March 1, 2014 By
February 22, 2014 By
Today is Republic Day – the day we recognise that we govern ourselves, we’re not under the rule of a monarch and I’ve been thinking about leaders and leadership. What Shakespeare said about “greatness”, can be paraphrased for leaders: “Some are born leaders, some achieve leadership and some have leadership thrust upon them.” I’ve encountered a fair number of leaders from all three backgrounds, over the years and this year at Med School I’ve met even more. We have weekly PBL (Problem-Based Learning) sessions where we’re broken into small groups and everyone has to take a turn at leading the group discussions. So after a while, everyone gets a chance to be group leader and I found that most of them exemplified quite distinct leadership styles, approaches and qualities.
A good leader is assertive yet approachable. During my early years at Queen’s College, I was always impressed with the prefects chosen. I was awed by these students who were all-rounded and carried themselves with decorum. These prefects welcomed us to speak to them freely, but by mutual understanding, there was a boundary we never crossed. These were the type of prefects I tried to emulate when I became Head Prefect in Upper Six.
Another fundamental trait of leaders is that a true leader inspires others to achieve. And the best leaders do this not by telling – but by doing. The line from Portia in the Merchant of Venice has stuck with me: “I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done than be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching.” It can be hard, but to be good leader, that’s absolutely necessary. A good leader can inspire dedication and great feats from followers, through leadership by example.
Good leaders must show integrity since a leader can’t lead if he doesn’t have the trust of followers. Leaders must show honesty, well-controlled emotions (that’s right, no screaming your head off at your charges!). In our Professionalism Course, we’re constantly reminded about the importance of integrity – as doctors we’ll have to work along with other doctors, we’ll need the trust and support of the nurses and other members of our medical team to ensure that we care for our patients successfully.
Leaders must also have high self-respect and self-esteem. After all, if a leader doesn’t respect himself / herself, how could they earn the respect of others? Yes, respect is earned, not demanded. Good leaders should have the respect of their subordinates and also give due respect to their subordinates.
My tradition emphasises the need to delegate tasks and to groom new leaders for the future. In my estimation, this is a defining quality that all leaders should possess. That leader who tries to singlehandedly tackle all of the objectives and challenges of the group usually risks biting off more than they can chew and simultaneously demotivates the rest of the members.
Leaders should also always be conscious that they can’t be the leader forever – there comes a time to step down and pass on the torch. New times demand new skills and new visions.
One of the more over-looked qualities a leader should possess is a sense of humour! Humour can be an effective tool to energise persons and ease tension. More often than not, leaders choose the too-serious approach – a balance should be struck.
In conclusion don’t believe that I’m only talking about leaders of countries and corporations. In every endeavour that we embark on in groups, there is the need for leaders. We never know when leadership may be thrust upon us: be prepared.
Happy Republic Day!
February 15, 2014 By
A return to first principles in a republic is sometimes caused by the simple virtues of one man. His good example has such an influence that the good men strive to imitate him, and the wicked are ashamed to lead a life so contrary to his example. – Niccolo Machiavelli
By Anu Dev
Well, Republic Day’s coming up next Sunday and it really is an important day. I certainly wasn’t around way back in 1970, to know personally what it must have been like to live in a country still under the rule of another. Or even nominally under a governor general. But I do know that it feels better to be in control than to be controlled. And we won that right on Republic Day – to chart our own destiny. It’s like an ultimate version of becoming an adult.
My favourite hero in WI history was Toussaint L’Ouverture. To be a man – born a slave – take on the full might of one of the greatest European powers of the day, for the right to be free, was awe inspiring. He was indeed an “Opening”: the eventual independence of Haiti showed the path that every other colony had to walk.
So on Republic Day at least, we should make a point of being proud to be Guyanese. On that day we commemorate the earlier rebellion of our own Cuffy, in our own Berbice, for that same struggle to be free. Before l’Overture.
I know some people try to raise some Guyanese pride on Republic Day, but unfortunately for most, it’s just about the Mashramani parade.
Granted, everyone has different ways of celebrating, of showing joy. Some people express themselves by parading down the streets in various states of undress in honour of Republic Day. Other people have more demure gatherings to celebrate the day.
