I'm with Dr KC, are you?

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Two years back, when he was asked in an interview what his top three priorities in life were, this is how the humble doctor at the Institute of Medicine Dr KC responded: “First patients, second students. I don’t have a third one”. I was literally taken aback by his answer.

The world today, including Nepali society, is increasingly becoming individualistic, and people are all engrossed in fulfilling their self-centered desires. But Dr KC has dedicated his life, many times even putting his life in jeopardy, to ensure better health of the Nepali people.

If he wished, this senior orthopedic surgeon could run his own private clinics and accrue ample wealth to last his next generation. But KC, at his 60, is unmarried and has devoted his life solely to the aid of the poor and needy. He has travelled to the most rural terrains of Nepal on foot to provide healthcare. In 2009, when there was an outbreak of cholera in Jajarkot, most doctors refused to go there. But KC carried medicines on his back and reached to provide the vital service to the rural folks there. Not just Nepal, KC has travelled on his own funding to provide service to the neediest of patients across the world: Be it the quake-ravaged Gujarat (2001), Pakistan (2005) and Haiti (2010), or the cyclone-hit Myanmar (2008) or Tsunami in Philippines (2013), he has packed his backpack and reached these disaster regions to attend to the emergency medical need of the traumatized victims.

But compassion and altruism aren’t the only traits Dr KC is associated with: He's equally, if not more, known for his adherence to ethics and righteousness. Since the past few years, KC has fought to bring reforms in Nepal's medical education sector. As a medical student myself, I understand and fully support the demands raised by him.

Health education has turned into business today. Political interference and lack of transparency have infiltrated in medical education. While the number of medical colleges and the enrollment rate is rising, quality of medical education is regressing. I'm also a sufferer of this bleak trend in what must have been a noble endeavor. Despite having to pay such a huge sum for medical degree, we are bereft of adequate and qualified faculty and facilities. Although the faculty covers the theoretical part in detail, we're offered little to observe and practice; the practical aspect, without which medical education is impossible, is almost nil.

Mostly, a crowd of students have to hover around a single patient. But when it comes to inspection from government authorities, as if by magic hospitals get flooded with patients. Surely, the increasing number of students is a profitable venture for the colleges. But what about us? What sort of doctors are we going to become tomorrow? Will we cure people or instead superimpose iatrogenic complications?

The reason Dr Govinda KC has been so adamant about his demands to reform medical education sector and risked lives more than six times (including now) by staging fast-unto-death because he understands the gravity of the issue.

After five fast-unto-deaths and intense pressure from the civil society, rights body, general public, media and several political parties, the government finally acceded to forming a committee to make policy recommendations for reforms in Nepal's education sector in November 2014. Although the Committeee led by Prof Kedar Bhakta Mathema prepared the report and submitted it to the government on June 29, the latter made it public only after a month on August 4.

The report incorporates critical health issues like equitable distribution of health facility (one medical college in each development region), infrastructure upgrade in medical colleges, efficacy-based medical personnel appointment, rational affiliation and allocation of seats in the medical colleges in scientific manner. However, despite constant request to implement the recommendations, the government has not taken any step to implement the report.

That's what led Dr KC to stage the sixth hunger strike beginning August 24. “Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must act” is what his principle has been. And taking action is precisely what the government has failed at.

His hunger strikes have highly deteriorated his health, but his determination hasn’t decreased by an ounce. He's determined to go on until he makes a change. As for us in the medical field - the doctors, medical students and all others in the healthcare sector - we should back the exemplary steps of Dr KC to stand against all the ‘medical mafias’ and help ensure clean, quality healthcare in Nepal. As medical students, I believe that we must definitely gear up in this issue so that the future students do not have to face what we did. I am with Dr KC, are you?

(Subedi is a student of KIST Medical College, Kathmandu)

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