Born into a family of doctors, Dr Neeraj Raj always aspired to be like his mother who approached medicine as an art. “I was bad at math and good at science. But I always liked drawing, painting and singing. I pursued both side by side. My paintings have been exhibited several times. I did cartooning for major newspapers and that led me to animation, a medium I thoroughly enjoy, being a computer geek.”
This 48-year-old completed his MBBS from Osmania University, Hyderabad, and practised for three years, but decided to move on to teaching medicine using technology. “I have been exposed to technology and media from my early years. I can put myself in the shoes of a medical student to understand their difficulties as we have ourselves gone through those difficulties and to develop products and product lines and to support it as a doctor who wants to take care of the entire person than a disease.”
His interest in art led him to apply the same to medicine. “I discovered that I was actually enhancing my understanding and my ability to express became more visually oriented. I secured gold medals in anatomy, pathology and general medicine and distinctions in various other subjects just by painting my answers in the exams! I could explain medical concepts through art much better than others who wrote many pages. So I thought of developing my future career in communicating medicine.”
This led to the launch of MEdRC, as a small set up to help teachers to teach and students to learn medicine using audio visual aids. They soon developed computer graphics and animation technologies for a better learning environment. “The current project to digitise the medical curriculum using graphics, animation, multimedia as well as the IT and communication technologies was initiated in 2006.
Through distance education, tie-ups with universities and professional associations, MEdRC’s courses will lead to postgraduate certification, diploma and degree programmes like a BSc health science degree. It can help people get jobs in the health industry like medical informatics, tourism, health insurance management, etc. “Medicine is predominantly taught in English globally. MEdRC has plans to go internationally because teachings and diseases are exactly the same. India has so much clinical material that we can teach the entire world medicine,” he says. Prior to MEdRC, he ran Dr Neeraj’s Multimedia Studios, which had installed Touch-Screen InfoKiosks all over Hyderabad in 1994 and later, with Sriven Multi-Tech, internet-based WebKiosks in 1999.
Combining his multi-disciplinary knowledge, Dr Neeraj started using tools like animation, video and graphics in very different ways — combining them with knowledge from people like educationists and software experts to develop e-learning platforms and knowledge products that seek to revolutionise the way we learn. This is the foundation for a virtual medical university, he believes.