Monday, June 25, 2007

The Hornet's Nest Stirreth

Recent reports of our local med school's discretionary admission policy apparently got some undergrads riled up, prompting one to call the SMA and launch into a diatribe about how letting poly students into this "most prestigious" course "cheapens" the whole profession.

The caller then emailed the SMA to elaborate, repeatedly using the term "respect" to drive home his/her point about the "cheapening" s/he claims the entire class s/he belongs to feels subjected to as a result of this "shocking change".

The gist of the letter is this: doctors in Singapore have always garnered high respect because we're considered the creme de la creme, despite having crappy hours and salaries. But we soldier on out of a sense of nobility and altruism, to help mankind, blah blah blah.

But in times of despair -- presumably when we all inevitably become frustrated with our lousy existences -- what gets us through is "RESPECT" ( caps lock included in the quote ).

And allowing poly grads to enter med school "takes away A LOT of respect from us".

This person then quotes a classmate who commented that "now I will feel
embarrassed telling my friends that I am in medicine", and laments that the course / profession will now elicit reactions along the lines of "Aiya, poly also can study one".

There's a lot more I didn't mention on this blog, but I think the above snippet sufficiently captures the essence of the letter, and I am most eager to garner as many comments on this as possible, so post away, dear readers.

If you're interested in my personal take on this, here it is:

1) The best grades in the world do NOT guarantee a good doctor.

2) Becoming a competent doctor isn't just about academic abilities. It involves careful honing of clinical skills, mastering the art of the bedside manner, maintaining a constant passion for self-improvement ( no easy feat as you grow older and more susceptible to fatigue ), among other things.

3) As for integrity, that's an entirely different kettle of fish, completely independent of educational qualifications and IQs.

4) If you think doctors in Singapore command a high level of respect, you're sadly mistaken.

5) If you think respect is the one thing which will help you stay afloat when you're sick and tired of your job, you're out of your mind.

6) Someone who claims to have noble and altruistic intentions does nothing to back up these proclamations by making severely elitist remarks.

7) If these poly students completed the entry requirements ( writing an essay, going through skills assessment , clearing the rigorous interview process ), then of course they've earned their places fair and square.

8) What of the affirmative action policy in the United States? Though not officially announced in Singapore, I'm sure some of us suspect it's happening here as well. Would the complainant consider this a travesty too?

I don't know this student personally, but his/her views ( allegedly shared by "many" of his/her classmates ) worries me terribly. Is this the future generation of doctors we're thrusting upon the population and the world at large?

As one senior SMA Council member sighed: "I feel saddened. Almost anguished."

Ditto on that sentiment.

Fire away, readers. I eagerly await your responses.

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