Is MBBS Becoming a Vestigial Degree?

“There are, in truth, no specialties in medicine, since to know fully many of the most important diseases a man must be familiar with their manifestations in many organs.”

—William Osler, The Army Surgeon, Medical News, Philadelphia, 64:318, 1894.

The focus of the modern day medical student has shifted from the broad to the specific. In keeping with the demand of the day, today, no med student just wants to be a doctor. Talking to the freshly minted first years in my medical school a few days ago, I realized they all wanted to be Neurosurgeons or Interventional Cardiologists or Cardiac electrophysiologists, and other such super-hyper-specialized stuff. No one just wanted Medicine or Surgery…

It is understandable given the propensity of society to pigeonhole doctors into brackets based on their levels of super specialization. The more training, the more degrees, the smaller a body part you deal with – the more the oomph your name carries. There seems to be a different tune to strut to for the ones on the top of the totem pole.

Let us not just blame the med students and recently qualified doctors for aiming high. Social, financial and academic pressure to specialize has become a part of the very fabric of medical education. Add to that the fact that med students are essentially very competitive people who will fight their way up to the top… and we have a malaise that has been setting in over a period of decades suddenly manifesting itself: The primary medical degree, MB BS, is pretty much a vestigial degree unless suffix more qualifiers to it.

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The obsession with super-specialization has spawned a vicious system where immediately after completing their MBBS degrees, med students start to prepare for the Post Graduation degree. Internships, Junior Residencies in a discipline of one’s liking are no longer the de rigeur of a qualifying doctor. The essential thing is to get ahead enough in the rat race to book a seat in the race to get a post graduation degree.

And once post graduation is done, the race for a super specialization in the form of an MCh or DM degree begins.

In the mad rush to secure our futures, as doctors, we end up spending as many as 12 years just plowing our way through degrees. No matter how good a doctor you are, how sharp your clinical skills are, without the artillery of degrees trailing your name, the system rejects you. And hence we spend years in getting in and out of rat races without essentially furthering our careers all the time.

Maybe this is an overtly pessimistic stance that I am taking, but the fact remains this unhealthy obsession for recognition dogs us all. Some get it. Some give up the towel and settle for lesser. However, with more and more opportunities springing up every year, it becomes imperative to note that the scarcity of Internal Medicine guys keeps growing. The super-specialized departments keep growing apart from each other with one discipline hardly speaking the lingo of the other. The patient keeps getting shunted from one room to another, feeling like a machine with a malfunctioning set of gears rather than a complete human being. And of course, the urban-rural gap keeps increasing… surely, if I spend 10-12 years just getting my degrees, I deserve to stay in the cities to mint money?

The MB BS is a degree that is glorified only on paper. In reality, it is worse off than the appendix.

31 thoughts on “Is MBBS Becoming a Vestigial Degree?

  1. its just not a matter of our field . . . apparently no one gets into civil engineering wid a dream to build or metallurgy wid a dream to work in blast furnace. . . they all want to go work in some big MNC churning out gold !!! dats d basic reason for dis hoopla here too . . . high recognition, more bundle of notes. . .!! why do yu see a rise in radio n derma demand !!!

    n now dat even for a headache, ppl want to go to neurologist !!! what is anyone supposed to do !!! wid d inverted pyramid og UG_PG seats. . .sure as hell ppl will keep on stuck wid MBBS degree . . . more frustration for docs.. . n their families. . . ask any parent if they’ll get their daughters married to ‘just-mbbs’ 😛 😛
    MBBS is losing its recognition . .we are not to blame. . .society is to !!! enough wid complaining wen we send dem to various deptts . .. they chose it for themselves !!!


    1. I guess the fault lies with both the sides… and how ironic are the words “just MBBS”, considering the fact that it is almost twice as long (and expensive and strenuous) as compared to any other undergrad degree?


