Interviewing the First Anatomist of Nepal – Dr. Banshi Krishna Malla

Anatomy is a preclinical subject when it comes to study of medicine and other medicine related subjects. Human anatomy plays a major role in the education of future healthcare professionals. A sound knowledge in anatomy is considered a prerequisite to sound practice of medicine. The role of anatomy only gets amplified when one chooses to get into the field of surgery.

In Nepal MBBS program was first started back in 1978 by IOM. Before the MBBS program various other programs like PCL nursing and academic programs for allied sciences were running in the country but did not require the subject expert in the field of Anatomy, though the subject was part of the curricula even in those programs. Even then, the Government of Nepal (GoN) had the far sighted preparedness to get experts ready in various fields long before MBBS program was started. Dr. Banshi Krishna Malla had done his masters degree in Anatomy almost a decade earlier under the scholarship assistance program provided by the GoN. Today we try and unfold the situation during his studies and also how far has the subject progressed in the recent half century.

What was it like to study medicine in those days?

There was no Medical College in Nepal, and only a limited quota of scholarship seats were provided by India, Pakistan, etc. under the Colombo Plan Scheme. The candidates with fairly good marks, had to compete for getting admission and studying Medicine. Later on, a few more seats from USSR also were also made available.

Where did you study medicine?

I studied MBBS course in N.R.S Medical College Calcutta under Colombo Plan Scholarship program in 1960, and graduated from Calcutta University, India in 1965. After graduation, I joined as a Medical Officer in the Department of Health Services, under H M Government of Nepal.

You are the First Anatomist of Nepal, when and where did you get the specialist degree?

I got my Post-graduate Master Degree (MS) in Anatomy subject when there was no Medical College in Nepal back in 1969.  I was granted a special scholarship by the then Ministry of Health for studying Master Degree of Anatomy subject in Darbhanga Medical College, India. I was decorated with “Mahendra Vidhya Bhusan” by Late King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah for achieving Postgraduate Master Degree (MS) of Anatomy, in 1972.

How did you come across the opportunity of specialization in Anatomy?

A special committee with the then Health Secretary as Chairman was formed under the Ministry of Health for establishing Medical College in Nepal. According to the program, a few seats for studying post graduation courses in basic subjects like Anatomy, Physiology were made available. That is how I got the opportunity to study Anatomy in India.

Why is it that you choose Anatomy among other subjects, even today people wish to do post graduation in  Clinical subjects?

Well! ‘Anatomy’ had been the subject of my interest since I was studying MBBS in my college. In fact, I was greatly impressed and motivated by the Anatomy teachers, especially Prof. Samarendra Mitra (Samar Da) a very good teacher. Besides that, there was no Medical Colleges in Nepal at that time, so I thought it will provide me a better opportunity to work in the field of my interest subject Anatomy in the First Medical College of Nepal.

With no Medical Colleges back then in Nepal, there was not much for an Anatomist  to  do what did you do back then?

Well! When I came back after completing my Postgraduate in Anatomy in 1969, there was no indication of establishment of any medical college along with the dissolution of the Special Committee. I was a regular government employee of the Ministry of Health, the Health Department had a great problem of deputing me an Anatomist in any other field of service. So, I was granted one year special study leave to join Anatomy department in any Medical College in India for experience. During that time, I got the opportunity of joining Post graduate Diploma course of Ophthalmology (DOMS) the subject of my second choice at Maulana Azad Medical College in New Delhi, India.  I studied and worked as a Post graduate student in that institute with a scholarship.  After completing my DOMS Degree in 1971, I came back in Nepal to work for Health Department and served as an Eye Surgeon at various positions till I retired from  Government services in 2002. 

When did the first Medical College start in Nepal?

Institute of Medical Sciences (IOM) was established as the first Medical College at Maharajgunj, Kathmandu under the Ministry of Education in 1978. I still remember that I was asked for joining the Medical institute as Professor and Head of Department of Anatomy, but without any compensation of 6-7 years of seniority in my regular services in the Health Department. I refused the offer at that time, but still took a few classes of Anatomy for the students of first batch of MBBS students on a voluntary basis. 

When did you started working as an Anatomist then?

Soon after my retirement from the Government services in 2002, I joined Kathmandu Medical College as a Senior Consultant in the Anatomy Department, by virtue of  strong motivation from the then Principal Prof. Dr Hemang Dixit in 2003 and as Associate Professor of Anatomy.

What changes you have noted in the field of Anatomy over the years of practice?

‘Anatomy’ was the most important and also a difficult subject when I was a medical student. The traditional curricula for anatomy contained simple arrangements of units of learning with limited integration. Each and every medical student must follow the Cadaveric dissection was a must know area of expertise in anatomy followed by learning  detailed information about the body organs and systems. There was a common belief that without proper dissection of cadaver and good knowledge of Anatomy, one cannot be a good doctor. Gradually the importance of dissection and proper knowledge  of Anatomy have been diluted with subsequent development in the field of medicine and emerging of new fields as different subjects. Learning of Anatomy today has become greatly influenced by factors such as increasing depth of newer academic curricula, reduced time, limited resources and integrated approaches to learning the basic sciences have been a big challenge for the medical students.

How many Anatomist may be present in Nepal?

At present, there are almost 150 Anatomists in Nepal with three main categories and most of them are not registered to Nepal Medical Council. First the medical doctors or MBBS graduates with Post graduate Degree of Anatomy, second the B. Sc. graduates with an M.Sc Degree of Anatomy and third the Dental Surgeons or BDS graduates with a Post graduate Degree of Anatomy.

What is the global trend, about the people from other background other than MBBS in Anatomy on other countries too?

 Yes! Initially only those medical doctors with MBBS degree were eligible to study Post graduate Degree course of Anatomy. Gradually students who had studied B.Sc with Human Biology, were permitted to study M.Sc. in Anatomy and considered as Anatomist. Later on, some Dental Surgeons with BDS degree who had completed the bridge course were permitted to study Post graduate Degree of Anatomy. This trend had been shifted from India and various experiments are being conducted about the methodology of studying medicine in Nepal for better outcome.





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