This year marks another year for the PNG Medical Society hosting the annual Medial Symposium, this time in Madang Province. Timely and appropriately in Madang too since the Divine Word University has commenced its own MBBS program for doctor training in the midst of much controversy and debate within the PNG medical fraternity. The public has not been engaged as much as one would expect perhaps from a lack of insight into the running of an MBBS program. But I am sure a good number of middle class parents are happy with the news because they have an alternative to send their children to study medicine should they wish to.
I have been a keen participant at the annual scientific meetings from my medical student days while researching at the Sir Buri Kidu Heart Institute when conducting my research on betel nut chewing and effects on the cardiovascular system. And over the years I have noted a growing trend at the meetings that I think may hinder scientific and medical science progression in PNG. I have noted what can termed an “Academic Cartel”. This is similar to financial and drug cartels who promote and protect their interests and destroy others who stand in their way.
A handful of PNG academics and institutions appear to decide that a particular domain of health in PNG is worth researching or funding and over the years has become “their domain”. These “academic cartels’ also tend to promote their views on the subject matter while dismissing and make conscious efforts to propagate and promote their opinions. They have over time become to be known as the “experts” in PNG. Young PNG doctors and medical scientists are afraid to speak up in scientfic meetings and offer a differing opinion to these academic cartels’ research or opinions.
I also think that medical scientists from other countries who come to PNG to conduct medical research also strengthen the “academic cartels” by supporting the existing view in PNG rather than work with other young medical scientists in the various hospitals who would prefer to offer a differing opinion.
In my opinion this trend is worrying and the establishment of the second medical school in Madang at the Divine Word University is welcoming and offers a way for young medical scientists and academics to academically challenge the status quo within the medical science research community in PNG (in a positive way) and offer alternative routes and pathways to improving health in rural PNG. The news of another medical school to be established in Goroka at the University of Goroka is also welcoming and is in the right direction.