Neuroscience as a career option
A career in neuroscience requires long hours of study. Only those with patience can thrive in this field, experts tell Prachi Rege
Does the study of the brain, its complex neurons and veins excite you? If yes, then you may want to consider a career in neuroscience. The ideal ratio in a developed country is one neurosurgeon per 2.5 lakh people, but in India, it is one neurosurgeon per 25 to 30 lakh people. So is there a shortage of skilled surgeons in the field? Experts are divided in their opinion. Some believe there is a shortage. The fact that the number of seats available for the medical graduates to super specialise in neuroscience has gone up, justifying the need to fill up the demand supply ratio, only corroborates their observation. Then there are others, who feel otherwise because an increase in number of seats does not promise quality of education.
"Over the years there has not been any increase in the number of faculty positions at institutes. Moreover, due to the absence of competitive salaries and remuneration, few faculty positions are filling up," says Dr Harleen Luther, senior consultant – brain, spine and peripheral nerve surgery, department of neurosurgery, SevenHills Hospital. Hence, the demand-supply ratio in this highly skilled segment remains skewed.
The field offers both medical and non-medical career options. From being a neuro surgeon, neuro physician or neurologist, neuro anesthetist, neuro pathologist, neuro ophthalmologist, neuro radiologist – interventional and non interventional, neuro physiologist, psychiatrist, clinical psychologists, physio, rehab and occupational therapists with Masters in Neurophysiotherapy, or even speech therapists once has a specturm of options to choose from. Allied medical career options also include radiographers trained in CT, MRI, Cathlabs doing Interventional Neuroradiology work. Researchers in neurophysiology, neuropharmacology and basic neurosciences including biomedical engineers and scientists serving the ever expanding equipment needs in the field are the non-medical career options.
For most of the medical options mentioned above, super specialisation in subspecialties is required.This may take years of hard work, besides an attempt at the various competitive exams. "By the time one finishes with their studies one is in their late 20s. So the candidates have to be competitive, hard working, diligent, need to have patience since they may start earning later than other medical counterparts," says Dr Neeta A Mehta, head, neurology department, Nanavati Hospital. She further adds that a career in nueorology or any of its super speciality is not easy. Dr Luther too agrees that one needs to be empathetic towards facing morbidity. "Neurophysicians need to spend adequate time with every patient for diagnosis. At least 45 mins with each one of them," advises Dr Mehta.
There is no government policy for homogenised training of neurosurgeons. The investment for approximately a 10-bed neurological center is about Rs 100 crore which makes it more difficult to have that kind of infrastructure everywhere. "The equipments required are expensive since doctors require a magnified view of blood vessels, arteries, etc. Although we have made advances in obtaining high-end equipment, manpower remains a critical issue," says Dr Luther.
In the private sector, the remuneration is good and reflects the experience and skill sets achieved by the
professional. In US, a neurologist with a 10 year post qualification experience (from a private or government institute) earns about USD 20,000 to 30,000 per month whereas in India, the figures would be about 1/3rd of that amount in the private hospitals and 1/10th in government hospitals .
- Centre for Neuroscience, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore
- Indian Academy of Neurosciences (IAN), Lucknow
- School of studies in Neuroscience, Jiwaji University, Gwalior
- National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences, Bangalore
(List is indicative)