As an expert of medical education and China, and for the umpteenth time, Professor Trevor Gibbs came to visit Guangzhou in March to see his close friend, Professor Xiao Haipeng, the head of the First Affiliated Hospital, Sun Yat-sen University.
The routine visit, however, became rather special due to Trevor’s successful effort in bringing along Professor Ronald Harden’s first ever visit to China. History may well record that Guangzhou has had the honour to be chosen by ‘the grandfather of medical education’ as the first destination of his journey in this ancient country.
The two world-class experts were welcomed in the conference by all the leaders and experts from different prestigious universities in China, who had waited long enough for the precious opportunity with plenty of ‘appreciative inquiries’ to make. East Meets West in Medical Education being the theme, the conference took place in an auditorium crowded by students and faculty. Surprisingly, pop music was the first ‘alternative approach’ used by Professor Harden, whose topic was Outcome-based Medical Education and the OSCE, Authentic learning from ivory tower to the real world. Similar to the real world, people tend to ignore the plain fact in a world of medical education, -‘It ain’t what you do, it’s the way you do it. And that’s what gets results.’ Inspired by the lyrics, it’s such a timely caution for the elite to move away from the ivory tower, to focus less on more and more deceptively complicated theories and processes, and refocus on outcomes that truly matter in the real world.
As Professor Harden mentioned, many of the main challenges that teachers are facing could be solved by outcome-based education and the OSCE. In a fragmented system led by multidisciplinary teams, an authentic curriculum is even more of an imperative for the facilitation of authentic learning, driven by outcomes as the ultimate goals and supported by crucial performance assessments of/for learning. A beautiful picture of the moon gate of Professor’s Chinese Garden was shown in his slides, playing a key role as a powerful metaphor for the OSCE, beyond which students can have the vision of what the real world is like after they qualify as health professionals.
Professor Gibbs provided us with a more detailed illustration of workplace-based assessment, as a beneficial complementary to the content of Ronald’s speech. The three key areas he tackled were formative assessment, portfolio and faculty development, three of which being all that China needs urgently to keep pace and catch up with the trend in modern medical education, three of which all share a common element of an dynamic ongoing characteristic. The success of the first ESME course by Trevor last year is the first step of faculty development in the First Affiliated Hospital, and it certainly deserves more. Professor David Taylor’s contribution to make in promoting OSTE will soon be achieved accordingly at the end of this year.
As the witness of this historic event, may I use the acronym of PANDA as a brief sum-up of the insights people gain from the visit:
• Passion. Long term investment for the future equals less return for now, thus perhaps only passion can be the internal motivation to add oil for the journey of medical education. Speaking of, I’m impressed that the two professors were discussing work issues and even made notes during dinner, while I could have had more ice cream ha.
• Aim. Without the big picture in mind, China will lose direction of where to go to. We need to carefully design the action plan, which can be successful only if the aims are tailored to the needs of China.
• Nature. Bearing medical education’s transformative nature in mind, we need to realize that confidence, together with time and patience are imperative for us to keep going. OSCE is one of the best examples, with 41 years demonstration of vigorous vitality.
• Decentralization. Professor Xiao’s commitment in medical education has impressed all and confirmed the fact that a pilot can be and should be led by people like him to demonstrate the effectiveness of education through a bottom-up approach.
• Accountability. Social accountability just can’t be highlighted too much in this area. Attracting more and more devoted internationalists as a trump card, the Chinese government has the right timing now to take the accountability, to do the right thing for its population.
Still there is always regret from the little pebbles who were not able to ask questions in the discussion part due to the passion of all the curious guests on the stage and time limit. Let’s perfect it then next time, shall we? The spirit of PANDA will facilitate even more mutual learning for a better future of the diamond in the rough in our hands.
See you soon in Barcelona and please kindly bring me your new book of OSCE, Mr Panda!