Smart and Brainy = “Good” Doctor! Yeah Right!

The stultifying stupefying status of our education system is suddenly being talked about with renewed vigor, thanks to “3 Idiots”.
It’s not just that teachers don’t inspire. Students hardly ever ask questions and usually behave like zombies, few parents create a conducive, questioning environment at home and job-givers are rarely enthused by non-conforming job applicants. We are all equally to blame and in this collective satisfaction that no single individual or institution can be brought to task, no real change happens. The few “different” and successful experiments unfortunately only prove the rule.
This is why we have so many anomalies, for example, with doctors and medicine. Being a doctor is not really about how much you can rattle out about anatomy, pathology, medicines, surgical procedures, etc, but is more about the ability to apply this knowledge in real life, on real human beings, using all these facts to make daily judgment calls, adapting this knowledge to the individual patient in front of us, with the utmost empathy and concern, in an attempt to do as much good as possible and as little harm. And so, though knowledge is important, more important is the ability to take correct action in as caring a manner as possible.
It is this discrepancy between “brains” and “good doctors” that is responsible for this 2 x 2 grid.
1. Academically brilliant/good and a good doctor
2. Academically brilliant/good and a poor doctor
3. Academically average/poor and a good doctor
4. Academically average/poor and a poor doctor
Those who are in Group 1 are obviously the “great” doctors. They know a lot and they are able to use this knowledge for the benefit of their patients. But those in Group 3 also don’t fall short, because they have enough common sense and street smarts to be able to provide above-average care. They know where to look for and who to ask for help when they are stuck, and most importantly, they know what they don’t know.
Those in Group 4 are obviously complete disasters. But there are also a good number of doctors, who fall into Group 2, who can rattle out pages from Gray’s Anatomy and Harrison’s Textbook of Internal Medicine, but somehow have no clue how to translate these facts into meaningful “care” for their patients.
In an ideal world, where learning medicine would essentially mean learning how to care, there would only be “good” doctors. There is precious little connection between the ability to mug and retain information, and caring for and treating people. The former is what we find and need in researchers and scientists; the latter is what is important in doctors. And yet, we continue to believe that if someone has come first in the XIIth standard, or has a gold medal in Anatomy or Physiology, that this person will make a great doctor some day as well. How getting 100/100 in Physics, Chemistry and Biology, teaches someone the skill-sets to be a superlative “care-giver”, is something I find great difficulty digesting.
Today, fortunately, even keeping all those facts and figures in our brains is no longer relevant; most information is easily available with a few clicks of a mouse and as long as we know what to look for and where, that’s good enough. What we can’t learn however from Googling, is how to apply all this knowledge to practical problems and situations, which is where great teachers and equally inquisitive students make all the difference.
The greatest doctors in this world have rarely been the brainiest.

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