25 Jul 2013


Last week, my friend AC invited me to write a review with him. At the end, he sheepishly added, “We expect the work in two weeks. The deadline has already passed.”

I sighed. Although I know many people who miss deadlines all the time, I have never done it before and find it hard to understand.

When I mentioned this to GW, she was most understanding. “It is quite natural. After you have missed the first deadline, everything else is postponed and will not be finished on time.”

“But then at least you should turn down new requests when you know you can’t meet the deadline?”

“When that becomes a habit, it does not matter anymore.”

What really surprises me, however, is that punctuality has little correlation with success. One of the best clinical researchers I know is notorious for being late. He would not even start working until he has received the first reminder. Yet people continue to beg him for help the next time. In a way, being good is more important than being punctual.

18 Jul 2013


Last weekend, our team attended a research workshop. That evening, my teammates taught me to play Monopoly Deal. I must say I have not formulated any winning strategy yet. Everything I put on the table was snatched by the other players.

At one point, SW charged me 5 million. I protested, “But I have no money. Why don’t you collect money from richer people?”

“Because I want your land,” SW explained. After a while, he added, “This is what happens in real life.”

How very true.

11 Jul 2013


On the next day, AL showed me a set of photos she took during our medical grand round. I was wondering why she took photos of us, but alas, it was not us.

That was a student bored to death by our talk. The gentleman first took off his sandals, and then rubbed his toes one by one with his fingers. He turned on his laptop and flipped between Facebook and Yahoo. Despite all these, we speakers seemed not aware of his annoyance. He finally gave up and slept with his mouth wide open.

After seeing the photos, I was first quite defensive. “But we didn’t initiate that. The external examiners made us run that talk.” On second thoughts, I owed that student an apology.

That said, while we were waiting for the grand round to start, Szeto and I actually discussed what we would rather talk about. I suggested detective stories.

“Nah,” Szeto sneered, “that is beyond your expertise. If you talk about Mozart, I would have to discuss Beethoven.”

That would be interesting. One of the theories is that Mozart died of poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis (Ann Intern Med 2009;151:274-8). Perfect for a renal grand round.

4 Jul 2013


Yesterday, I had the pleasure of conducting the first medical grand round of the academic year with Szeto. I have always dreamed of doing a grand round with the walking Harrison. The intellectual exchange must be profound. Unfortunately, we took up a rather dull topic – introduction of the practical examination system.

Incidentally, I came across a comment by our student shortly before our presentation (http://liralen.xanga.com/700427944/item/). She was referring to my old entry on examination tactics (http://vwswong.blogspot.hk/2009/04/examination.html). That was a quote from Sima Yi:


According to our student, it's a pity that there is no significant difference in terms of prognosis of the last 3 options. This cannot be farther from the truth.

Above all, the final year professional examination has the lowest failure rate compared to all other examinations our graduates will face in the future. History is full of examples of students talking nonsense throughout the examination and still becoming doctors. Just this year for example, I encountered a girl with impeccable English but undetectable knowledge. Almost every sentence she said was wrong, but she picked up our non-verbal cues and rephrased her statement immediately every time. Szeto also examined her and arrived at the same conclusion. To our utter astonishment, all ten examiners passed her.

Now, saying that the last three strategies make no difference would certainly disappoint Mr Sima. When you do not know the answer, you can try to talk about things you know first and work the way through, skillfully change the topic, or sincerely admit your deficiencies. All these tactics seldom lead to failure.

Sir Ferguson enjoys big wins, but also understands the importance of drawing a difficult game. Only the team that does not give up can win the league.