Ross University Blog

VIEWPOINT: Can Those Who Practice Medicine Also Teach Medicine?

March 17, 2016

This article was written by Robert Dean, MD, RUSM OB/GYN Clerkship Director.

Are practicing medicine and teaching medicine pretty much the same thing? Maybe, maybe not. I always liked teaching.  Even as a resident I would take students and teach them.  Everybody said I was good at it.  As an attending, in private practice, I would give lectures and agreed to supervise residents. I even won a couple of awards from the staff.  So it was not much of a surprise when a local community hospital hired me to run their Family Medicine OB/GYN service.

Resident lectures, supervising clinics and deliveries -- it was fun and productive.  I felt I really knew my stuff and was doing a great job.  A few years later, my chairman came to me and told me we were getting OB/GYN residents and medical students from a nearby osteopathic school.  He told me that since I was already teaching the family medicine residents that I should create a curriculum for the residents’ and students’ rotation.  Well, after a few hours of seminars at the school, I wrote what I thought was a reasonable orientation and lecture schedule. Things went along pretty well.

How I felt about education was that clinical work is a great way to learn.  Work hard and you will learn and get a great grade.  I had no direct knowledge of exams, shelf, step, whatever. The students went back to their school for those things and I was not involved.  Evaluations?  I was never informed about how they could be best worded for the residency application.  Letters of recommendation?  Ha, I just wrote what I thought. What was I missing?  Did I even know that I was missing something?  I loved teaching and knew my way but only my way and not much else.

After about seven years, I was told that students from another school were coming, Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM).  Ok, students showed up, and not much changed.  I placed a lot of importance on all of the clinical matters but not much on academic.  However, after a couple of years I managed to make it to one of the leadership conferences that RUSM holds every year.  Great trip, I thought.  I did my job, I went to all the lectures, but there was one thing.  I had no idea what they were talking about.  It was like they were speaking a different language, a foreign language.

They were speaking the language of education, more important, the language of medical education.  I felt completely ignorant.  No one had ever taught me that. I was never exposed to it.  Maybe you can imagine how I felt.  I thought of all of the family medicine residents that I had taught.  I thought of all of the OB/GYN residents that I had taught.  I thought even more about all of the students that I had taught.

I thought maybe I should apologize.  How many might I have let down, not understood.  How many different ways are there to learn?  What was extremely important that I had just missed? Maybe I wasn't doing such a good job.

So, medical students everywhere: I apologize. 

But that is the past.  Over the past few years I have tried to change, tried to learn the language, tried to grow and you know what happened.  I have learned to expect more from myself.  I have learned to expect more from students.  I have learned how to push a little, pull a little, accept a little and give a lot more.  I am still learning.  I still feel ignorant sometimes, but not as much. Now I know that teaching medicine requires more than practicing medicine.

Medical education is our responsibility; it never stops and it goes on forever.

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