Sunday, June 16, 2013

Food for thought

It seems there are two ways to identify a patient's disease or to know what abnormality is affecting his/her body – the first one is by asking him/her relevant questions and the other is by observing the symptoms. For example, if the doctor feels that the case might be of cataract, he might ask you questions like:
  • Is your vision declining stridently?
  • Is there a burning sensation in your eyes?
  • Do the eyes water quite often?
  • Is there a feeling of irritation?
  • Do you sense something when exposed to bright sunlight?
and come to a conclusion or using the other method, he might go for laboratory tests and detect the issue.
A doctor is always taught to first go for the Question & Answer session so that the diagnosis is economical to the patient. But most of the doctors today do not go by this rule. They want to start the treatment as early as possible, which is not a wrong thought process but most of the times it doesn’t send the right message to the suffering patient and he feels that the whole treatment is nothing but a commercial exercise by the Doctor. When a patient goes to a Gastroenterologist and says 'My stomach is not behaving the right way these days and I have trouble digesting food' and when the doctor doesn't ask much but instead writes all the blood tests to be conducted, a Sonography, an Endoscopy, a CT scan, etc. only to tell you that 'Everything is all right. Just take these 2 pills for a month and tell me how you get along’, one would feel cheated.
I have lived in different cities and in various parts of the country and there are some obvious differences that I have noticed. I’m sure some of you may have felt the same at different points of time in your life. Sorry to say that I do not have numbers as references and I will be sticking to only what I’ve heard and felt. I have seen people rushing to the South of India to seek medical consultation, to get operated. The primary reason is that the doctors in the South are better informed. Both North and South India makes doctors where they don’t enter colleges based on the marks they scored but a hefty payment made by their angel investors who need people to run their hospitals. I’m not saying that such doctors are inferior or they lack the skills and art to operate on patients, no they don’t. They learn the science after all by being at college and they have hospitals where they can refine their art.
If you compare Apollo Chennai and Apollo Kolkata, you would choose Chennai any day. Vasan eye Clinic - Madurai vs. Delhi - Madurai any day. I did my internship at Apollo Specialty Hospitals, Madurai. By talking to different people in the hospital, I realized that it was a place for the masses (contrary to my earlier notion that it was only for the affluent class) and the doctors who visited there plus the care offered by the nurses from Kerala was incomparable to any hospital in the North. I keep this as an example and think of AMRI in Kolkata (2011) where so many people died because of sheer negligence by the authorities.
Recently, I heard about the medical facilities in the US from a friend and a relative. They had different issues but something that demanded immediate attention. D told me, 'I’m unable to buy medicines and my problem is becoming severe because I’m not taking the regular doses. Firstly I need to buy a Medical insurance'. That's all wrong - is it more important that you get treated on time (before the problem becomes complex) or that you buy an insurance? V told me, 'As the pus came out on a Sunday, I had to rush to the doctor immediately and Sundays are considered emergency cases here, so I was charged double the normal'. It was a startling yet a true discovery for me. So, things are funny ‘everywhere’!
As I had aspired to become a doctor during my school days, I wrote a few entrance exams in Class 12. One of them was for a Deemed University named Annamalai - situated in Chidambaram, a township in Tamil Nadu. The written paper was so easy that I thought why it was so. The second round was an interview and I thought that I was very lucky to have been called for the interview only to figure out discussions of 18L or 20L INR going on while sitting outside the interviewer's room. I was invited inside and the doctor asked me a few questions on Vitamin B and C, the diseases caused due to the deficiency of Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamine) and a few others. Students waiting outside for the interview told me that all that was an eye-wash and for a few days I could not sleep well. I cursed myself for having scored a 1000 something rank in the medical entrances in the state and realizing anyone above 500 in the Open Category doesn't get a seat. May be it was because of me that my younger sister took things to her heart and said she was to become nothing but a Surgeon. I have experienced my sister and father having a debate about Women as Surgeons. He asks, 'Would you have sent your mom to be treated by a lady surgeon' and she replies, 'Why not? The fact is that I don't find anyone capable on the streets!'
I wonder why doctors forget the economies learnt during the graduation and the post-graduation days. After all, 'Healthy living is for all' and they write in bold letters inside and outside the hospitals: ‘It is Not about living but living healthy'. They don’t live up to what they say.
This is my perfect example of a care-center.

Saturday, June 8, 2013


So my evaluation as a ‘teacher’ is out and “Oh boy, they don’t disappoint!”. This post provides a sneak peek (actually only 24 out of 89 people responded, so it’s all the view) at these funny comments. These comments are basically answers to ‘What did I do particularly well?’ and ‘What could I do better?’. No points for figuring out which sentences answer which question!

Just a reminder: This is not a ‘reply’ to students but an attempt to ‘document’ so do have a stomach-splitting laugh at our expense!

Let’s start with Section 4: The section which did the ‘best’ with a mean of 6/10. The maximum achieved being 9 by two students and curiously no one got 3! Let’s hear from them *a big round of applause*:

smart and rigorous, but his indian accent and scripted writing made him hard to understand sometimes. Sometimes he would use symbols that were unreadable or beyond the scope of the course [Point noted.]

