Saturday, March 18, 2006

What Will You Do?

Sorry for being missing in action for the last few weeks. The course is driving me crazy, and the cough I am having now is virtually bringing my lungs out. What an irony that while we are studying respiratory diseases now, half of the lecture hall are coughing away spraying their germs like perfume aerosols.

Yesterday I had my weekly PBL in the morning, and something that happened disturbed me badly. Just a scenario for everyone to consider:

Say you are a practising family doctor now, and your former coursemate is practising in a suburb nearby. One day the former coursemate ringed you up and asked for your opinion regarding a sign of his patient which he's unable to diagnose. You studied like a nerd back in med school, so you have a clear idea of what the sign means.

The question is - Will you give him the answer?
Now maybe some are going to say, "Of course not! He's unable to give the diagnosis, now if he's going to lose his customer/patient, so be it!" But if we give it a second thought, why did you become a doctor, in the first place?

A slightly similar scenario happened yesterday. Just so that everyone knows what I am talking about, I would just introduce Problem Based Learning briefly. Problem Based Learning is one of our course modules in which medical students are divided into small groups of 10, in which medical cases are discussed on every Monday and Friday. On Monday every group is given a case which is the same for everyone. On that day, we will go on with our routine of making hypotheses, constructing mechanism, suggesting types of medical examination and identifying learning issues. After Monday, everyone goes home and does their own research regarding the learning issues. On Friday, we will present our learning issues and bring the case to a closure. Oh ya, the most important thing about the PBL: we are marked according to our participation, presentation, knowledge, teamwork etc, and the marks count towards the final semester result. The PBL cases will also be incorporated into our final exams.

Eeerm, oh ya, to make the whole incident clear, I have to talk about another not-so-intuitive term first - TopClass. Topclass is basically an online forum in which we get our weekly lecture notes, have discussions online and post our PBL discussion notes every week. The PBL discussion notes, in this case, is available for access to everyone including people from other groups.

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A screenshot of TopClass.
So what happens is, at the end of the PBL, some people would visit every group and leech off the best mechanism notes and especially constructed mechanisms.

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A screenshot of PBL mechanism.

Eerm, so I have rambled for too long, let me get into the point. So it was on Friday that we had our learning issues presentation and everyone was trying their best to get the better of others' ass. Humiliation is not a virtue in PBL, impression and flamboyance is. There came a time when a group member rose and presented her meticulous mechanism on the whiteboard. It's basically about the neurological control of respiration with those never-heard-before words like Lower Pontine Reticular Formation, Nuclues of Tractus Solitarius, Pneumotaxic centre etc, and they were covered in our lecture just the day before the PBL. So she went on and constructed her own mechanism from the disorganized lecture notes and presented it impressively.

I admit that I had been impressed by her performance until the moment of truth - she went back to her seat and said, "Eeerm, can we keep this mechanism among ourselves? Don't post it on TopClass because others can leech it."


What's the rationale of keeping good things to ourselves when the point of PBL itself is to share? What is knowledge without sharing? We aren't even comparing among PBL groups, the notes are just for personal reference. I understand that you might have spent hours in constructing this mechanism, but for goodness' sake, do you lose anything by sharing with others? Has our malignant kiasuism deteriorated to such a state that we disadvantage others to our own advantage?

Now those are the same people who told everyone that they wanted to be a doctor to save life. Oh yeahh, oh yeahh.... Save your patients' lives, don't care about the others' patients, ya?


hL said...

wah... all i can say is "wah..." how can? hopefully, u won't turn out like tht in the future. :-P

Winson Kang said...

Yes, i couldn't agree more with you. Unfortunately, the same thing happens all the time in my Uni as well. Well, i guess it's part of human's nature, just a small part of it, and the rest would be the personality and the effect of environment, in this case, the tough academic environment. All these sometimes make someone lose of focus on the purpose of doing something. Well, if someone has found something that's useful, giving it away to someone else takes nothing away from that someone, right? :-)

Winson Kang said...

oops, should be lose focus! paiseh.

renjie said...

Knowledge is to be shared. No point keeping the knowledge to yourself when you can benefit others by sharing your knowledge without harming your own intelligence level.

I always dislike this kind of people, and there are too many incidents in which I've seen how selfish and kiasu people can be, from primary until secondary school, and even now in university... Heck, as if sharing a little bit of knowledge will make someone more stupid.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree. Although you all go 'Whatt!!??' and 'Wahh!!' when you read that, and I must admit that I thought that too, but after thinking of it..I say she has every right to do that. This pissed me off: "So what happens is, at the end of the PBL, some people would visit every group and leech off the best mechanism notes and especially constructed mechanisms."
I cannot believe that some people would actually DO that. Its just WRONG. The girl probably spent half her night constructing her mechanism, and speaking of kiasu attitudes, its the people who go looking for the 'best' mechanisms who are kiasu.

youngyew said...

Knowledge is to be shared, not to be kept to yourself. The reason human being has successfully built the civilisation today is because we share knowledge, not because we keep our own knowledge.

By the way, I do agree with anonymous that she has the absolute right to do that. It's just that what she has rightfully done is selfish. Some of the people would never share their own lecture notes but would leech off others at their will. This is their right, and I would say it's the "right to be selfish".

day-dreamer said...

I had such experience before too, but it's merely personal conflict which I had long ago posted about in my blog.

Sometimes I don't feel like telling people more about what I know, because I thought to myself, what benefits would I get? These people are also treating me like nothing, taking me for granted, leave me aside after getting what they want.

But then, 我过不了自己那关. So normally I'll just tell, thinking one good deed deserves another. 好心有好报嘛!

It wasn't until lately that I feel really proud for being not so selfish. Someone whom I had helped last year actually gave me some pretty important information which I believe she could keep to herself if she wanted to. So... a good deed deserves one after all!

StanleyYP said...

im in london, wil read ur long posting later when im back.
jz want to express my concern on ur illness. hv been coughing too, in fact it was spreading through the whole cambridge before everyone left for easter holiday. recovering. n hope that u would recover soon. dun work too hard.
(officially starting my revision for exam tomorrow..sien...)

Casper said...


i think we should share what we have. it's knowledge after all, and knowledge should be shared with all...

and i don't think of how they will treat me long as i do something that i know is correct, however they want to treat me afterwards is up to them...