Mecca of Medicine
Despite the burgeoning demands on it, AIIMS Delhi keeps its enviable record as the No. 1 institution for medical aspirants
FOR MEDICAL ASPIRANTS, THE All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi is the ‘Medical Mecca’ of India. But be warned, it’s no easy ride here. After cracking one of the toughest medical examinations in India, only a handful—75 students—is selected for the MBBS course here every year. And the struggle does not end here. In fact, the grilling process starts once you enter the campus and make the first step in the medical career to become a doctor.
“AIIMS got established as an Act of Parliament in 1956,” says Dr Randeep Guleria, the current AIIMS director. “We found three areas we had to excel in. First was academics, so we developed innovative teaching and academic programmes that attract students from all over the country. Internationally, AIIMS today has one of the best academic programmes on offer. Our second priority was areas of research, and the third, optimum healthcare services for patients.”
Dr Guleria adds that over the past 60 years the institute has gained credibility and value in all three fields, setting a benchmark for the rest of the country. And this despite the departments and doctors being under pressure and working round-theclock to handle the rush of patients.
AIIMS gets over 10,000 patients every day. The number of surgeries performed is also growing every year. Director Guleria says “the situation is such that we are now facing problems due to the huge rush of patients. We are looking at expansion and newer centres are coming up. We are in the process of developing a comprehensive master plan for further expansion to handle the increasing patient load and our own research demands”.
Most patients who come here are under referral. That means a case that could be not handled further in the private or government hospital where the patient was being treated comes here. Treatment, of course, is subsidised and hence much cheaper. To put it in perspective, a heart transplant at AIIMS costs about Rs 1 lakh, while anywhere outside it is about Rs 20 lakh.
WHY AIIMS IS DIFFERENT
“At first glance, one might think it’s the beautiful campus, the optimum facilities for students and faculty etc. that attracts students, but all that is secondary,” says Samaan Jukaka, a third-year MBBS
student at AIIMS. “What makes us proud ‘AIIMSonians’ is that every day we are treating critical cases, the ‘classic medical symptoms’ which we learn in our medical text books. Here, you are not going to see a patient with a simple cough or fever. Even in your first posting, you will be handling a critical TB or cancer case. In my surgery posting, every third patient was carcinogenic.”
Aayush Lakkanna, another third year MBBS student, says “the day starts at 8 am with us rushing for lectures. After that we are posted in different departments for patient care till lunch. After lunch, there’s the afternoon lectures and practicals. We barely have time to grab a banana or a few biscuits before it’s time for extra classes by the senior residents which involves the next day’s postings”.
AIIMS also has a different system in assessing students. As Lakkana puts it, “We don’t have weekly, monthly tests like other medical colleges. What this means is that we get more time to study. In the first and second year, we do have mid-semester and end-semester exams. After that we have a professional exam only at the end of fourth year. This way we are able to learn and concentrate more on patient care. A big plus is that the faculty is extremely friendly... we are a family here. There is no pressure from the faculty at all.”
Over the years, the institute has developed newer, more innovative teaching courses. Specialty courses have also started in important areas like intervention in cardiology, basic sciences, neuro-radiology etc. Since the focus is always on an interactive teaching environment, the institute offers integrated teaching skills where multiple specialties come together and teach rather than single expert teaching. This is to provide a comprehensive disease profile to the class. AIIMS is also trying to do more of virtual teaching modules, using graphics and technology to help students understand the human body and the diseases they will encounter better. As part of teaching programmes, medical professors here are also doing telemedicine consultations. A lot of the lectures are also being shared with other medical colleges. Students are also required to be quick on the uptake as the working environment changes drastically from department-to-department. Being in the top medical college of the country also has its advantages. As Lakkana says, in other medical colleges, nearly 20 students work on a single cadaver; here at AIIMS, the ratio is 8-9 students to a cadaver.
AIIMS has also consistently been No.
“With innovative academic programmes, dedicated faculty and high quality patient care, AIIMS is still the pioneer” DR RANDEEP GULERIA, DIRECTOR, AIIMS
1 in the country as far as medical research is concerned. Even internationally, AIIMS ranks No. 3, with only America’s Harvard Medical School and Mayo Clinic rated above it. The institute is also doing research and collaborations in new areas, including stem cells and nano technology. Dr Pramod Garg, professor in the department of gastroenterology, and Sub-Dean, Research, at AIIMS, says, “With the passage of time, the number of research projects which numbered less than 100 when we started has increased tremendously. Today, the institute has approximately 600 ongoing projects and 150 individual research fellows.”
And it’s not just all work and no play for the budding doctors. The AIIMS campus has a gym, table tennis courts, a football ground, basketball and volleyball courts. The swimming pool is a popular hangout during the summer months, while there are a few who are dedicated to their post-shift basketball and football games every night.
There’s also the seven-day-long gala university festival, ‘Pulse’, which happens every year in September. It’s a must attend event for medical students from all over India. Even students from a few neighbouring nations make it a point to come. “It started in 1978 and today it’s the No. 1 medical fest in Southeast Asia. Every night is special. We have star nights, a band night, comedy night,
“Studying at AIIMS was a dream come true. AIIMS boasts of the country’s best and most dedicated faculty” SENIOR RESIDENT, AIIMS
sufi night, fashion shows... preparations have already started,” says an AIIMS student.
With the best infrastructure and facilities, and a campus engulfed in green with its Gulmohar, Ashoka and palm trees, AIIMS is an oasis for critical patients. The medical institute has 53 clinical departments including 9 super-specialty centres. With its many regional centres, the main AIIMS is a WHO collaboration centre.
DILIGENT CARE MD students examine a patient at the AIIMS intensive care unit YASIR IQBAL