia-industry interaction.

The apprehension over academia-industry interaction has been widely discussed by all concerned many a times. This needs to be done full-fledged and to make up for the lost time. The public funded R&D (Protection, Utilisation and Regulation of Intellectual Property) Bill 2007 is one such step, which can go a long way in better utilisation of government- funded research work. Other steps required in increasing academia-industry collaborations are greater alignment of curricula with the requirements of industry and more practical training sessions for the students in all streams. So far it has only been students on the technical side who have been taking up internship in the industry. While basic research will continue to require government support, applied R&D will have to be supported more actively by the industry.

On Teachers’ Day what message would you like to give to pharmacy students?

Although many milestones have been crossed in the development of pharma profession in the country, but more heights need to be scaled. My quest has been the one for principles to orient the reformation of higher education in the third millennium. This is because, I strongly believe this millennium will be that of: ‘Change being the only thing constant’. In this era of constant change, of enhanced internationalism; education and training needs to be adequately imparted to deal with knowledge society which can be done only if our students are amply trained.

Finally, I would like to say, if you are prepared to think big and act in time with conviction, you will be rewarded. You should hold on to your goals even if you stumble here and there, and learn your lessons.

In all that lies before you, may God grant you wisdom, success and true sense of fulfillment of your cherished ideals and goals.

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