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This issue of CDTL Brief is the last of a two-part Brief that features the teaching practices of the 2004/2005 Annual Teaching Excellence Award (ATEA) winners.

September 2006, Vol. 9, No. 4 Print Ready ArticlePrint-Ready
The Making of a Doctor— Perspective of an Anatomist
Associate Professor Charanjit Kaur
Department of Anatomy

Teaching medical students is rather different from teaching students in other disciplines. The output of medical education is clearly defined-doctors. Except for the occasional individual, most medical students and their career paths are fairly well charted. Thus from their first day in the university, medical students have to be nurtured towards that final goal.

Lecturers in the medical school at NUS do not only teach a particular module or a component of a module. In fact, no subject in the medical school is designed as a stand alone topic or theme; every part of the curriculum is a continuum geared towards the production of doctors (the end product). Lecturers are thus part of a team participating in this production venture and role models whom students can emulate. Classroom teaching forms only a fraction of medical education. The essence of learning medicine is a balance between learning the science and the art of it. While the science is taught through classroom teaching, students learn the art of medicine by observing their role models (i.e. their lecturers). Since the doctor's role is perceived in clearly defined parameters in the society, lecturers play a major role in moulding medical students into this societal model.

Having participated in the nurturing of about 4,000 doctors, I will share some aspects of teaching excellence that goes into the teaching and making of doctors in this article.

The concept of the lecturer as a role model is perhaps most applicable to the medical profession. Each lecturer leaves his or her own 'imprint' on students and in the medical world, it is extremely important that he/she does not influence students negatively. I always aim to leave with my students the importance of imparting medical knowledge in a firm but compassionate way. Discipline in my classroom is a buzzword among students. They clearly understand that when it comes to work, no nonsense is tolerated. However, within this disciplined world, students know they can approach me within and outside formal teaching hours should they have difficulties understanding any aspect of what is taught. This adds to my teaching, a 'maternal' dimension that encourages students to approach me with ease.

The teaching of anatomy and its components can sometimes be rather dry and thus it is crucial to bring the subject to 'life'. Injecting clinical scenarios into the subject is one of the ways I bring home the relevance of both macroscopic and microscopic parts of the human body to students. Using modern technology allows even the most microscopic structures to be animated and presented in a manner that facilitates understanding. As a medical lecturer, having a good knowledge of the subject matter is of paramount importance to me. Thus, when students labelled me as a 'walking encyclopaedia of anatomy', it was the best compliment I have ever received.

Problem-based learning was introduced in the medical school a few years ago to enable medical students to think through a clinical case scenario and piece together various subject matters to arrive at a diagnosis. I have been actively involved in teaching problem-based learning modules and again, this has to be done creatively to enable students to effectively employ what they have learnt during didactic and practical sessions, as well as information they have gathered from other sources to solve the problems presented.

The concept of formality of thought and conduct is, to me, fundamental to the teaching of medical students. Even when humour is injected into a subject, it is important that this be done in good taste and without any flippancy. The human body must be treated with respect at all times, even in death. I always aim to impart this formality of thought to students so that they will carry it with them to the wards and patients' bedsides.

Formality of conduct must necessarily be part and parcel of a doctor's life especially in his/her dealings with patients of all races, gender and creed. This formality must be inculcated in medical students from their first day in the university. A lecturer's own behaviour and attitude in his or her dealings with the students best impart formality of conduct. Thus, I always strive to bring out my students' best in academic matters and other areas of their lives, with an aim to make formality of conduct students' second nature.

In summary, my formula for excellence in teaching is to be first and foremost, an effective role model to inculcate in students the concept of formality of thought and conduct. Beyond that, what is required is an excellent grasp of the subject that must be presented creatively in a disciplined environment.

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Inside this issue
The ‘Pavlovian Reflex’ in Students
Applying Principles of Constructivist Pedagogy to Foreign Language Teaching
Holistic Approach to Educating Students for a Win-Win-Win-Win
Harnessing Work Experiences of MBA Students for Better Teaching and Learning
The Making of a Doctor— Perspective of an Anatomist
  My Approach to Educating Students