By Nihal D Amerasekera
Saturday, November 28, 2015
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
― William Arthur Ward
We were medical students in the Golden era of medical education in Sri Lanka. Our teachers educated and inspired us to become who we are today.
Teaching is one of the most rewarding aspects of professional life. It began in 1979 when I was appointed Senior Registrar to the University College Hospital in London rotating to the Childrens’ hospital in Great Ormand Street and the National hospital at Queens Square. I must confess lecturing to medical students was initially a shock to my system until I acquired the skills for public speaking. Then on it became a most satisfying experience to which I look back with great pride.
As a Consultant Radiologist in a District General Hospital where medical students came on rotation from Cambridge and the Royal Free hospital in London the teaching was less structured and to a smaller group at a time. Teaching registrars in Radiology and coaching them for the fellowship was a most fulfilling commitment.
As we all know teaching is an art and a science. Some are born with it and other acquire it in the fullness of time. Sadly there are a few who just cannot teach and end up in important teaching positions in university, bungling their way to retirement. The ability to teach has no direct relationship to the ability to pass examinations. Nowadays after a lecture the students are encouraged to fill up a questionnaire about the performance of the lecturer and such feedback helps to eliminate “incompetence”. Help is at hand to learn the teaching skills in a Diploma Course in Education which can be done part time in 12 months. This is now an important requirement for all full time lecturers in Universities in the UK.
It is a wonderful experience to meet medical students and registrars whom I have taught, many years later at conferences and medical meetings. Fortunately I don’t recall any “Rajasuriya” moments.
Although I enjoyed teaching I was not prepared to give up my clinical commitment to embark on teaching fulltime. Teaching patients is now a team effort. The Clinical Meetings are attended by all relevant disciplines when the diagnosis and treatment is discussed. This is far removed from the scene in the old days when the consultant clinician was the king of all he surveyed and did what he pleased. The downside of the new system is the lack of a clinical lead who is responsible for the patient from admission to discharge. But the benefits of the new method outweigh the drawbacks.
I admire enormously the decision Sanath and Chandrasiri have taken to remain in Sri Lanka to teach medical students who will take care of the health of the people of our motherland. We applaud their commitment to medical education.