Bio-medical Science: Uplift the Health Sector in Sri Lanka

To anybody interested in science and its practical application, particularly in healthcare or related research or to open up the pathway leading to Doctor of Medicine (MD) from a recognized University around the globe, a degree in Biomedical Science comes to mind. In biomedical programmes the student will study life processes (structure and function of the human body) to gain an understanding of health and the methods for diagnosing, analysing and treating diseases.

Subjects covered in Biomedical Science Degree programmes are broadly similar to the pre-clinical components of a medical degree (Anatomy, Medical Biochemistry, Physiology, Cell Biology, Pharmacology etc.) with the addition of Molecular Biology, Statistics, Information Technology, the Screening and Evaluation of New Drugs, Laboratory Management and Environmental Health.

Dr. Rohan Perera

What is Biomedical Science?

Biomedical science is the application of biology-based science to medical use, be it research, health monitoring or treatment. A biomedical scientist (or biomedical doctor, biomedician, medical scientist), is a scientist educated in the field of biological science, especially in the context of medicine.

As 21st century medicine and healthcare becomes increasingly sophisticated, the demand grows for highly skilled biomedical scientists capable of performing and analysing a battery of technical procedures to screen, maintain and improve human health. Their role is to develop or improve treatments, vaccines, equipment, and techniques involving healthcare.

Typically, the professional biomedical student works in a hospital laboratory, and may be called on to analyse metabolic disorders, perform HIV testing, blood typing or genetic tests, diagnose tumours or identify an infectious micro-organism.

They tend to focus more on complex medical science and research over treatment techniques than their more patient-oriented physician counterparts. In doing so, the biomedical scientist requires an extensive knowledge of medical biochemistry, microbiology, clinical and medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, cell and molecular biology, anatomy, physiology, pathology and analysis of scientific information data. They must also be discreet, well-organised, meticulous and able to communicate their findings to medics delivering treatment.

What use is a Biomedical Science degree?
Biomedical Science is a continually changing, dynamic profession with long-term career prospects including management, research, education and specialised laboratory work. Most of the biomedical scientists around the globe work in hospitals and medical research Institutes to support the work of clinicians and general practitioners, but some are employed in public health (water, foodstuffs), veterinary laboratories (disease monitoring), blood banks, forensics, pharmaceuticals research /development and, of course, basic medical research. Because of the expected level of numeracy and organisation in a successful biomedical science trainee, many skills are more widely transferable and many also provide a stepping stone to further medical training.

In most countries, a period of in-service training and further study to specialise personal skills is required of the hospital biomedical scientist. The recent trend is that these scientists work closely with engineers and technologists to find innovative ways to cure diseases by developing advanced diagnostic tools and treatment methodologies where physicians play a pivotal role.
Why study Biomedical Science?

The Sri Lankan Health sector has undergone certain expansion in recent years to uplift the health facilities in the country. Over the years, Sri Lanka has achieved major gains in maternal and child health services as well as controlling the spread of many communicable diseases. Due to increased life expectancy and changing disease patterns, Sri Lanka now faces a major challenge to provide health services for non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, cancers, heart diseases, mental health disorders and injuries. The major obstacle for such expansion is the lack of Biomedical Scientists in this country. Enhancement of the health sector through applying novel diagnosing methods to identify the diseases and control the spreading of infectious disorders could play a vital role in enhancing the ailing health sector in this country.

Sri Lanka research infrastructure is at the forefront of new developments in medicine (especially with private healthcare providers) and underpins much of the delivery of medical and related training at university level. Many universities in the world offer Biomedical Science programmes to increase their scientific knowledge, and learn how to put it into practical use within medicine or related professions. A highly skilled Biomedical Scientist has an increasing demand in many countries around the globe to work at Universities, Research Institutes and Health Sector. Therefore, Sri Lanka needs biomedical programmes at any level to fulfil the requirements of the country. It is high time to introduce biomedical science programmes to this country either through the private partnership or through our conventional university system.

Forging partnership with Edexcel, BMS President, W A Wijewardana receives the Biomedical Science BMS - Edexcel partnership document from Mr. Patrick Casey, Director international, Edexcel UK in presence of Ms. Premila Paulraj , Territory Manager, Edexcel Indian Subcontinent .

Responsibilities of Biomedical Scientist

Taking it as read that you have an interest in and enthusiasm for understanding medical issues, biomedical science also requires ability in biology and chemistry, as they relate to human health, plus competent mathematical and organisational skills. Their general responsibilities include experiments, interpret medical results, keep records of data and use of computers to analyze them, teach and supervise students, apply for grants, collaborate with others in the same field, consider potential of research products, share results with colleagues, give presentations at conferences, write papers for publication, keep up to date via the Internet and scientific meetings, implement medical diagnosis and advise in medical treatment.

Biomedical scientists are the second largest profession registered by the Health Professions Council and make up a vital component of the healthcare team. Many of the decisions doctors make are based on the test results generated by biomedical scientists. Despite this, much of the general public are unaware of biomedical scientists and the important role they play. This lack of awareness extends to many doctors and nurses; often biomedical scientists are incorrectly referred to as laboratory technicians.

In recent years the research that is carried out either in Universities or Pharmaceutical companies by biomedical scientists has led to the development of new treatments for a wide range of degenerative and genetic disorders. Stem cell biology, cloning, genetic screening/therapies and other areas of biomedical science have all been generated by the work of biomedical scientists from around the world.

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