But the problematic thing about it all is that most people don’t parade because of national pride. They parade to dress up (or undress) in costumes and ride on floats. Because it’s all about Mashramani – the jump-up and wine-down.
We’ve gotten so caught up with the festivities, that we’ve completely forgotten why we’re celebrating in the first place. Who thinks of the meaning of Cuffy or Toussaint in the definition of what ‘freedom’ means?
One of the aspects of being free means that we’re a democracy – we can elect our own government. I know I’m thrilled that I’m finally 18, so I can vote in the next election. Even though I just get one vote out of the thousands that are cast on Election’s Day, it still makes me feel like I have a say in who’ll be in charge of running our country.
And I’ll be thinking long and hard about which party has the best interests of the country at the top of their agenda before I cast my vote. Who’ll ensure most UG graduates don’t emigrate? A healthy nation is a productive nation – which party will implement the best health-care programme for the country?
Our kids are the future of our country and they need to have a sound education to ensure that they can have successful careers to continue the development of Guyana. We still have so few scholarships that kids have to write over 20 subjects at CXC to try to grab either the regional prize or the two scholarships that Guyana gives out.
Why aren’t we giving out scholarships to children for the different streams, example, science, arts and business? That’ll encourage children to be the best in their chosen field, instead of having to spread themselves too thin to write subjects from all of the streams.
So don’t just wait until it’s close to election’s time to think about whom you’ll vote for: start this Republic Day. Look at their actions during the year – what bills are they pushing (or holding up) in Parliament? Are they the type of people you’d want representing you?
We’re a republic now. We have the right (and obligation) to vote for who governs our country. So let’s think long and hard and make the decision that’ll be best for Guyana. That’s us.
Happy Republic Day!
February 9, 2014 By
The first Friday of every February is designated “National Wear Red Day” in the U.S. Heart disease is actually the number one killer of women in America. Attention has been brought to this since 2003 by wearing red to raise awareness about heart disease.
There are so many decisions we can all make (not just women) about our lifestyle to reduce our risk of developing heart disease. Things like checking your cholesterol levels regularly and getting in a bit of exercise can go a long way in keeping you healthy.
This semester, for our first block (of courses), we’re covering digestion and metabolism – all the chemical reactions that goes on inside us to keep us alive. As a part of that, we’ve had to cover nutrition extensively. In addition to the “food” that comes to mind, our classes really emphasised how important the micronutrients like vitamins and minerals are, even though they’re required in much smaller quantities than rice and dhall – carbohydrates and proteins
Eating well is vital to staying healthy. And while that may sound like common sense, you might be surprised by how many people actually don’t eat that healthily. Eating well doesn’t just mean eating your three meals a day; it’s what you eat that’s really important. In primary school, I learnt about the different food groups, the food pyramid and the importance of a balanced diet. Remember “Go” food, “Glow” food? and “Grow” food?!
And now I’m in med school learning even more about all of that. So one would assume that with all of this knowledge about how I should be eating, that I’ve been taking the time to plan and eat balanced meals. But in truth, it took a horrible flu, and my mother flying in and stocking my room with fresh fruits for me to finally start eating fruits regularly. And I’ve finally started taking my multivitamins again- some of those pictures on our lecture slides of what vitamin-deficiencies can look like definitely scared me into keeping up with my vitamins. (Yes, Mom!)
What we need to eat varies according to our gender, our age, our occupations and other such factors. So take the time to do some reading, or visit a nutritionist to discuss what nutrients are particularly important for you. Girls for example, need a lot of iron in their diet.
It’s important to weigh the pros and cons of the foods that you’re choosing to include in your diet for particular nutrients. Lots of people eat liver for its high iron content, but liver also has a really high cholesterol content and that’s not good for keeping your heart healthy. If you already have high cholesterol levels, it might be better for you to eat other iron-rich foods instead of liver.
Technology is also quickly advancing to make it easier for us to stay healthy. There are so many fitness apps that keep track of your meals to let you know whether you’ve eaten enough of each particular nutrient. There are apps that you can use to keep track of whether you’re drinking enough water.
Heart diseases are very serious. The heart is responsible for pumping blood all over your body. If the heart is affected, the rest of your body gets affected as well. Ease up on the fast food that’s flooding our shores, now that the U.S. has declared them unhealthy. Trinidad is one of the most obese societies in the world. They’ve had the fast food joints longer.
