Dr. Shafik Dharamsi, Faculty Lead of the Global Health Network at the Liu Institute for Global Issues, and professor at UBC in the Faculty of Medicine, received the prestigious Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies (PWIAS) Visiting Scholar Abroad Award to develop a global perspective and long-term international research agenda on social accountability in medicine and the development of socially responsive physicians.
The PWIAS Visiting Scholar is expected to undertake “outstanding and transformative research which will have an impact in terms of addressing an important science or humanities issue in the host country.” Dr. Dharamsi will work with medical faculty in Nepal from the Patan Academy of Health Sciences (PAHS). He will collaborate with Dr. Arjun Karki, Vice Chancellor of PAHS, and Dr. Bob Woollard from UBC who is an international expert in the area of social accountability of medical schools.
Like many countries, and particularly less developed ones, Nepal suffers from gross inequities in health status and healthcare services. In the Kathmandu Valley, the physician-to-population ratio is 1:850, jumping to 1:30,000 in rural areas and 1:150,000 in more remote districts. The World Health Organization describes health human resource maldistribution as a “global crisis”. There is a significant gap between urban and rural areas in educational attainment, health care facilities, transportation, communication, and socio-economic status. Yet, Nepal is also witnessing an explosion of new medical schools. But most of them are private, for-profit schools with high tuition fees. They pay little attention to health inequities and the plight of socioeconomically marginalized patients who bear the greatest burden of disease. In response, PAHS has developed a not-for-profit medical school in affiliation with the Patan Hospital; and it has taken an innovative approach to medical education based on the principles of social accountability. The PAHS medical curriculum is focused on the health of socioeconomically vulnerable citizens in rural areas who have little or no access to care, and the values of service and altruism (also identified by medical accrediting bodies in North America as core values of the physician in their role as health advocates). Dr. Dharamsi’s work will enable the development of a much needed research program at PAHS to investigate the impact of the PAHS curriculum on developing socially responsive physicians in Nepal.