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PBL Part 2

June 21, 2008

I think all medical students since the time medicine has been formally organized have asked this question, “Must I become a doctor?”
Others ask this when they are bombarded with patients and the paperwork that come with them. Others ask this when they realize that their life would involve being perpetually exposed to sickness. Others ask this when they discover that their time is no longer their own, that they must stick their noses to books instead of having the fun they used to have. Usually, they ask this when they are already far ahead in their studies such that it would be too late for them to quit. Others, however, specifically students following the Problem Based Learning (PBL) model, ask this during even before their first month of taking Medicine ends.
We, I mean, I feel I have to read everything. We don’t have text books. We, instead, have recommended books, books that we have to read and understand. Those recommended books, btw, are not the only books that PBL students must read. They are told to read everything! I think even the most die hard bookworm would leave his mouth open in shock when he sees dozens of titles, of which some of them are more than a thousand pages thick.
Yet the reading part is barely half the taste of the main course of the PBL style. The discussions part is what gives it its distinct flavor. The following text features an exaggerated example of what happens in a PBL session gone wrong in the “right” direction. Imagine a room filled with seven medical students armed with the knowledge of several books covering the same topic. One of them says, “The corpus luteum undergoes degeneration 16 days after the unfertilized oocyte is released from its Graafian follicle.”
“By Guyton! That is wrong.”
“Harrison be with me, but what you are saying isn’t right.”
“Langman take you! Go read his book.”
“By the power of Williams, stop saying gibberish.”
And to think those books contradict each other with regard to the dates of embryological formation. Yet I’ve heard that loud debates have stemmed from these contradictory minute details. Students of the traditional learning style have textbooks, of which the “holy” Gray is chief. They don’t have to bother with bickering sessions. Nevertheless, loud discussions are preferable compared to silence. At least, there is a flow of communication and information. Yet woe to groups who have shy and silent members. If they don’t have good tutors goading them to speak, nothing gets discussed.
At least, medical students under the PBL style get to ask the question, “Must I become a doctor,” early when they haven’t yet encountered the rigors of higher medical training. They could opt to leave if they choose. Nevertheless, if they do choose to stay, then that means they would strive for excellence in the path towards becoming a physician.

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