Sunday, 12 June 2016

Lage raho – Continue despite disappointments

Lage raho – Continue despite disappointments Dr KK Aggarwal, Editor in Chief eMedinewS and IMA News in conversation with Dr Tejinder Singh, Vice Principal Professor of Pediatrics and Medical Education, Christian Medical College, Ludhiana. Dr Tejinder Singh has been honored with Dr BC Roy National Award for the year 2010 under the category of 'Eminent Medical Person'
How does it feel being conferred one of the most prestigious awards in the medical field? It is a great feeling and honestly, I have still not been able to internalize the feeling that I am getting it. It was a dream and I am glad that the dream has come true. Tell us about your journey so far.
One essay competition in 1982 on the subject 'Education and training for making a good family physician' brought me into this field. Like the proverbial 10-year-old who went to buy a book on How to rear children, to see if he was reared properly, this essay provided me with a vivid comparison on what should be and what is. Since then, I have been involved with medical education, especially faculty development and student assessment. Establishment of a MEU at CMC Ludhiana, the first in north India was another small step but made us think big.
The real big opportunities came in the form of FAIMER Regional institute, which I helped to set up as founder Director. Eleven years down the line, I can look back with satisfaction of having contributed to improving the quality of education in India. Another 3 years later, MCI came out with the idea of a nation-wide faculty development program in 2009, and a Fellowship program in 2014. I was appointed as the National Convener for the same. Both these added to my outreach. Medical teachers in this country are limited by lack of opportunities for educational training rather than anything else. I am happy to make a small contribution to this.
What were the early challenges faced by you in your career? How did you manage to overcome them? It was not an easy journey. I myself felt constrained by lack of educational opportunities. NTTCs were the only option then. I often used to buy books for B Ed courses and read them. With IGNOU offering distance learning courses for Higher Education, Distance Education and Human Resource Development, the process became a bit easy. I also joined another program on Training and Development. All these helped me to enlarge my thought process from educational technology to management of student learning. Managing conflicts, especially from seniors in the department and the institution also required some thought and energy. Often it was a challenge to maintain a balance between clinical work and educational work. Lot of self-management and discipline was required to do justice to both. However, it is satisfying today that I quote my example when people say that they are clinicians and hence not able to work on the educational side.
Tell us about your family. How important has been the role of your family in your journey?
Family has been the biggest source of strength. My mother was a school teacher and as a small child, I often accompanied her to her school as well as to the training programs where she was nominated. I think the concept of faculty development got ingrained in my psyche ever since then. Now, when I have to travel a lot for various workshops and meetings, my wife Dr Gina holds the fort. Both my children have also learnt to manage their own affairs, providing me lot of freedom to work. I suppose that is the ultimate help that anyone can receive from family members.
What would be your message to the community?
Have faith in the healer - This is the first step to a good medical care. It is your trust, which will help the doctor to treat you rather than treat the laboratory. It is your trust, which will prevent many unnecessary interventions. At the same time demand the best. If it was not the public reaction after Flexner report, the medical education system in the USA would still have been the same.
Given a chance, what changes would you like to bring about in health policies?
Bringing a robust system of in training assessment is what I am aiming for. Given our obsession with objectivity, it is tough job to convince administrators, Universities and Councils that we are missing out on the power of expert subjective judgment as a tool for learning. At least the spark is ignited but it will still be a long way before we can see the glow. I will also like to force the system to redefine what we call merit - ability to crack examinations or ability to demonstrate clinical competence. Both the issues are related to each other.
What advice would you give to youngsters?
I had dreamt about this some 20 years ago and was trying to align my work in line with what it would take to apply for this award. I applied four times before being finally selected. It brought some disappointment when first three applications did not get the result but I continued. In our training sessions, a very common phrase that we use - inspired by a Hindi film - is ‘lage raho’. This is what is needed.

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