Fulbright Distinguished Scholar, Dr. Vijay Mittal, to look at standardizing surgical education globally.

Vijay Mittal, MD, knows first-hand what it’s like to emigrate to the U.S. after completing surgical training in India.  “Surgical training in other countries isn’t recognized in the North American system.  So when I came here in 1974, after practicing as a general and transplant surgeon for three years in India, I had to start all over,” said Dr. Mittal, Program Director of General Surgery Residency Program at Providence Hospital in Southfield, MI. “I had to do a surgical residency and fellowship in Detroit, as if I was just out of medical school.  My education and experience in India was not recognized .”

As a recipient of the U.S. Department of State’s  Fulbright Award , Dr. Mittal will focus on changing this situation.  His proposal to the Fulbright Commission , titled Global Surgical Education Evaluation and Uniformity, is one of only 40 that earned their authors Fulbright Distinguished Scholar Awards in Teaching and Research, considered by many the most prestigious appointment in the Fulbright Program. 

Dr. Mittal’s Fulbright project will take him to India, where he will work with other surgical educators to enhance the country’s surgical training curriculum to bring it in line with the United States. “People who intend to return to India after training in the U.S. often fail.  This is because they’re not trained in the same system in which they’ll eventually practice,” said Dr. Mittal.  “In India, there are different disease processes, different resources, different technology, and different socio-economic considerations that confront young surgeons when they return.  It’s critical that their training involve the same group of patients and pathologies they will someday manage.”

U.S. Sen. William Fulbright founded the Fulbright Program in 1946 to increase mutual understanding and respect between the U.S. and other countries, and today more than 155 countries participate. Fulbright scholars are seen as ‘cultural ambassadors’ to their host countries, and are expected to be active, involved members of the communities they visit.  Fulbright alumni include 43 Nobel laureates, 78 Pulitzer Prize winners, 10 U.S. Congressmen, 18 government heads of state, and our Secretary General of the United Nations.  In addition, the Fulbright Commission has also awarded other individuals such as Colin Powell, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel, and Kofi Annan for international understanding.

The newly formed College of Surgeons of India, at the All Asian Institute of Medical Sciences  New  Delhi, will support Dr. Mittal’s effort.  “The College of Surgeons of India intends to create a national organization similar to the American Board of Surgery in North America, which centralizes evaluation of surgical education and certification. Together we will examine the strengths and weaknesses of India’s current surgical education system in comparison to countries like Great Britain and the U.S., and work to develop a standardized approach.”

“It will be useful to both Indian and North American educators to share processes and information.  Recently the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education has established an international rotation for U.S. surgical residents and this will also create an interest in the exchange of residents and faculty members between our two continents.” Dr. Mittal was recently approved by the ACGME for this new rotation between Providence Hospital and New Delhi’s All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences.  . He hopes eventually to launch a similar exchange program for faculty members.

Dr. Mittal was born in India, and graduated from India’s Amritsar Medical College before completing a surgical residency at PGI Chandigarh, where, in 1971, he did the first kidney transplant.  He has spent the last 35 years in the U.S. practicing general, vascular and transplant surgery.  He is a well known surgical educator nationally and internationally.  He has served as president of the International College of Surgeons, Detroit Surgical Association, Academy of Surgery of Detroit, and is presently president of the Michigan Chapter of the American College of Surgeons.  In addition, Dr. Mittal has been a long time chair of the surgical education committee of Southeast Michigan Center of Medical Education consortium. 

As he proposed in his Fulbright project proposal application, he will spend four months in India over the next year visiting five major postgraduate institutions and five private hospitals to compare their medical schools to compare their medical education programs.  “In India, postgraduate surgical training lasts three years, compared to five or six in the U.S. And just within India, different institutions have different processes for education and certification.  We hope to lessen the various disparities.”

Having worked with surgical residents in the U.S. for 25 years, Dr. Mittal is proud to capitalize on his experience for the good of his current and past homelands.  “I want to give back to my home country something of value,” he said.  “I hope to help eliminate obstacles for future Indian surgeons.  I realize there are many differences between the two systems, and I wish my Fulbright project will help us move closer to parity.”





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