So let’s all try to live better, healthier lives. There’s so much useful information at our fingertips via the Internet, that we really can’t cite ignorance as an excuse for not knowing what constitutes a balanced meal.
Remember, prevention is better than cure.
February 2, 2014 By
By Anu Dev
We all have heroes and heroines from movies we saw as children. Some of these movies we can re-watch and they take us back, even just for two hours, to that time when things were so much simpler. Much of the appeal of those movies comes from the nostalgia accompanying our memories of when we first saw them, and what things were liked back then. Movies and songs can be really powerful in the way they evoke certain emotions within us.
For me, “The Little Mermaid” and “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai“ are two movies from my childhood that managed to make me remember quite strongly the first couple of times I saw those movies. And I still cheer when I see Shahrukh running towards Camp Sunshine with Raghupati Ragav playing in the background. Shahrukh has clearly mastered those dramatic running sequences. These movies still make me laugh, cry, sigh and sing-a-long.
And I can’t help but reflect on how Indian movies have changed since the days of ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’. And truthfully, I really don’t enjoy most of the newer movies. Maybe some might call the older movies cheesy; even I quickly lose patience with the seemingly never-ending ‘running-around-trees-while-singing sequences’, but at least they didn’t have the actors ‘getting down’ to Raghupati Ragav in a club like Hritik and Priyanka did in Krissh 3. It’s clear that Bollywood has always drawn some influences from Hollywood – the name ‘Bollywood’ itself speaks volumes – but now, it seems to be reaching all new heights. But that’s a discussion for another time – luckily we can choose whether we want to avoid the newer movies and look at movies from whatever era we prefer.
I finally got to see “Frozen” a few weeks ago and I was thrilled that it managed to make me as happy as the original Disney movies. Disney has clearly updated their style to make their movies more current, but they still managed to keep the ‘Disney-ness’ of the movie. It had all of the ingredients that we’ve come to expect and love from Disney movies.
So it’s nice that there are still movies that you can enjoy that can take you back to your childhood days. I know we should be moving forward, forging onwards, setting goals and trying to achieve those goals. But for me, and perhaps many people my age, we’re at a strange stage in life.
Just a few months ago, our parents were driving us to school, making sure we’re well fed and well dressed, but now, some of us are living on our own, doing our own grocery shopping, driving ourselves around and doing you know, ‘adult-things’. And a few years from now, we’ll be responsible for keeping our patients alive, defending our clients in court or keeping our businesses afloat. So with our futures quickly hurtling towards us, it’s nice to escape for a few hours into a nice movie that makes us feel like our younger selves.
So what movies take you back to your childhood? When last did you look at those movies? I can guarantee that those movies will be the ones that can cheer you up when you’re having a bad day.
January 26, 2014 By
“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do” – Leonardo da Vinci
Just before returning to Trinidad a little over a week ago, I caught a bug. It felt like the flu: you know – fever, cough, headache, aching muscles and tiredness. So I downed the usual over-the-counter medications and hunkered down to see it through. Lots of liquid and all that.
Most of the students hadn’t arrived from the other islands so I had the dorms practically to myself. I’d planned to move around a bit…spread my wings so to speak. The bug took care of that plan!
But for the next couple of days the symptoms just got worse and I became increasingly weaker and lethargic. The cough became hacking. Now you have to have an idea of the layout of the dorms of the Mount Hope Medical School to know where I’m going with this. It’s not on the main campus among the other faculties at St Augustine, but as part of the Mount Hope Medical complex (it’s actually the Eric Williams Medical Sciences complex but everyone refers to it as “Mount Hope”.) It’s one of the three tertiary hospitals in Trinidad.
So it’s like I’m living right smack in the middle of a hospital. And I knew I ought to get some kind of medical attention since I wasn’t feeling any better.
But I just couldn’t bring myself to walk over to the clinic or the emergency wings to get help. One of the senior lecturers of the medical school is a friend of my dad’s and he’d done my medicals when I entered the school. I knew the family well.
He’s part of a nearby private hospital…but I didn’t call him.
Eventually (well within a day) my mom flew over and dragged me around to the doctors and they did their tests and all the other diagnostics (in an amazingly fast time, I must say).
