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IIT Madras partners with Sri Ramachandra Institute to offer MD-PhD Dual Degree

The partnership will concentrate on core clinical, interdisciplinary, and translational research

Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) has partnered with Sri Ramachandra Institute of Higher Education and Research (SRIHER) in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, to offer a MD-PhD Dual Degree programme.

The postgraduate medical degree will be awarded by SRIHER and a PhD degree by the Department of Medical Sciences and Technology of IIT Madras. This partnership will concentrate on core clinical, interdisciplinary, and translational research.

An MoU towards this Dual Degree programme was signed by Dr Uma Sekar, Vice Chancellor, Sri Ramachandra Higher Education and Research (SRIHER) and Prof V Kamakoti, Director, IIT Madras, in the presence of Prof Boby George, Head, Department of Medical Sciences and Technology, IIT Madras, Prof R Krishna Kumar, Institute Professor, IIT Madras, and other faculty.

Elaborating on the need for ‘Physician-Scientists’, Prof V Kamakoti, Director, IIT Madras, said, “The world needs medical technology which, in turn, requires doctors with domain knowledge to explore the technological world. The MD-PhD programme planned between IIT Madras and SRIHER will be a flagship one, enabling the above requirement. I am confident that this collaboration will lead to very interesting innovations that will lead to scalable, accessible, affordable and quality health care for our nation.”

IIT Madras in May 2023 launched the Department of Medical Sciences and Technology, which will offer a four-year BS programme in medical sciences and engineering. This course will be a first of its kind in India.

Dr Sekar said, “Such Physician-scientists make up only less than 2 per cent of the biomedical workforce today. As Physician-scientists, they will be particularly involved in productive academic research and can contribute to biomedical innovation, discover lifesaving therapies and have the potential to develop disease prevention strategies. A physician scientist’s in-depth clinical knowledge of human health and disease, combined with skills in scientific investigation and analysis, makes him or her uniquely resourceful. They will play a vital role in advancing medical knowledge with substantial impact on human health.”

Dr Sekar added, “Sri Ramachandra Medical College and Research Institute established in the year 1985 has been at the forefront of medical education and Research since its inception. Though few medical postgraduates pursuing MD or M.S opt for Phd through the existing ICMR MD PhD programme, the transition of research output to the patient’s bedside does not happen because of the lack of biomedical engineering guidance. By twinning with IIT Madras for the dual degree, there will be a productive blend of research and health care application.”

Further, Dr Sekar said, “Being already involved in patient treatment and management, they will able to understand the requirement for products that will be innovative, applicable and improve the health and well-being of many individuals. Engineering research intense institutions like Chennai IIT can help bring out products or prototypes to address the needs of the health care sector.”

The MD-PhD graduates, who are known as ‘Physician-Scientists’ are very few. However, a remarkable 37 per cent of the Nobel Prizes in Physiology have been awarded to them. Physician-scientists establish cause-and-effect relationships such as smoking and cancer and sugar and diabetes.

They are trained to observe patterns and challenge established beliefs, with every risk presenting a potential breakthrough. They conduct research across various settings, including the lab, clinic, community, and population health, with a focus on promoting health equity. The need for such scientists in India is immense.

The objective of the MD-PhD Dual Degree Programme is to produce well-trained research scientists who will lead India’s quest for self-sufficiency in the field of medicine and health. The programme will be operational from the next academic year.

The postgraduates admitted to SRIHER through NEET and desirous of doing PhD will apply for the PhD programme at the end of the second year at the Department of Medical Sciences and Technology at IIT Madras. The Department of Medical Sciences and Technology will follow established procedures to select candidates to pursue the PhD programme.

Once selected, IIT Madras will issue them a pre-PhD offer and they will be eligible to register after their degree in SRIHER. Such candidates will be mentored by IIT Madras faculty and a SRIHER faculty during their third year at SRIHER.

Candidates admitted to the PhD programme will be jointly guided by a faculty member from DMST and a co-guide from SRIHER. The candidate will spend a year at IIT Madras, completely funded by SRIHER through a fellowship to complete the coursework requirements, further develop the skills required for the PhD programme and begin their research.

For the subsequent two to three years, the candidates will continue their research while being part-time students at IIT Madras and Senior Residents at SRIHER until the completion of the PhD programme.

The IIT Madras Department of Medical Sciences and Technology offers an interdisciplinary approach to prepare students for designing life-saving medical devices, drug discovery, artificial intelligence in medicine, and fundamental medical research. The department will train physicians to effectively apply technology in their clinical practice and lay the foundation for physician-scientist training in India.

Top medical doctors in India and abroad, who were also closely involved in the development of the curriculum, will be ‘Professors of Practice’ in this department, which has already established tie-ups with premier hospitals and medical institutions in India.

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