The phenomenon of the were-professor

Back in medicine posting now. It seems like we’ve been on a long hiatus from actually being in the hospital. It’s nice to be back in the wards but it is of course a real challenge. To top it all off, we’ve been posted with the toughest unit in this hospital. They are strict, ruthless, and incapable of being satisfied. It was naturally our instinct to shudder and moan and play the “why me” game. But after thinking about it a little bit, I realized that it’s more likely than not that I will have to encounter these people at some point during my stay at this medical school. I’d rather encounter them as teachers than as examiners. Although you can’t say they’re ever really on “our side”, at least their aim is to teach us, not to fail us.
When I first came to India from the States after 16 years in the American education system, I really thought that the professor-student relationship here was bizarre and absolutely unheard of in American medical schools. We stand up when the professor enters the classroom, we only call them sir or madam, we greet them with the humblest “Good morning” we can muster, and we try not to look them in the eye. Coming from a small liberal arts college in Boston where I had lunch with my professors and still send them postcards, I took some time to get used to the way things work here. But considering that medicine is one of those “old guard” professions that don’t really change much, a la Patch Adams, I don’t think my Indian colleagues and I are alone in this culture of “what doesn’t kill ’em will make ’em stronger”. Today we had a twenty minute lecture on pleural diseases after which we had a five minute rapid fire interrogation, followed by a twenty minute lecture on how useless today’s medical students are and how we will probably become horrendous doctors. I’m not sure if the professors honestly believe that this is the way to turn us into conscientious, studious students, or if they just enjoy taking out all of their frustrations on us. I’m sure there’s a rational explanation, but I have to say sometimes it’s difficult to see. More on this later. Kidney calls.


One thought on “The phenomenon of the were-professor”

  1. As an american medical student, I think it’s better to fare on the side of strict, ruthless questioning sometimes making us go beyond our comfort zone in answering questions when learning. It’s uncomfortable to be “pimped,” which is the american med school term for these rapid fire questioning, but it’s much better than get these same questions when dealing with a case yourself years later or even worse from a patient who’s taken charge of their own care. The gaps in learning can form quickly and regardless of the professors’ motivations I think its good for us in the long run.
    Glad to see med students all over the world aren’t too different in how we train for this profession, at least in some ways.

    Good luck with your career and your efforts with Sangam! Quite commendable in more ways than one.

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