  2. Was having this discussion today with friends… I feel the very same as I did after my schooling- unsure of what and why to do in terms of studies- I have to attain another degree is the only thing I know… For some reason, your non-medico friends will still regard an MBBS pretty high when it comes to you, but ask them if they would like to get treated by one- and the answer is a stat ‘no’…. The race to getting many more degrees is just peer pressure in a greater magnitude…


  3. sad but true,we dont find any “special” general physician or surgeon anymore,and so the common man with common problems suffer from over-treatment


    1. Well, there are a lot of GPs around but if people rush to a neurologist for a headache and a Gastroenterologist for a tummy ache, then the obvious fall out is getting the “specialist package”, aka over-treatment!


  4. Very true-which is why we have the best corporate hospitals and overcrowded tertiary care hospitals ! the days of the family physician are apparently gone !


    1. Thanks for dropping by to comment Dr. Ardey. I think until and unless we manage to add the glam-quotient to Family practice, no one is going to run for it. Sad, but true…


  5. In the days to come, super specialists will be the order of the day as the rat race for survival gets more intense. People will no longer be persons… they will be some body parts… initially biological and soon will be bionic. Preference will be bionic over biological.
    Then comes a period where few people will begin to talk of advantages of biological over bionic…. by then what will be the state of affairs?


    1. Very interesting point Prof. Chouhan! Are we looking ahead at a time in the near future when the very humanity of Medical practice is in danger of becoming extinct?


  6. how come you say MBBS a vestigial Degree? I think still in India most Emergency cases first handled by MBBS Doctor, later only after stabilizing patient being referred to specialist. I had not seen Specialist (most of the time) handling the emergency cases in emergency department. If you look after the Middle East, European & US many Indian MBBS work there as General practitioner and emergency physician with high patient turn over. In India still many patient do not have adequate money to get treatment from specialist and even we do not have adequate specialist to treat all cases. I still believes that Indian MBBS degree holder have strong knowledge received from esteemed Medical Professor.


    1. Dr. Jawed thanks for dropping by to comment. Unfortunately, I am an “MBBS only” doctor and these problems are the basic realities we face.
      I do not know about the Middle East but as far as the USA and Europe are concerned, MBBS or MD from India do not have any recognition, and you have to retrain there to practice. So that line of argument becomes moot in this respect.
      Next, about the ED, well, they are manned by interns in most Govt hospitals, so please forgive me if I am skeptical about the quality of the treatment served there.
      As for the education bit, well, once again, I have to say that strong knowledge is because of the inherently “gunner” nature of the people who get into med schools in India rather than a sound and structured education system.


  7. Thanks for pointing out this buring problem among all young MBBS doctors in India, Pranab da! After doing graduation we can not have a proper job, and I feel the whole health education and service providing system in India is messed up and we have to join the rat race.


    1. This is sad because we are supposedly some of the best students… and I really feel nauseated by what I see we have been made into by the exam system.


  8. I dont know what r u talking about.its apparent that more than 60% of indian population still lives in small towns n villages.n i dont think dt superspecialist like hepatobilliary or neuro will evr reach them.c’mon guys,atleast speak a little bit of sense.mbbs is itself more than enough to treat the ailing in d pherihery who have least of medical facilities.there are still lakhs of villages in india where doctors are treated as good.i dont knw bout other professions but a medical degree is just not about earing is much much more thn dt.a mbbs degree will always hold dignity and respect untill the whole of india is transformed into a developed nation.


  9. I think those who say that mbbs is ” Just MBBS ” are in delusion. In some posts i found that one mbbs doc was saying mbbs docs get 18000 per month salary only. Dont know who was that jerk who himself was underestimating his own degree. Any mbbs doc in Maharashtra when work with state gov , get 49500 monthly salary , in private hospitals mbbs docs can get up to 45000 per month in cities like mumbai. While in Delhi mbbs can earn 60000 per month. Thats why many mbbs graduates from maharashtra go to Delhi for pg preparation because side by side they get descent salary. In rural areas in India there is still shortage of doctors. So even if you are living in small town you can take up job as a doctor at PHC & you can up down daily & even start your private practice as an extra way for earning. So easily you can touch up to 1 lakh per month. Can any engineering graduate get such an handsome salary per month ? Obviously no they can’t. Iam myself a MBBS doc working with state gov & in evening i do private general practice in my hometown in my colony . I daily get 1000 – 1500 rs in private practice. Means i get up to Rs 35000 per month + 54000 salary = 89000 per month & iam just 27 year old. Now tell me, Is mbbs realy a “Just mbbs” ?