Give easier quizzes. Write larger on the blackboard. [Ok.] 

Please go through the whole problem instead of just part of it. It makes it even more confusing when you stop halfway through the problem. Please look at the questions before hand and get an understanding. Don't spend the whole class period trying to figure out the questions yourself. [Which class did you attend?]

Not waste the classes time by doing the homework problems that most people have already done. [So… any suggestions?]

Not stand directly in front of the black board and stop finding the most complicated way to do every problem. The class has no [no what?] I don't think you could have made the class more dry or useless. The only reason I go is because there are graded quizzes. You grade the quizzes way too hard. Material not covered in class is often on the quizzes. [Great fictional summary of the class (apart from the dry bit)!]

stop teaching, hes [sic] not fit to be a teacher.

Takes time to teach background on questions before doing them. Needs to speak slower, assign quizzes more closely related to what we are doing in class. [Advice taken.]

Gets to the solutions of homework problems so they may be understood later with such a limited time for recitation. Write on the board clearer. [Good PoV!]

Tries to answer students' questions. Individual quizzes are way too hard. [Well…]

Section 7: The section which didn’t do well with a mean of just 4/10. The maximum achieved being 8 by two students and curiously no one got 7 (or 0 for that matter)! Let’s hear them *a small round of applause*:

He gives you the answers. He could go over what we learned. He gives really hard quizzes. [Hmmm…]

i only went to this recitation for hw answers and the quizzes which i always failed anyway since they were on topics we didnt know so i dont know why i bothered going no explanations no enthusiasm [Yooo!!!]


Writing. Explaining. (I write well. I could explain better.) [Point taken.]

Not much besides the bare minimum of being TA for an hour. Actually interact and engage with the audience. We're not robots, we actually want to learn but it doesn't help if the instructor is monotonously talking to board. When I say "interact" that does not mean just ask students if they have any questions. As in explain how things work and even throw in a joke or interesting anecdote that pertains to the context. It's an hour of sit in the room and fail those horribly abstract quizzes. [Hahahaha… Good point, well-taken!]

Section 8: The section that I found the most interesting and sort of comforting to teach but sadly they didn’t do as well on quizzes as I expected. But everyone did well on the finals and they got a mean of 5/10 in the recitation, so all good! Also, only in this section did one student achieve the maximum of 10 but then nobody got 9! Everything balances out I guess. Without further ado, let’s hear from these students *a great round of applause*:

helped breakdown some concepts. give us quizzes on material we covered in class. the quiz effect my grade but recitation is designed for reinforcing concepts. it punishes me for not understanding. when I am their to understand. [Got it.]

Understands and explains the material well. Goes through homework problems and explains them quite thoroughly. Perhaps allow students to work on the quiz problems in small groups or pairs. I remember this working effectively in my recitation section last semester. Some people may understand certain topics better than others, so the collaborative method may be worth employing. The quizzes are often irrelevant to the current material being covered. [Will give it a thought.]

Th instructor helps students answer homework questions. the instructor could try to explain the work to the students while doing it. He could speak much louder and try to explain what is taught in class instead of just giving a quizz on something most people don't understand due to the horrible teacher during lecture. [Ok.]

He goes thoroughly over hw questions. Be more enthusiastic. [Will try!]

The instructor does a good job going over the homework problems during class. The instructor could do a better job of actually reviewing what we learned in class instead of just doing homework problems. [Fine point.]

He tries to explain the homework. He could have focused more on the physics than the homework problems themselves. [Hmm.]

Clarify the material, as opposed to simply solving problems on the board. Write legibly. [ok…]

Asks students for any specific problems help is required for. Could explain concepts better. [Ya.]

So the most persistent theme (apart from me not ‘explaining / reviewing’ concepts) seems to be (not just from the above evaluation but even during the classes): “I gave hard quizzes and they were not related to the material being taught in class.” How hard was it for these students to understand / figure out that the quiz was always based on the previous week’s HW? And if they can’t even remember what was covered in the previous HW, how would they be able to do a quiz based on this week’s HW? I’m sure these people have not yet got around to even glance at it! About the other issue, apart from the first 2 quizzes, the rest 5 were not at all hard (even that is not quite true but let’s cut them some slack, shouldn’t we?)! In fact they were picked from the previous HWs with only slight modifications. For some perspective, here is the last quiz that I gave them on ‘Electromagnetic Waves’:

A. Which of the following statements are correct? (Check all that apply.)
□ Electromagnetic waves have different frequencies.
□ Light propagates at different velocity depending on who’s watching.
□ Microwave ovens and some wireless routers emit radio waves in the same frequency band.
□ Rainbow colours require special crayons that are available only to horizon-dwellers.
□ Earth absorbs visible light and emits radiation with a longer wavelength.
□ Sun is described in scientific articles as a perfect White Balanced body.

B. What is the wavelength of the EM radiation with a frequency of 3×10¹⁵Hz? (Give answer in nm.)

C. In the above-mentioned EM wave, magnetic field has an rms value of 8×10⁻⁹T. Determine the rms value of its electric field. (Give proper units.)

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