Wednesday, May 30, 2007

If medical doctors need more observation and reflection through communication...

What’s Wrong with Doctors
by Richard Horton
The New York of Review of Books, May 31, 2007, pp. 16-20.
(A review of How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman, Houghton Mifflin)

Impressive as the recent progress of SLA research is, the progress of medical science is no comparison of it. The success of modern medicine is indeed phenomenal. It would take more than huge optimism to hope that SLA research will, say, in twenty or thirty years, reach the stage that current medical science has reached so far.

That does not mean that medical doctors, on the stage that SLA researchers and practitioners can only dream of, are free from any problems. In the review article by Hortton (the editor of Lancet), Groopman, a cancer specialist and occasional writer for The New Yorker, claims that “there is a common flaw that undermines much of contemporary medical education and training, as well as the partnership between patient and doctor and even the professional values of medicine.” (p. 16). In Groopman’s view, the evidence-based approach, with all statistics, guidelines, and algorithms, may be “ill-informed by the realities, complexities, and uncertainties of medical practice.” (p. 16). With more emphasis on the evidence-based approach in medical education and training, doctors may simply stop observing the patient carefully.

Communication between the doctor and the patient, which was not necessarily encouraged with enthusiasm in the past, actually helps the doctor to observe the patient more, and to reflect upon his own practice more.

More observation and reflection through communication.

Have we not heard this elsewhere? Isn’t this also what is required for language teachers? If medical doctors need more observation and reflection through communication with patients despite the heap of the scientific ‘evidence’ in medical science, language teachers, with far less scientific understanding of their field, need far more of them through communication with learners.

How much and how well have you communicated with your students today?

Are our professional values sound enough?

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