Doctors and teachers

Is Ben Rat an M.D.?

Well, no. You see, that’s American. In Australia, the initial graduate qualification is M.B.,B.S. – “Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery”. Of course, that’s still basically the same thing. Ben has the M.B.,B.S., and then some extra letters to represent further post-graduate qualifications.

Being a doctor has a lot in common with being a teacher. Indeed, the original meaning of the word doctor was a learned person who imparts knowledge. I’m talking about medical doctors, but of course there are many other forms of doctor in the academic world. Some doctors have Ph.D. after their names. In fact, a witty and live-spirited American scientist of my acquaintance used to boast that as a doctor of philosophy his three post-nominal letters outranked doctors of medicine with their two. That was until he saw my business card, and registered my twenty-eight. We’re friends to this day, although he sometimes still looks at me in a funny way,

Medical doctors and teachers both have a very human job. To perform well in their craft, doctors must elicit information, compile it into some sensible order and then, with a base of knowledge, come up with a correct answer, after which they finally – and this is where the teaching skills come in – impart that answer in a way that gives the patient the understanding and skills to take the problem to its resolution.

The best treatment doesn’t treat, it empowers the receiving person to self-treat. It renders the patient more capable and less prone to needing care. The best consultation is when the patient walks out the door happier, smarter and stronger than when she walked in.

So, do doctors like teaching? Ha! Just try to stop them! Ben educates and empowers his patients in the course of his consultations. He has also taught formally, in a voluntary capacity in some community education functions.

Daniella is a doctor of dentistry and works with patients. As you know, she also teaches dentistry to students as a lecturer at the Bluegum University. And she teaches Tae Kwon Do at the community centre.

Both Doc Rat and Doc Wolf started teaching Quarrydog the basics of doctoring. Mary started teaching Ben and Danni Secret Bunny Business.

All are passing on knowledge, an interpersonal service practised with skill.

The reason I introduced Simon/Quarrydog as a young character who wanted to become a doctor was, in part, prompted by the fact I also teach medical students from Monash University. I do this in a one-on-one situation in my rooms, as I work through my daily consultations. And yes, teaching is satisfying. Successfully transferring skills to someone, to enrich that person’s capacity, is an intensely rewarding thing to do.

Here’s to the world’s teachers. May they ever be recognised.