19 July 2009

Harold Lambert

You don't really thank your parents for meeting the demands you made of them. You pay off the debt you owe to your own children and one day they will do the same. It's the same with teaching. The debts you owe to your teachers you repay to your students.

Teachers don't get rewarded. Not in this life anyway. Good researchers do but good teachers have to wait for heaven. Just occasionally teachers will get thanked by their students. Dr Grumble hopes he thanked his teachers. Sometimes he definitely did. Probably he often didn't. One teacher he cannot remember ever thanking was Harold Lambert. Harold Lambert taught Dr Grumble about infectious diseases. He was a very clear-thinking teacher. Most good teachers are.

When Dr Grumble was a student he thought of Harold Lambert as an old man though he would have been way younger than Dr G is now. He was amazed that he had managed to live so long working alongside all those nasty infectious diseases. Dr Grumble can still remember going to see a case of open TB with him. The young Grumble held his breath in the corner of the room trying not to inhale. Today Dr Grumble's students also retreat to the corner of the room when they meet infectious patients. With time this fear passes to the extent that seasoned doctors risk becoming complacent about infection control. It's better that way. When Dr Grumble knows the patient is not really as infectious as the protocols say he often takes off his mask to help put both patient and students at ease. You cannot work well if you are fearful for your own safety.

It was this 'flu business that led to Dr G thinking about his former teacher. Here are some video clips from the People's Archive of Harold Lambert reminiscing. Notice how well he speaks and how clearly he thinks:

University College Hospital: developing an interest in clinical medicine (Part 1)

Communication with patients: a story about denial

Beginnings of my interest in infectious diseases: doing research in the Army


The importance of cleanliness in hospitals

The hospital environment; St Georges Hospital garden

Thank you, Harold Lambert, for teaching Dr Grumble. He appreciates your teaching to this day. Dr Grumble always hoped that one day he would become a good teacher like you. Whether he has or not is not for Grumble to say but he has tried to repay the debt he owes to his teachers by teaching those that follow. When you get to a certain age that is, perhaps, your most important role. It's a shame that the powers-that-be don't recognise that.


Ex spider said...

I remember him too, he retired while I was a clinical student 20 years ago. One of the best profs I ever encountered, really important people don't need to throw their weight around. Unlike some of his surgical colleagues!

Don't give too much away, remember nightjack.

Dr Grumble said...

Thanks for the warning Ex spider. It's not just NightJack. There's been Civil Serf and Dr Flea.

Dr Grumble welcomes warnings. It is easy to get carried away.

Dr Grumble said...

And there was Mousethinks.

Dr Grumble said...

And today this from Nurse Anne:

Shutting down for awhile
by Nurse Anne

I'm going to have to shut this down for awhile. Things are deteriorating very quickly at work and I need to continue to pursue other methods of dealing with it.

I'll hide the blog for awhile until things chill out.


Dr Aust said...

Wholeheartedly agree about good teachers, Dr G - the rewards at Univ certainly remain heavily weighted towards "research excellence".

I am feeling a bit "unrewarded" myself as I got turned down for promotion recently (apparently I didn't "tick enough excellence boxes" - sic). As you say, one cannot really say if one is a good teacher, so the very occasional "thank you"s are very welcome. Actually one of only two people who have "decoded" my identity via the blog was a medical student who told me they had liked one of my lectures.

Re. the blogging anonymity, the Night Jack ruling was a disaster for public service blogging. I know lawyers and judges take a narrow view of interpreting the law as written, but what the Times were thinking of quite escapes me. When Times columnist Daniel Finkelstein tried to defend what they had done on his blog he got utterly slated, so it seems many people feel that what they did was clearly not in the public interest.

On a personal level, I suppose I should be grateful that Univs still remains relatively tolerant about blogging provided one is a bit circumspect. But it would be a tragedy if all the healthcare bloggers had to shut up shop. As I have said before, I routinely "point" students towards the blogosphere as a way of seeing people considering / contextualising the practice of medicine/healthcare.

Dr Grumble said...

Be thankful you have a job, Dr Aust. Dr G cannot say too much but last week he was helping a colleague who does mostly teaching to write a letter pleading the case for keeping his job. The medical school he works for is cutting lots of jobs following the financial crisis which apparently will be hitting them hard in the years to come. The less well off in universities who thought that their poor pay was offset by relatively secure jobs will be forced into paying the price of the bankers' greed.

Dr Aust said...

Yes, fair point, Dr G. There was quite a bit of Doom and Gloom in the air at the conference Dr Aust went to last week - talk about "compulsory redundancies" and "everyone having to re-apply for their own jobs" from various of our sister institutions. A little bit about it is here.

Dr Aust's Faculty has been through four previous "clear-outs" (as in vigorous voluntary redundancy and early retirement campaigns) in the last decade or so. So it is hard to find anyone who is not seen to be fairly busy doing useful stuff. The people who are really getting squeezed are those on "probationary appointments", who are finding it far tougher to get confirmed in post than was the case a few years ago.

If the Govt consents we are expecting undergraduate student numbers to rise, which will help balance the books, though it will inevitably mean more teaching for everybody. Of course, medical schools may be harder hit than bioscience departments in tight times as:

(i) student numbers tend to be even more inflexible in medical schools, so you can't simply admit more students to increase income;

(ii) due to all the medical courses being diverse in curriculum, one cannot easily "import" students from elsewhere into yrs 2-5 to replace the ones who inevitably fall by the wayside (and thereby cost the system money).

Dr Grumble said...

I have long been aware that journalists hate bloggers. Whenever I have read anything in a newspaper that I really know about I usually spot loads of errors. Work bloggers are generally spot on and if they are not it is easy to put them right instantly by making a comment. The journalists feel threatened by this. That's the only way I can account for the Times' despicable behaviour.

Anonymous said...

We must not forget SARS where a Prof. of Medicine brought it to Hong Kong. The WHO doctor that gave the name SARS contracted it too. Both died.

Dr Grumble said...

We must not forget SARS where a Prof. of Medicine brought it to Hong Kong. The WHO doctor that gave the name SARS contracted it too. Both died.


SARS though was not 'flu and it was contained. The cat is out of the bag with 'flu and it is inconceivable that the measures the Chinese are taking can have much effect.

Having said that Dr G is no expert in this area and he comments only as an interested medical blogger so if anybody out there knows better please put Dr Grumble right.

Witch Doctor said...

And there was:


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