24 Nov 2011


The next day, I met Little Red at the bedside tutorial. I had actually seen her during ward round already, just that I was not as observant as HC in regard to the hairstyles of girls.

We saw a patient with excellent physical signs of left homonymous upper quadranopia and hemineglect. After a student had checked the eyes, I asked whether he had completed the examination of the optic nerves. He said yes, and I explained that the examination of the eyes should include visual acuity, visual field, light reflex, accommodation reflex and ophthalmoscopy.

“The accommodation reflex is eye convergence and pupillary constriction, isn’t it?” Little Red raised her hand and asked.

“Yes, it is,” I answered.

“So it isn’t a test of the optic nerve, is it?”

“Um,” I hesitated, and then continued, “but the afferent pathway is through the optic nerve. A good point, though.”

Later that day, I met PC at lunch. The pathologist complained that his daughter’s Chinese teacher was totally inflexible. “She insists that the students must follow her way of writing Chinese characters, though there are actually more than one ways to write the same word.” I listened in silence and was quite happy that I was never offended by the questions and challenges from students. Over years, I had been wrong on many occasions. But if my students can ask questions and find the answers themselves, who say this is not a job well done?

17 Nov 2011

The Girl with Red Hair

“That girl was most impressive,” HC was referring to a year 3 student with impeccable knowledge. Seeing that we were not sure who he was talking about, he further described her as “the girl with red hair”.

“Not again,” moaned K. “I am sick of medical students with hair coloring.”

HC reassured him that the girl was not like that, “It was just a faint shade of dark red.”

Not long ago, a male student without a tie would already face the wrath of the professor. Now hardly anyone utters a word even when a student wears a Real Madrid shirt in the ward. Rules and tradition are shaky before a generation who only considers their teachers as ‘friends’ on Facebook.

“If you criticize their dress code, they won’t listen and will just think you are old fashioned,” HC explained.

K was still unconvinced and shared his experience of meeting students in shorts and scandals. “What would our patients think?”

That is more to the point. It should not be what we want. How the appearance may affect the work is much more important.

For me, I just need my students to be professional. If they aren’t, dressing like one hardly helps.

10 Nov 2011


Last week, Sir Alex Ferguson celebrated his 25th anniversary as the Manager of Manchester United. Many superstars thanked him for the teaching and inspiration. While success of the Club is taken for granted nowadays, it is difficult to imagine that Sir Ferguson spent his first three years struggling without a single trophy. During an interview, the Director revealed that the board of directors actually considered sacking him on at least three occasions for unsatisfactory club performance. Looking back, keeping the manager was one of the wisest decisions in the history of football club management.

On the other hand, I could not help thinking how many people were less fortunate and had their careers cut short before their effort paid off. This is not unique to football fields. The academic arena is no less fierce.

“How should leaders decide then?” I asked my mentor one day. “People should be given opportunities to develop. However, when a person is not productive, it is quite possible that he really does not have potential.”

“You should look at what the person is doing,” he answered. “In contrast, bad leaders only look at results. If you cannot distinguish between the two, you will always pay for results and can never attract talents.”

3 Nov 2011


As usual, the issue of student discipline was brought up at this year’s curriculum retreat. JC and others mentioned examples such as students skipping classes and coming to the wards in track suits or slippers. Some interns slept through the night without answering a call. The list could go on and on.

This year, however, JW tried to cool down the discussion. “We have to understand that this is grief reaction to loss. It is a loss of childhood. We have to be sympathetic and help the students go through this stage,” said the winner of Vice-Chancellor’s Exemplary Teaching Award.

During a chat the following Monday, JW further remarked that I had been too harsh to the students. “All right, I will be more sympathetic in the future,” I promised.

What JW said was true, and many graduates are indeed responsible and competent. Alas, we are sometimes putting our patients in the hands of children with grief reaction.