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Friday, November 27, 2015

Teaching Medical Students

I have received the following e-mail from Sanath. Please read it and offer comments.

While thanking all of you who have been active contributors, I wish to remind all viewers that what makes a post even more interesting is the series of comments that follows. You would have noticed that some posts have generated as much as 22 comments. It is heartening to note that at least a few are making good use of our batch blog. Keep up the good work!

Please don't forget that I do need to record here, achievements of our batch members. I have brought this up before and I do it again. Please shed your sense of modesty and do share with others what you have achieved. In fact, the "Creative Spot" feature was first conceived by Speedy and what a success it has turned out to be.



PS: I have deleted Sanath's mailing list in keeping with my policy of not exposing e-mail addresses.


Professor Sanath P. Lamabadusuriya

10:10 (4 hours ago)
Dear Friends,

As some of you all may be aware ,I have been teaching medical students from 1st April 1969. I have taught thousands of students in three medical faculties in Sri Lanka (Colombo,Ruhuna and Rajarata) and in England and  Saudi Arabia when on sabbatical leave. All this time I have been teaching final year students.From early April I was teaching final year students at Rajarata. About 3 weeks ago I started teaching 3rd year medical students at Rajarata ..Some of these students are having their first clinical appointment. It is an entirely new experience!

The thrill of getting them to listen to a heart murmur, palpate an enlarged spleen or liver for the first time is an experience by itself indeed.

Kind regards,



  1. Lama's post deserves attention from all of us who have had the pleasure of imparting our knowledge to others. My experience has been mainly in the UK although I did teach Medical Students in SL when I was a Demonstrator in Pharmacology in 1972-3 and again both students and doctors as Neurologist in Kandy in 1978-79. My teaching audience in the UK was very wide including Medical Students, Doctors, Social workers, Nurses, Physiotherapists, Occupational therapists and most importantly, patients and carers. Each Group posed a different challenge and for me the biggest challenge was to speak to patients, carers and social workers and others with no medical background. My objective was quite simple- at the end of my talk, I wanted to be sure that my audience grasped the messages I was trying to impart and left the lecture/tall.demonstration feeling happy and enthused by what they heard. I preferred more interactive sessions as I felt it gave the opportunity for them to question me and clear their doubts. I had a few broad principles when I did these. Firstly, I didn't hide under an aura of authority. I was always friendly and pleasant ( I hope!) and never hesitated to admit that I didn't know the answer.Secondly, I never ridiculed or admonished a student who was brave enough to ask me a question, even if it was deemed "silly" by some. Thirdly, I always summarised the main points of what I was trying to impart at the end and lastly, I NEVER read from a sheet in front of me or read the PowerPoint presentation to my audience. If it was a lecture with audio-visual facilities, I would always check them out before, have a back up and spoke to the audience, not looking back at the screen. I made sure the microphone was working and tested that my voice was heard at the back of the Lecture hall. Over the years, I also learnt to speak more clearly and slowly (speaking too fast is an Asian habit and also a sign that you have not got the content right to fit the time available, trying to rush through to complete on time and forgetting that the process (talk) is good only if the outcome (imparting the messages) was achieved. I always prepared thoroughly before a presentation and how nervous I was (and I was!) depended on how well I prepared and knew the subject myself. Most of these points were an attempt on my part not to be like some of the bad teachers I had both at Royal and at Medical Faculty and to be like some of he good ones . For medical students and doctors, I tried to impart two things. Firstly the fascination of solving a problem and secondly, the need to be kind, understanding and ethical to your patients. I am happy to say (shedding modesty as Lucky advised us) that at Manchester, I was consistently rated to be among the highest Medical Teachers. I still do a bit of teaching as I love it and also because I consider it the duty of every doctor to educate.

    I have touched on this before but I did my best to enthuse Medical Students and Doctors in the fascinating art of collecting evidence (History and examination) , diagnosis (collating all the evidence- both clinical and through investigations) and then the thrill of getting it right and helping the patient. This is sadly becoming a fading art, thanks to blind investigations, parrot like protocols, defensive medicine and the lure of personal and financial gain. I would like to add that I consider Dr Wickrema Wijenaike, Prof NDW Lionel and Dr Viswanthan as some of the best Teachers I ever had. My gratitude for them will always remain with me.

  2. Lucky, feel free to post the above separately if you feel that that might stimulate further discussion.

  3. Yes. I will reintroduce it as a separate post but under the same subject of "Teaching Medical Students" (continued). I will also write a special introduction with reasons for re-posting your comment. Comments made under both posts would obviously be in response to Sanath's original post. Thanks for giving it a healthy start.

  4. Thanks Lucky. I think I extended the scope of the discussion and that is why I thought a new thread might be appropriate. Let's see what sort of response we get and I was hoping to see your views also.