LAHORE - Twenty-three posts of senior faculty at the Institute of Public Health (IPH), one of the oldest institutions offering postgraduate medical education in community medicine, have been vacant for long.

Seven sanctioned posts of professors and eight each of associate professors and assistant professors have been vacant for years, leaving students in all sub-specialties at the mercy of demonstrators. After transfer of Dr Zarafshan Tahir, professor of microbiology, to TB Control Programme and retirement of Dr Rubina, professor of mother and child health, the senior faculty consists of Professor of Nutrition Dr Seema Imdad. Rest of the faculty consists of senior demonstrators and demonstrators.

In the absence of a full time dean, Prof Tajammal Mustafa of the Fatima Jinnah Medical University is looking after affairs of the institute, which was set up in 1949 to provide Pakistan with best health professionals.

IPH, which is recognised by the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC), College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan (CPSP) and the University of Health Sciences (UHS), and managed by the Specialised Healthcare and Medical Education Department, is offering Masters in Public Health (MPH), Masters in Maternal & Child Health (MMCH), Masters in Hospital Management (MHM) and MPhil, MCPS and FCPS in 13 sub-specialties of Community Medicine.

Once the most prestigious postgraduate medical institution, IPH is fast losing its reputation among students due to a lack of interest on part of people at the helm of affairs to complete the faculty. Doctors doing post-graduation in different sub-specialties are worried about utility of degrees when trained by demonstrators and not by senior faculty.

“Instead of filling vacant posts, the government transferred the head of Microbiology Department. The situation is going from bad to worse. We are at the mercy of demonstrators,” said a doctor doing MPhil in Community Medicine who wanted not to be quoted because he did not want to annoy demonstrators.

“IPH is not priority of the government. This is the only institution in Punjab offering post-graduation in various sub-specialties of Community Medicine. The prevailing scenario will cause young doctors to go for other options that will ultimately lead to dearth of experts in the important field of Community Medicine,” said another postgraduate student at the institute.

“Doctors trained at IPH in the past are adding a new dimension to public health programmes. They were lucky enough to get training under the supervision of seasoned and senior faculty. Now the situation is otherwise. If not taken seriously, the country will face shortage of experts in the field of Community Medicine,” said a doctor who has already done MPhil in Community Medicine.  Despite repeated efforts, Minister for SH&ME Khawaja Salman Rafiq was not available for comment.