    1. Hi Amit
      I had done my B.Tech from a private college (Not those BITS/BIT and all , just a simple college ).
      After completion of my B.Tech I had joined a software company and my starting salary was 44 thousand per month. Beside this I love doing website designing and development and for one website development I charge 25-30k, which I complete it within 10 days (Maximum ).
      After 1 year of experience my salary increased and currently it is 60 thousand per month. Also add 25k more ( Let assume, I complete one website in one month ).
      So mine is 60k+25k = 85k per month.

      And I am just 24, also “just” and I earn 85k per month.
      My working hour : 9am-6pm office time. And 9pm-11pm I do website design.
      In B.Tech I have spend only 4 year with 3 lakh fee.

      Now leave about me..
      Here you have mentioned about engineers , so let me talk about the engineer now.
      Amit: ” Can any engineering graduate get such an handsome salary per month”?
      Reply: If you go to any IITs/NITs alumni and meet them.. most of them are earning more than lakh in a month in their just 24-25. Engineer who are working with Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, Amazon, Flipkart are getting more than 1-2 lakh per month as thier starting salary.
      Some lucky guys are earning in CRORES.

      My advice to you all Doctors.
      You are here to serve people so focus on serving. Don’t be money minded.
      If you are interested in doing business you can do MBA after your MBBS.

      So if you are in medical field, just serve people and I think you all get handsome salary to enjoy your life.

      God bless you.
      An Engineer


  10. MBBS doctors get 49500 as a starting salary in government sector of maharashtra and every year it goes on increasing according to seniority. Government jobs give you stability & financial security and price hike & recession never affects them. Now 7 th pay commission is coming. Many engineering graduates start working on 10000 per month salary as a fresher & after 3-4 yr experience they get annual package of up to 5-6 lakh means up to 50000 per month. There job is even very hectic & they have to be sincere & punctual always as compared to job of an mbbs doctor. Recession is the biggest threat to engineering professionals & every where in India so many engineering colleges are mushrooming. Demand of engineers is very less as compared to supply of engineers every year. While about MBBS doctors they are still very less than the demand in India. In Dubai an MBBS graduate can earn 20000 dirham means around 3.5 – 4 lakh INR per month. So MBBS graduates from India can even go to middle east for earning descent money. Especialy the guys from mumbai who dont have sound knowledge about surrounding spread such wrong info about mbbs degree.


    1. Thank you very much Mr.Amit Singh i choose bipc group to my son my friends are so much disappointed me MBBS is long years to study means 6years again have to study 3more years for md still no job gaurantee in india. But for engineers they finish BE. in 4 years and they starts earn but doctors will starts earn 11years comparetively 7years more to study after completing 4years eng degree with 6 years exp in software side if they will go to abroad earn 5Lakhs Rs per month for MBBS OR MD Doctors Less Chances to go abroad.


  11. My dear friends, I M an MBBS doctor,
    I would like to tell u people my story, then u guys decide whether it’s mbbs only or ONLY MBBS,

    I DID my mbbs and was about to go in rat race for pg and super specialisation only, but as I could not clear pg exam I started private practice in my town, but before that I worked hard for one year in a government hospital and improved my clinical knowledge by studying and learning bed side in that hospital,
    We’ll after 3 years of practice I have a digital xray, ultrasound machine which I operate, a CT scan and in this set up I M treating around 150 patients per day and out of which I have to send 2 max 3 cases to specialist,,, and earning handsomely more than many specialist or super specialist , so guys believe in urself and if u are not able to get a pg seat,, treat patients who need u n not specialist.


    1. Hello frend can u tell me where u live and i can not belive that such thing happen. I require ur guidance


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