“Vaccines don’t work. It’s all a big fraud. Just watch a documentary on YouTube ‘Truth about vaccines’, and you will come to know everything,” a friend sitting beside me, inour final year MBBS class, said confidently. Although I was aware of the anti-vaccine campaigns all over the world, and had been reading books, articles and watching different documentaries on the issue, never before had I met a vaccine denier in person. One look at his face sent cracks into my calmness. I thought of the children in our country that suffer from polio despite there being a preventive cure. In fact, only three countries in the world are still plagued by the disease. Then I began thinking of how we ended up here, in a situation where medical students think vaccines are a conspiracy. Pakistan is a country where there is a serious shortage of doctors and paramedics. Recent reports suggest that we only have one doctor catering to close to a thousand people. The problem stems from multiple factors. For starters, there has been an upsurge in the number of young graduates who want to work in the US, Europe or in Gulf countries. Secondly, there is a lack of public understanding of medical health sciences. No institutions are working in this direction. The result is a never-ending tension in the doctor-patient relationship. Many doctors are humiliated, beaten, even murdered by patients and their attendants. The fear of facing such dire consequences when going to work results in the ‘let’s go abroad’ mindset. We are not being endowed with modern methods of education. The old semester system, wherever it’s followed, seems totally unsuitable for learning efficient clinical skills The third issue is that of money. Young graduates belonging to opulent families don’t work in clinics but enter either the bureaucracy or business empires built by their parents. The rest who work in clinics, either to earn or being inspired by the idea to serve suffering people here, don’t show much-needed efficiency and are always looking to leave. For instance, a house officer in LUMNHS is paid around Rs 30,000 per month. There is no monetary incentive-keeping doctors in the country. It is because of all these issues that people end up going to hakims, babas, and even medical students for advice — which they consider the final word. And it was because of this that I kept thinking of all the children that were at risk. I thought about the children in my classmate’s home. University education is meant to produce socially responsible professionals, but that is no longer an objective for the people in our country. We have been infusing young minds with the medicine of pseudoscience, irresponsibility, alienation, and capitalist desires to travel abroad and earn fortunes. When a child dies in Thar, when a woman give birth in a washroom, when people prefer pseudo medicine, and when medical students believe that vaccines are a conspiracy, that’s when we need to admit that we have failed as a society. Who is responsible for this chaotic state of affairs? Whose purpose does ignorance serve? Isn’t it, first of all, a responsibility of medical institutions to sue teachers for committing professional dishonesty? When a professor of human anatomy at LUMHS teaches their class centuries old rejected Aristotelian ideas that the actual function of the heart is ‘thinking’, where should we go? We are being taught nothing about the history of medicine, research or social responsibility. We are not being endowed with modern methods of education. The old semester system, wherever it is followed, seems totally unsuitable to learning efficient clinical skills. “Each year this number of deaths occur due to snakebites in the USA, this number of measles cases are reported in the USA!” — this is what we are taught. I want to practice here, I want to serve people here, and I am left with no choice but to doubt the ability and credibility of a teacher who teaches me nothing about HERE. What changes should medical institutions consider? First of all, there should be a cell that scrutinisesthe abilities, scientific literacy and social responsibility elements in teachers. Teachers should be trained in basic sciences and be reminded not to include their personal beliefs into the lesson. Second, the syllabi needs to be updated. The history of medicine and biomedical ethics should be included as major subjects so that students don’t fall prey to mistakes of the past.Students need to understand why modern medicine is the best, and how we have evolved over the years to come to it. Third, they should find alternatives to the semester system so that effective clinical skills are learned. Fourth, there should be research departments functioning properly on clinical grounds with fine monitoring. It is only through updating our medical institutions that we can ward off the challenges of disease and disaster. The writer is a final year MBBS student at LUMHS Jamshoro Published in Daily Times, June 8th 2018.