Friday, January 2, 2009

Teaching "Human Biology" in Homeopathy UG Course

I have come across the syllabus of Universities of Stanford and Washington in the U S of A, where they have included Human Biology in the pre-clinical study of their medical and dental courses. It is in fact not a completely new subject. In fact the Human Biology subject has the anatomy part, physiology part and biochemistry part. The teachers who are qualified in these basic sciences undertake their respective teaching and evaluation of students.

What is different is that the learners are made to feel that these subjects are not independent of each other, but have interconnections, whose appreciation is beneficial in clinical practice. Often the very text and reference books that are prescribed for the ‘stand alone’ subjects are utilized. However, there are some books that are designed for this ‘networked’ subject.

Ayurvedic students learn anatomy as “Shareera Rachana Shastra”, which has concepts and contents unique to itself. It is not the same as the mainstream anatomy.

I have deliberated much on this concept of Human Biology and feel that it is a good idea to give it a try at least on an experimental basis. While generating the educational objectives of this subject, care can be taken to give sufficient justification for the inclusion / deletion of the contents on the basis of their relevance to clinical practice with special reference to homoeopathic situation.

Though faculty development is a major issue, the efforts needed are minimal, since the teachers who are already in the field have to re-orient and upgrade their knowledge base. This can be organized in the form of re-orientation programmes for the select teachers.

This programme need not be started as a blanket agenda covering the entire 184 colleges in one go. It can be started on an experimental basis in one of the universities that has couple of institutions and evaluated for a period of one or two years for its effectiveness and attainment of purpose, and reviewed for continuation or otherwise. An interim permission form the competent authority to the effect that such an experimentation doest not imperil the academic future of the students who are the experimental subjects needs an administrative and political determination, which I hope is not lacking in the present leadership.

Human Biology for Homeopathy Unergraduate Course

The following is the proposal that I had sent to the Central Council of Homeopathy, New Delhi, India in December 2002

Workshop on Human Biology in BHMS


The structure of homoeopathic undergraduate curriculum is profoundly influenced by the Medical Council of India’s curriculum for MBBS course. The professional and ideological priorities of homoeopathic practice are certainly not the same as an allopathic graduate. Therefore, the syllabus for pre-clinical subjects in BHMS cannot be the same as the one proposed for MBBS. Since the current syllabus draws the contents and process strongly from the MBBS syllabus, it is high time that we addressed to a need for reviewing the syllabus for the subjects like Anatomy and Physiology to begin with.

A closer look at the curriculum of Anatomy and Physiology in BHMS syllabus is a revealing experience in that there is a generous dose of these subjects at the cost of providing a homoeopathic orientation to the students right from the beginning of the course. Even as the Medical Council of India has reduced the duration of first MBBS from 18 months to 12 months and toned down on the regular dissections, we still persist with the age-old syllabus giving high priority to even the dissection of the entire brain.

A fair and unprejudiced assessment of the contents in Anatomy and Physiology of BHMS syllabus and their utilization in our clinical practice can be a topic of doctoral dissertation. On introspection, we do understand the usefulness of the minute details that we studied either in Anatomy or Physiology in our clinical practice. On the other hand, we are at times baffled by some of the simple issues pertaining to the structure / function of the human body. The main culprit for this academic disaster is the distorted priorities set in the syllabus.


The need of hour is to debate upon

  1. Should we be teaching Anatomy and Physiology at BHMS?
  2. If we should teach them, why we should?
  3. What shall be our priorities for these subjects?
  4. What should be the content?
  5. What should be the format?
  6. What are the material and human resources needed?

There is no denying that we should be teaching and more importantly, our students should be learning the basic medical sciences, including Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry. These are not only needed to provide the academic parity for BHMS with other health sciences undergraduate courses, but also to equip the learners with the fundamental information to practice medicine.

Once we are convinced that we should after all be teaching these subjects, it is time to set our priorities for these subjects. The professional responsibilities of a homoeopathic practitioner are to some extent dictated by the societal and establishmentarian discernment of homoeopathy as a health-care profession. Homoeopathic professionals are considered as experts in certain predetermined diseases like the chronic diseases, persistent diseases, etc. They are not considered by the establishment for various reasons, to be competent to pursue higher education in the branches like surgery, obstetrics, etc. Unless we aim at bringing in a paradigm shift in the popular and political perception to see homoeopathic practitioners as a mainstream group indulging in the same tasks as an allopathic professional, we have to reconsider our curricular options.

Since we as homoeopaths have a strong therapeutic range in chronic diseases, it is conventional wisdom to focus on that aspect while writing the course objectives of the basic medical subjects. In this regard, stressing on the dissection of human body by every student and prescribing a whole range of equipments to teach anatomy is nothing short of dissipating the scarce resources. Seriously thinking, there is a lot that needs to be clipped out from the syllabus of Anatomy and Physiology in BHMS and there certainly are some issues, which need to be included to make it truly purposeful for the homoeopathic students and practitioners alike.


It is proposed to convene a workshop of senior teachers of Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry in homoeopathic institutions across the country and deliberate on the ways and means of rationalizing the curriculum of these subjects, in terms of course aims, learning contents, assessment techniques, material and human resources to implement the course, etc.

The workshop may consider the following issues:

  1. What shall be our priorities for teaching Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry?
  2. What should be the teaching / learning content?
  3. What should be the teaching / learning format?
  4. What are the material and human resources needed to implement the suggestions?

Of late there is a trend in the health sciences related courses to integrate the teaching of Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry under the generic name – Human Biology. An attempt is made to present an integrated view of these basic medical sciences to appreciate the symbiotic and holistic rapport of these disciplines. This also provides a more humanistic approach to medical students – an issue, that is very close to homoeopathic philosophy.

Therefore, the proposed workshop could also consider evolving the educational objectives of Human Biology as an alternative to discipline-based teaching of Anatomy and Physiology / Biochemistry as is in vogue now.

Format of workshop:

  1. Send a proposal to Central Council of Homoeopathy for consideration to associate with this project
  2. Form a core group to liaise with the institutions and send the message across
  3. Identify a venue for the workshop
  4. Draw a tentative Income – Expenditure statement
  5. Request each of the recognized homoeopathic institute to depute one faculty member, preferably holding a senior position in the institute from the departments of Anatomy and Physiology / Biochemistry
  6. Finalise the list of participants for the workshop
  7. Identify the resource persons to co-ordinate the workshop
  8. Finalise the dates for the workshop
  9. Arrange or the staying and other necessities of the participants
  10. Organize the workshop

Expected Outcomes:

The workshop shall focus on evolving

  • Educational objectives of Anatomy, Physiology / Biochemistry
  • Consider introducing Human Biology as an alternative to “Anatomy, Physiology / Biochemistry”
  • Reflect upon the possibility of launching “Human Biology” as the alternative on an experimental basis at least in one University
  • Resolve to provide the “homoeopathic orientation” right from the first year of BHMS course and even in the basic medical disciplines.
The proposal is in public domain. Anyone interested to carry this forward please get in touch with me. We can build a public opinion