Views

Be prepared to learn from your mistakes

A practising gastroenterologist offers pointers for successful applicants to S'pore's three medical schools

It was reported in The New Paper on July 14 that 500 medical students would be enrolled in the three medical schools by next year.

They were chosen from several thousand applicants through a rigorous process and can be assumed to be the cream of the crop.

I was enrolled in the medical school at the National University of Singapore (NUS) back in 1989. I have some sincere advice to the 500 new medical students.

ACADEMIC RESULTS ARE 
NO LONGER IMPORTANT

Most of you have excellent academic records.

You are probably the top students in your class, or even in your school.

But your classmates in medical school are just as academically bright as you.

The Dean of one of the medical schools said most of his new students were straight A students.

Those without perfect academic scores would have been strong in non-academic aspects like leadership and social service.

But your academic results are good only for bringing you into medical school. Your patients and colleagues would never ask you of your past academic achievements.

FAILING IS COMMON

Most of you would never have failed any test, assessment, or examination in your life, but medical school is much tougher than you can imagine.

I remember in our first test in medical school on Biochemistry, one third of my class failed.

Yet, though failing is common, it is all right if you learn from your mistakes and correct them accordingly.

As a matter of fact, no doctor is perfect and every doctor makes mistakes.

Be humble, learn from your mistake and move on.

YOU WILL BE SCOLDED 
BY MANY PEOPLE

You are probably used to being praised by your teachers and parents for your good work or good results in secondary schools or junior colleges.

But as a medical student or even a doctor, you will be scolded by many people, including your tutors, mentors and seniors when your work is not up to standard.

Your patients will also scold you if you fail to meet their expectation.

So be prepared to work very hard and hold a high standard in all your work.

RESPECT NEEDS 
TO BE EARNED

Just because there is a "Dr" title in front of your name does not mean your patients will respect you and listen to you.

You need to have both IQ and EQ. To earn respect, you must know your work well and take care of your patients' problems. In addition, you must be sympathetic and compassionate towards your patients.

YOU WILL NOT ALWAYS BECOME WHAT YOU ASPIRE TO BE

Many of you aspire to be the best cardiologist or neurosurgeon to save mankind, but it is tough to get what you want.

Thirty years ago, with only one medical school, the class size of medical school was 160 to 200 students.

Half, some 80 to 100 doctors per class, became specialists. The other half became family physicians, administrators, teachers, researchers, missionaries and so on.

Now with a cohort of 500 students per year from three medical schools, I am not sure if there will be 50 per cent or 250 specialist training posts or jobs, for everyone.

You may not be the kind of specialist you aspire to be.

But whatever hospital or position you are working at, you can always make a difference in your patient's health.

ALWAYS STRIVE TO BE THE BEST

In medicine, there is always intense competition and only the best will win.

Your head of department would award training posts to the best applicants and offer jobs to the best trainees.

Your colleagues would refer patients only to the best specialist, and your patients would put their life in the hands of only the best doctor they can find.

So, always work hard to be the best colleague, best trainee and the best doctor.

The writer is a gastroenterologist in private practice.

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