The Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Cardiology (PGDCC) is a two-year full-time residency program in Clinical Cardiology for post-MBBS doctors offered by Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Launched in 2005 by the then Honorable Health Minister of India, Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss, the PGDCC course provides specialized training to medical professionals in the field of Clinical Cardiology. The program was designed to develop a cadre of Clinical Cardiologists (non-interventional) to address the lack of rural cardiology services and was open to candidates holding an MBBS degree.

This PGDCC diploma is not a distance education or online program. It is the first face-to-face clinical residency program in Clinical Cardiology offered by IGNOU. The two-year clinical residency program was designed similarly to the way the National Board of Examinations (NBE) conducts DNB programs in the country.

The PGDCC qualification provides training in Clinical Cardiology (non-invasive procedures such as Echocardiography (ultrasound of the heart), etc.), similar to that provided at the super-specialty level of cardiology. The only difference is the absence of training in interventional cardiology. The course was conducted in 67 highly reputed tertiary care hospitals MCI/DNB accredited, including seven medical colleges (including Govt) in the country, and was a full-time in-house resident training program. The PGDCC course was taught along with DM and DNB Cardiology programs, and the teaching faculty remained the same for both PGDCC and DNB/DM Cardiology.

The PGDCC course was operational until 2013 (10 batches with 1700+ Doctors) when the erstwhile Medical Council of India denied recognition of the PGDCC qualification. IGNOU had applied twice to MCI, but on both occasions, MCI refused to recognize the PGDCC qualification. The grounds cited by MCI for non-recognition were that prior permission of the Central Government under section 10A of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, was not obtained, nomenclature of the qualification was not present in the Post Graduate Medical Education Regulations (PGMER), 2000, and as per section 10B of the Act, the medical qualification cannot be recognized.

The Indian Association of Clinical Cardiologist (IACC) filed a Writ Petition No. 11819/2016 in the Honorable High Court of Delhi against the MCI's decision. After thoroughly examining the matter and considering the provisions of the Indira Gandhi National Open University Act, 1985, and the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, the Honorable High Court, in its judgment dated September 17, 2019, held that prior permission of the Central Government under section 10A of the IMC Act, 1956, to IGNOU is not required. The court also quashed the stand of the MCI and directed MCI and the Central Government "not to PIGGY BACK on PGMER 2000" while reconsidering the application.

However, after the judgment, the erstwhile Board of Governors of the Medical Council of India (MCI) and National Medical Commission (NMC) came up with additional grounds for non-recognition of the PGDCC qualification. These grounds included issues related to nomenclature (PGMER 2000), mandatory inspection of examinations (PGMER 2000), and non-conforming hospitals under PGMER. These grounds suffer from manifest errors and are contrary to the judgment dated September 17, 2019. Specifically, they rely upon Section 10(A) of the IMC Act and PGMER 2000, which are framed pursuant to powers under Section 10(A). Therefore, the recommendations of the BOG(MCI) and NMC amount to willful disobedience of the Delhi High court, amounting to contempt. The lack of a thesis or research project by candidates is also not sustainable as no post-MBBS medical diploma courses in the country have a thesis.

Experts have deemed these additional grounds frivolous, as the principal stand of the MCI, which was based on the provisions contained under Section 10A of the IMC Act, 1956, including PGMER 2000, has been quashed by the Honorable Delhi High Court on September 17, 2019.

On the contrary, retrospective recognition was given to the post-MBBS two-year Diploma in Cardiology of GSVM Medical College, Kanpur, during 2019, despite the negative recommendations of the BOG(MCI) relying upon PGMER 2000 and without the assessment of the curriculum or inspection of the institution. The retrospective recognition was granted to all the holders of Diploma in Cardiology (GSVM, Kanpur) from 1974 to 1993 by the Central Government itself under section 11(2) of the IMC Act.

Most importantly, in March 2021, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS, Rishikesh), in collaboration with the Rila Institute of Health Sciences (RIHS), validated by Plymouth University, United Kingdom through 9-12 months of online lectures, also started a two-year full-time post-MBBS Diploma course in Non-Invasive Cardiology after getting approval from MoHFW, GOI in May 2020, and subsequently recognition from BOG(MCI), further supporting the recognition of the PGDCC qualification.

Despite all this, both the erstwhile BOG(MCI) and the present NMC continued to ignore the facts on record and kept on misguiding by denying the positive recommendations to the central government for recognizing PGDCC of IGNOU as per the directives of the Honorable Delhi High Court, amounting to nothing less than willful disobedience and contempt of the Delhi High Court.

It is worth noting that after completing this two-year full-time Clinical Cardiology residency program in Cardiology under IGNOU, many PGDCC doctors are working successfully outside India as Clinical Cardiologists in countries such as the US, UK, UAE, Singapore, Oman, Maldives, Bahrain, Saudi, Kuwait, and Kenya.

PGDCC doctors have served the nation as real frontline Corona Warriors by providing non-stop services of non-invasive cardiology (including echocardiography, emergency, and CCU management) to the nation during the pandemic when most of the invasive cath labs were closed across the nation. This fact cannot be denied, and therefore, their service to the nation deserves all the accolades and praise. Unfortunately, India has lost three of the PGDCC doctors during this pandemic while serving the nation, and their sacrifice and their families deserve all the respect and due recognition from the central government.

The government of India should deploy the ready brigade of 1700+ clinical cardiologists, PGDCC doctors (IGNOU), to develop rural cardiology and appoint them as clinical cardiologists in district and taluk hospitals, providing them with specialty cadre allowances, and fulfilling its vision to provide clinical cardiology (non-invasive) services to rural India.

The issue of recognizing PGDCC and appointing these doctors to rural hospitals has been raised multiple times in the Parliament, both in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, by members from various states such as Shri N K Premachandran & Prof P J Kurien from Kerala and Adv Kanakamedala Ravindra Kumar from Telangana.