off record
Shaukat Ali Jawaid

Who should be
the Chancellor of 
Medical Universities?

Speaking at the inaugural session of the Third International Conference on Health Professions Education organized by University of Lahore on December 5th, Dr. Zafar Mirza Advisor to the Prime Minister on Health also referred to the functioning of the health ministry in Islamic Republic of Iran where it is named as Ministry of Medical Education and Health Care. Every province in Iran, he stated has a medical university and it is not only responsible for medical education but also provision of health care in the province and this is the model which we need to follow.

It was indeed fascinating to hear the Advisor on Health giving an example of the neighbouring Muslim country Iran instead of Europe and North America the model of which our rulers are trying to promote and implement in Pakistan these days without any meaningful measures to create the desired health infrastructure and discussion with all the stake holders. However, the advisor need to understand that there are over fifty medical universities in Iran and every medical university is headed by a highly qualified medical professional with proven accomplishments in the field of academics as Chancellor unlike Pakistan where it is the Governor of the province who is named as Chancellor of all the universities in the province irrespective of his qualifications. The Chancellor of a medical university in Iran is then assisted by over half a dozen Vice Chancellors all professionals who all have clearly identified and marked responsibilities. There are Vice Chancellors looking after Education, Research, Services, and Student Affairs and so on and they form the Governing Body which runs and manages the affairs of the university without any interference by the political government or politicians.

As regards the health services, every province has a proper referral system starting from primary healthcare, secondary care, tertiary care as teaching hospitals and all that is monitored by the respective universities. This is one of the reasons that Iran has been able to set up one of the best primary healthcare in the region which is even appreciated by the World Health Organization. Can we manage to appoint professionals as Chancellors of universities and then select all the Vice Chancellors on merit, competence and their abilities is a big question mark? We have been blessed with corrupt politicians and successive governments have miserably failed to uphold merit. It is their connections in the power corridors and whom they know which matters rather than what they know when it comes to the appointment to these coveted posts in medical institutions. If Lilliputians in academics are appointed to important posts in the educational institutions, they reduce the stature of their respective institutions to adjust themselves; hence one should not expect any miracle. Let us hope and pray that Dr. Zafar Mirza and the government he represents succeeds in introducing any meaningful reforms in medical education and the health sector but their performance so far is not something which one can appreciate and commend. They still have time to prove that they are capable of delivering rather than wasting their energies on criticizing and harassing their political opponents and sowing the seeds of hatred.

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