Nigerians were recently treated to a toast of tussle between the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) and Medical and Dental Consultants’ Association of Nigeria (MDCAN). On the 24th of December, 2019, the NUC issued a circular directing all University Vice Chancellors, Registrars, and National Postgraduate Medical College not to allow doctors who are not PHD holders to lecture in the universities. This conundrum has been a reoccurring struggle between the former and the latter.
In response to the directive, the National President of MDCAN, Professor Kenneth Ozoilu told newsmen that the association will withdraw its services from Medical education as it was an established fact that the curriculum content of the fellowship far outstrips that of the PhD.
In his words “Come midnight February 24th 2020, we shall withdraw our services from medical education in Nigeria and focus our energies on caring for our patients. We wish the NUC and the universities good luck in finding the doctors with PhDs to man their medical schools.”
The unnecessary fiasco was eventually brought to a head following the intervention of Chairman, House Committee on Health and the House Committees on Healthcare Services and Tertiary Education. It was justifiably resolved that the Fellowship is the highest qualification for clinical specialists and remains the qualification for employment for clinical lecturers into the University (Lecturer I) and that non- possession of PhD will not hinder the clinical lecturer from being promoted from one rank to the other up to the level of Professor in the Nigerian University system.
The NUC’s December 24th circular was adjudged to have created room for wrongful interpretation to mean that those without PhD will not enjoy career progression. Thus, the Higher Education body was asked to issue a fresh circular without ambiguity.
While it is NUC’s mandate to regulate the higher education in Nigeria, it should however note that medical education is a different kettle of fish. It is a field that requires more practical than theoretical. A medical practitioner experiences rigor to possess MBBS, brooks residency of 3 to 6 years to qualify as a Consultant, which should qualify them to lecture in a College of Medicine. This does not in any way suggest that PhD in the medical field is redundant, however its acquisition should be voluntary not mandatory.
Arguments in some quarters posit that PhD certification encourages research and developments efforts. Indeed, this is true but grossly insufficient. NUC should rather ensure that Colleges of Medicine are well funded to engage in highly effective researches that would benefit the nation.
In addition, NUC should prioritize the adoption of impactful teaching mechanism by colleges of medicine. Most of this lecturers are experts in medicine and not experts in teaching which has a deteriorating effect on their output. Curriculum update and assessment should equally be upgraded. This is of greater importance than the fellowship VS Professor squabble.
Conclusively, the citizens need to awaken themselves to the importance of Research and development. R&D is not the sole responsibility of government. Private Citizens who are well to do should splurge on innovative researches through donations of endowment funds to institutions. This would significantly increase the viability of the entire medical body and the nation at large.