Human Factor In Medical Education

Human factor in medical education 1

I recently started noticing that the percentage of emails that contains complains has obviously increased, and usually it is asked from me to show those emails in my weekly column, but I got used to taking a stand on the subjects, whatever they maybe, before having trusted resources of information from all parties due to my distance away from details and events in what happens, and so I apologies for writing to many that I cannot publish what has been sent to me due to the limitation of the information provided to me on the subject.

But this time, I found that the subject is worth publishing, as to recently I have received many letters from students in Med school at King Abdul-Aziz university pleading me to write about their suffering, and due to the limited space, I will publish a summary of each letter:

“By the name of my colleagues in Medical school at King Abdul-Aziz University in Jeddah (3rd year) we send you this letter whishing that it could take up some space to your interest, and for your pen to write what we suffer from in this sector (Chemical studies Sector) and what goes against principals of education and human values, as they enjoy failing students, did it ever happen that you heard of a success percentage that does not exceed 32%. Yes! This has happened to us last year, and this year we were surprised with test questions, I don’t know if they were impossible, unfeasible or what? All students have signed a petition and have been sent to the dean, but we don’t know its destiny, this sector of the university does not know principles of mercy on earth.

And the second letter, says:

“ We the students of medical school in King Abdul-Aziz university in Jeddah, plead your attention, to appeal to the minister of higher education on what happened to us with the Chemical biology subject that became a haunting ghost for medical students, but this time was the worst of all; it is known that test questions comes at the end of each school year that is the total of what has been studies all around the year, it is a measurement that can be solved by all students (on average basis) but we were surprised that questions were focused from 2 doctors only, who are known for their toughness, I don’t want to prolong this letter, as we have signed a petition from all students on the refusal of such barbarian ways those questions were put in, knowing that this subject is taught by 4 doctors, we would appreciate it if you can deliver our complaint to the minister of higher education, thanking toy for your usual cooperation”.

I found myself unable to state for a fact the accuracy of given information due to my work in Boston, but I found it my duty to share my experience in medical school at George Washington University where I have studied medicine, and then Harvard University in Boston.

There was representatives speaking on behalf the students, and those are always nominated always by the students, although we were suffering from what you were suffering from, considering the nature of medical materials, but we never felt oppressed, which used to ease any suffering and the feeling of knowing the our voice is heard officially, and suggestions are seriously considered, even in some cases we were able to change tutors holders of PHDs, and in many times we were able to cancel questions from tests that most students couldn’t answer, and this confirms by itself that the question is misplaced.

A percentage of success such as this (32%) is a reflection of the educational system failure, before even considering that the students failed in the medical field, and this is the point of view our doctors believed in Harvard and George Washington Universities.

To build a successful doctor it needs more than scoring good on a test due to memorizing information, and then put it on a test paper, and so we find medical school in Harvard has taken out most of the testing and traditional lectures system and replaced it with a new system that depends on discussing clinical issues between students and bringing patience to speak with, and instilling a human dimension in each subject and disease that is studied, and I hope that this is the same goal for the medical college in Jeddah.

But I also believe that what we plant today in our student children our communities will reap tomorrow when those students become doctors and the community comes to them as patients needing someone to hear their complaint and to respond with their suffering with a human heart.

The real value of human giving is sharpened with practical experiences not theoretical information, as information is memorized today but forgotten tomorrow, but the human experience can make tomorrows people.


 Human factor in medical education 2

Today we continue the article I started in the last episode, which I mentioned some letters I have received from students in medical schools in our Saudi Universities, complaining about the methods of teaching medicine.

I mentioned in that article that medical school in Harvard University has changed the system of testing and lectures with a new system that relay mainly on in being involved in the process and include the human, ethical, social and psychological factors in each subject and studied case, and that this pioneering experience of the university has proved its success all over the U.S, and considering that it became a model to be followed, even ‘Tedd Copple’ one of the most famous T.V producers in America has dedicated a whole episode on Friday the 6th of may 2000 in his well-known show ‘Night Line’ about this experience.

The show has recorded one of the lectures in Harvard’s medical school, and the subject was on (Neuro Fibromatosis) which is one of the neural skin diseases which is painful on both physical and psychological levels, which results in forming pimples and warts on the skin, and in some cases can cover the whole body and distorted it in a very disgusting horrifying and painful way; the patient was 75 years old, she volunteered to educate students about this disease and to speak about her physical and psychological ordeal, and what does it mean to be infected with this disease, the purpose of those scientific practical lectures is to teach students to look behind the disease on the human patient that is suffering behind that mutilated mask, and this is one of the most psychological and ethical features that has to be embraced by each doctor, which is to treat humans (All humans) with their different images, shapes and problems, and never to judge the patient, but to reach out with a helpful hand to a human being with no conditions, speculations or questions.

The patient took out a picture of her when she was 20 years old, before being infected with the disease, she was a lady with immaculate beauty, and here the students were shocked due to seeing the huge change as a cause of the disease, even some has cried, and some students even after the lecture approached and hugged the patient for her courage and role that she does in teaching students those unforgettable lessons.

The students at Harvard Medical School confirm that each one of them comes out from those scientific practical lectures with great lessons that changes their point of view in many things and issues, and creates different people with more humanity in them, in addition to the medical information that is connected to a living human being and their real suffering sticks deep in the students mind throughout their lives, which does not happen in diseases that are studied through books that do not exceed to be more than words and pictures on paper.

The T.V producer made an interview with the Dean of Harvard Medical School (Dean Feldman) explaining the new method of education in medical fields and substituting all lectures with scientific and practical discussions, solving medical problems and teaching students how to deal with human beings, and how to speak to them, how to listen to them, and how to read their expressions, and how to react with human suffering.

The Dean confirmed that studies showed that many patients complain that the doctor does not listen, explain or spend enough time with their patients, he also confirmed that medical education is not studied in books but in practical patterns and human examples where doctors can’t be doctors without this, which is an aspect that is neglected in most medical universities around the world, and even if found, it does not start until the last years of education, where the right way is to start from the day students enter medical schools, and to be a system followed in all lectures with no exception.

I call upon all intellectuals and medical educators in the Arab world to teach the educational system of Harvard Medical School, as I believe that this medical system I witness with my own eyes in Harvard has humane dimensions that reminds me back of many educational principals that I have read about in Islamic Medical universities and guru’s of Islamic Medicine when the west and the rest of the world was enrolling in our universities to get education, leading with Humanitarian Medical Science.