Thursday, June 07, 2007

An Email to Medical Students

This is an email a good friend and an excellent clinician and teacher sent to his medical students at Monash University of Malaysia. Reproduced with his permission.

I truly hope that you all will grow up to be good doctors. It is on this hope that teachers like us are willing to sacrifice time and effort to teach you all.

But you must first and foremost realise that what you are studying is not just any university course BUT studies that will bring you into the fold of a noble profession, helping the sick and the infirmed.

The hardest conviction to get into the mind of a beginner is that the education upon which you are engaged is not a college course, not a medical course, but a life course, for which the work of a few years under teachers is but a preparation .

What you are studying now is only the basics and the start of a long journey. I truly hope that you have the love for humanity to pursue this course NOT with the devotion of a student on an intellectual quest but of a LOVER pursuing the Love of his or her life. Medicine is NOT a course, not a means of earning a living BUT a LIFE.

You can all become good students, a few may become great students, and now and again one of you will be found who does easily and well what others cannot do at all, or very badly ; a genius.

We do not hope to train geniuses, we do NOT need to for they will arise above the crowd irrespective of what we do or not do. But we hope to train good decent people who wants to help the strickened. As I repeatedly said, I can only teach you how to THINK like a doctor, the facts of medicine you can easily teach yourself.

You all have to study hard, to spend time in the wards talking to patients and examining them. What is lacking is not the Map, you all are blessed with good teachers ever willing to guide you all, what is lacking is that you are sitting comfortably on the shore and trying to learn how to swim!

Concentration, practise and routine is the price the modern student pays for success. Thoroughness is the most difficult habit to acquire, but it is the pearl of great price, worth all the worry and trouble of the search. The run of the mill student lives an easy, butterfly life, knowing nothing of the toil and labor with which the treasures of knowledge are dug out or wrung by patient research.

The excellent student is a citizen of the world, a lover of humanity, a decent human for whom medicine is NOT for profits but for the alleviation of the pain of the sick.
This is the student that I hope you all are.

Divide your attention equally between books and patients. The strength of the student of books is to sit still—two or three hours at a stretch—eating the heart out of a subject with pencil and notebook in hand, determined to master the details and intricacies, focussing all your energies on its difficulties. Get accustomed to see the facts that you learn in the bodies of your patients, for that is the only way you can remember them, for the wards are the libraries of disease and the patient your true tutor.

I scold you all because I care, the day I stop scolding is the day when you realise that I had given up on you.

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Blogger doc said...

thanks for reproducing this very interesting message.

seriously, all these years i thought i was on the receiving end of a mouthful from the likes of Dhanaraj, Florence Wang & Lam Kuan Leng because i was a lousy student.

now, i know they cared enough to do so.(although this still does not disprove that i was a lousy student!!)

this email reminds me of someone i know. are his initials WYO?

9:57 PM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

hi doc,

Interesting, isn't it? Looking back at all the doctors who infuenced us the most, often it is those that we dislike or 'nasty' to us. Maybe it is because they cared some much or it is because of their pesonalities. Nevertheless we cannnot deny their formative influences.

Of the author? Right at the first guess. :)


12:36 PM  
Blogger keropok lekor said...

Thanks for such inspiring piece. An encouragement especially during my exam week now. haha.

10:22 PM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

hi keropok lekor,

all the best in your exam week. Shouldn't you be studying :)


3:04 AM  
Blogger keropok lekor said...

Regulating my sympathetic nervous response to stress and threat, through sympathetic inhibitors, namely blogging, chatting and procrastinating.

9:14 PM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

hmm, good strategy for exam week.

12:42 PM  

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