Summary: Upon returning from the 12th Annual Asia Pacific Medical Education Conference (APMEC) Professor Harden reflects on the take home messages and perceptions of risk. Description: I have just returned from the 12th Annual Asia Pacific Medical Education Conference (APMEC) which this year was combined with the 3rd International Conference on Faculty Development. A focus for the meeting was faculty development. In my own plenary presentation I included three case studies where from my experience the teacher proved to be more important than the curriculum approach or teaching methodology adopted. I went on to argue that key to faculty development is the creation of an institutional culture that values the teaching and the personal development of the teachers. We need, I argued, to emphasise not just the technical skills, but the attitudes of the teacher. As Margaret Sangster said in her book, Developing Teacher Expertise, “no one should teach who is not in love with teaching”. Located in the Conference Centre is the NUS Art Museum. Playing in the museum is an interesting interview with Michael Sullivan who moved to Singapore to teach art and went on to collect Asian art and establish a renowned local museum. He discusses “what is art” and suggests that “a painting must demonstrate technical mastery, but if it is true art, it must also convey a feeling of passion”. The same is true of the teacher.

As part of the meeting we ran a successful ESME Course, which was highly rated by the participants. I always find it interesting listening in the final session to the one take-home message from the course for each of the participants. One described how he had been coerced into attending the course, but left with a completely new perspective and enthusiasm for medical education. A number hope to go on and complete the work for the AMEE-ESME Certificate in Medical Education. The photograph is of the ESME group.


A book signing was scheduled during the meeting for the two books, Essential Skills for a Medical Teacher andBook-signing-Feb-2015.png A Practical Guide for Medical Teachers. The bookseller had underestimated the demand and copies were sold out before the end of the conference.

Through the ASPIRE-to-Excellence initiative, faculty development is to be added as a fourth theme where medical schools may be recognised for their excellence in medical education. The existing themes are student engagement, student assessment, and social accountability of a medical school. David Irby has agreed to chair the ASPIRE Faculty Development Panel. With the approval of the ASPIRE Board, this will be launched at AMEE 2015 in Glasgow with a deadline for submission for medical schools of January 31, 2016. At APMEC-12, a symposium on excellence in faculty development was well attended. The room where the symposium was held was full and we had about 100 conference participants sitting outside watching the discussions on a video screen. If anyone has strong views on what constitutes excellence in this area, I am sure that David Irby would be pleased to hear from you. Dental and veterinary schools have now been recognised as eligible to apply for an ASPIRE award in one or more of the four areas.

Matthew Gwee hosted a dinner where we had the traditional Chinese New Year lo hei ceremony. I was born in the year of the rat. At the dinner I talked with Professor Jen-Hung Yang who is Dean of Tzu chi University College of Medicine in Taiwan. His approach to teaching anatomy and at the same time influencing students’ attitudes is interesting.

From Singapore I went on with Pat Lilley to the International Medical University, Kuala Lumpur, where we ran a workshop on outcome-based education and curriculum trends (A photo of the workshop is shown on the left)Workshop-Feb-20152.jpg. This was the first time I explored with a group the impact and relevance of outcome-based education as it related to the trends identified in the SPICES model – Student-centred learning, Problem-based learning, Integrated teaching and learning, Community-based learning, Elective-driven curriculum, and a Systematic, rather than an opportunistic approach). I found this an interesting exercise and hope to develop the thoughts further.

I had no hesitation in choosing to fly between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur with Malaysian Airlines despite the recent tragedies involving the airline. I was astonished to find that one colleague from Australia had changed their airline from Malaysian to another carrier because of concerns about safety. How we assess risk was the subject of an editorial by Tom Otley, Editorial director, Business Traveller (February 6, 2015). We are very bad at evaluating risk. He quotes the much cited study from the book, Freakanomics, by Levitt and Dubner who asked parents a simple question: which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool?

“The answer, of course, was that in the US children were 100 times more likely to die in a swimming pool accident than be killed by a gun. But whether because of media coverage or our own fears, parents might still welcome the chance for a child to visit a friend’s house with a pool, but be reluctant if the parent was a gun owner.”

I have followed with great interest the work by Hill Jason and others relating to the design of the International New School of Medicine (iNSoMed). In many ways this presents a fundamentally different approach to medical education. One aim of setting up the school as a prototype for others is to help enhance the well-being of people and communities as well as promoting economic growth in developing countries. Key features of the school are described in a commentary in The Lancet (Jason H, Douglas A. Are the conditions right for a 21st century medical school? The Lancet, 385: 672-3, February 21, 2015). An adaptive learning programme outcomes focused and tailored to individual student needs will be managed by prepared facilitators and orchestrated by the use of advanced technologies. There will be varying programme durations with graduation dates tied to leaner readiness, not the calendar. Clinical experiences will be dominantly focused on ambulatory, primary care. Faculty will be recruited on the basis of their commitment to clinical education and their alignment with the school’s educational principles. Hill Jason will be leading a workshop on adaptive learning at AMEE 2015 in Glasgow.