By Prof. Neluka Fernando Hony. Vice Chancellor, KIU
Biomedical science is an exciting field with spectacular career opportunities for those seeking employment today. To most the actual scope and who a biomedical scientist is still an enigma in Sri Lanka. A brief introduction, the field of study and the job scope with special reference to foreignemployment opportunities with a degree in biomedical science are discussed.
A biomedical scientist who could also be referred to as a “medical scientist” or “clinical laboratory scientist” is trained in biology, particularly in the context of medicine.These scientists work to gain knowledge on the main principles of how the human body works and to discover new ways to diagnose,cure or treat disease by developing advanced diagnostic tools or new therapeutic strategies. It further involves a sound knowledge on research, the cutting edge of knowledge empowerment. The research of a biomedical scientists is referred to as biomedical research. In recent decades research opportunities are made available from basic science through clinical research to health services research, through advances in the biomedical field.
The fields of study for a biomedical scientist has a greater scope and covers areas such as biochemistry, molecular biology, epidemiology, haematology, transfusion medicine, histopathology, immunology, microbiology , parasitology, pharmacology, anatomy physiology and laboratory management.Fields such as basic and advanced pharmacology, clinical/systemic microbiology and pathology, applied hematology and biostatisticsare the newer fields thathave been addedto the biomedical science degree, thus giving it a wider scope.
Furthermore, the approach for biomedical science teaching emphasizes and focuses on a particular system of the body or disease process as a whole, drawing upon multiple specialties in teaching rather than concentrating on isolated subjects. In other words it’s a clinical based multi- disciplinary approach. Given this new method of teaching, currently,especially in developed countries the graduated biomedicalscientist remain interdisciplinary and do not specialize in just one subject, although there is opportunity to specialize inthe given fields.
Biomedical scientists typically are degree holders and usually take postgraduate studies to further enhance their career path. This degree enables one to seek faculty positions at academic institutions, as well as senior scientist positions in industry.The category with tenured faculty positions at universities, colleges, non-profit research institutes, and sometimes hospitals, usually afford more intellectual freedom and have time for research. In addition they are able to attend scientific conferences, compete for research grant funding, publish scientific papers, and take up teaching for undergraduates.
Further the skills gained on a biomedical science degree helps one to embark on a range of scientific careers, discovering vital medical developments and improving the lives of others. The direct career opportunities available include biomedical scientist, healthcare scientist( clinical biochemistry), healthcare scientist (genetics), healthcare scientist (haematology), healthcare scientist(immunology) and microbiologist.
Yet another attractive opportunity for those pursing the biomedical science degree is the opening for the industry at for-profit corporations. Employment is usually at large pharmaceutical companies or biotechnology companies. These positions in industry tend to pay higher salaries than those at academic institutions. However, the research oriented bio scientist in industry would have less intellectual freedom to engage in research than those in the academic sector, owing to the ultimate goal of producing marketable products that benefit the company.
In recent years, more biomedical scientists have pursued careers where advanced education and experience in biomedical research is needed outside of traditional laboratory research. These areas include patent law, consulting and science journalism.
When seeking a course to study biomedical science, employability/recognition of the degree is of vital importance. The course content, the quality of teaching, the learning environment, research activities and the facilities available are key factors looked in to byemployers. For a degree to be recognized it must integrate a basic knowledge of human biology, cellular and molecular biology and analytical techniques with the specialist subjects. High quality courses integrate aspects of clinical and routine laboratory diagnosis with a holistic view of biomedical sciences. These broader courses prepare one for a wider range of careers, including university research, government- funded research laboratories, and a whole range of careers in the global pharmaceutical and biosciences industries.
According to the national human resources and employment policy of Sri Lanka, the increasing demand for supply of workers in the mid professional, skilled and semi-skilled job categories have not been met in foreign employment for Sri Lanka. In 2009 there was a demand for 784,212 jobs however only 247,119 was supplied. Biomedical scientists are listed as a skilled occupation in many of the developed countries’ skilled occupation list category (SOL) for migration. Thus a biomedical scientist is at an advantage when seeking employment not only in the local job market but in the foreign market as well.
At KIU which is a Ministry of Higher Education accredited, University Grants Commission recognized degree awarding institute: the first batch of Bachelor of Science Honours in Biomedical Science has commenced. KIU is proud to be able to award a completely Sri Lankan degree in Bachelor of Science Honours in Biomedical Science approved by the MoHErecognized by the UGC. We at KIU offer a highly qualified teaching panel with a state of the art laboratory for training these graduates. The first batch of undergraduates enrolled in Bachelor of Science Honours in Biomedical Scienceare on the way to achieving their life goals.
In conclusion today, globally science and technology are advancing rapidly,providing opportunities to improve the quality of care for people at all stages of their lives. Care delivery is also changing, with new models of integrated care emerging for different care settings. Roles for the healthcare science workforce has changed as a result. Thus the urgent need to modernize scientific careers to provide competent and highly equipped staff with the right set of knowledge and skills for today and for tomorrow.
The writer is holder of MBBS, Dip Micro (UOC) PhD (LONDON, UK)
By Prof. Neluka Fernando Hony. Vice Chancellor, KIU