My blood count was very low…hence my tiredness and listlessness. They also thought I might have dengue. Well two days later, the latter was nixed and they decided I just had a rather nasty viral infection…much worse than the seasonal flu.
I’m still not fully recovered but the question I pose to myself is, why didn’t I do what I knew had to be done to take care of the crisis I was going through? And the answer is that it’s most likely a form of procrastination, which I’d written about before. This is a very common habit with too many people…including myself. We know what is to be done in a situation and we still don’t do it – even when it’s as serious as an illness.
It’s so widespread that it has its own name…the “knowing-doing gap”. My mom is flying back to Guyana today, as I am writing this. And I’ve resolved to close this gap. My dad has always taught us that in Hindu epistemology (theory of knowledge) that “knowledge” is not just a cognitive (thinking) act…but become so only when it ends in action. “If you know by doing, there is no gap between what you know and what you do”.
So if you’re like me (and there’s a lot of us out there…in fact we’re the majority) let’s do what we know has to be done before it becomes a crisis.
So if you check up on me tomorrow, you’ll find me eating better to get my blood count up. And checking in with the doctors to see how I’m doing.
January 19, 2014 By
By Anu Dev
Now don’t get me wrong after you read the quote above. It’s not as if I spent the last 27 years on Robbins Island. Or even that I was locked away for the four months I was away in Trinidad – with armed guards patrolling the perimeter of the UWI Medical School! But I’ll tell you what: like prisons, medical schools (and all schools for that matter) are also institutions that seek to impart a new way of looking at the world on its inmates. And they have more than a few things in common.
There are no guards clanking on bars to wake you up (I’ve seen this in prison movies, in case you’re wondering!) in medical school but those early classes that are mandatory pretty much have the same effect on you. And if you detect a note of chagrin in that sentence, it’s quite heartfelt – coming from a person who enjoys a late morning snooze. So you end up, after four months waking up early.
I’ve also heard about the prison “slop” – and seen it in the aforementioned movies – and I’ll tell you something. The people who run cafeterias in medical schools probably graduated from the same culinary institutions as their compatriots in the correction facilities. So, I’ve ended up pretty much doing my own cooking. Not that I have anything against cooking – in fact, I happen to actually like the experience. I can let my creativity pour forth in the kitchen.
But when you return home to your dorm room and have to whip up your vittles, it does take the sheen off even the old favourites. So I’ve resorted to cooking pounds of puttanesca and gallons of dhall and sequestered them in my fridge. And you appreciate like you’ve never done before the effort your mother made to whip up all those concoctions (effortlessly, you’d thought!!!) to deal with your finicky eating habits. So yes, I can emphasise with Mr Mandela when he conceded that you are inevitably altered by institutional rules and regulations.
So how was it to return to a place that was unchanged? Well I’ll tell you…it wasn’t that unchanged. The four lane exit from the airport’s coming on nicely and there was a new hotel near the stadium. I thought they should’ve put up a facade around the roof, though – the present one makes the place look too ordinary from the outside. See…I told you I’ve changed. Moving around Trinidad (which could fit into half of my native West Coast Demerara) that’s so oriented towards tourism makes one much more aware of the amenities demanded.
But I’ll tell you what hasn’t changed – the garbage situation. I’ve written before about my school bus manoeuvring through the flotsam and jetsam from floods that’ve receded; and almost retching on my way to Queen’s.
But this time, in my newfound freedom where I could go shopping, the old revulsion was intensified from seeing gorgeous new malls rising from the same garbage. But this time, I was much more outraged – at the Mayor and City Council, at the people dropping their garbage so nonchalantly and at all the political gamesmanship.
But one thing that was unchanged was the love from my family, friends and old nexuses. I dropped in to the birthday of an old school friend and was able to re-connect to most of the old gang. Like me, they’ve moved on…but the old bonds are still there.
So unlike what Tom Wolfe said, you CAN go back home.
January 12, 2014 By
The new year is well and truly underway. Many of us marked the New Year with resolutions to change some of the things we weren’t quite happy with last year. Unfortunately, (but most likely) most of us haven’t managed to keep all of our resolutions. The mind is willing but the flesh is weak!
I know I usually have the habit of being overly ambitious in my goals – planning to complete huge amounts of things in one day that realistically, I probably won’t be able to complete in a week. It’s like stacking the odds against you and setting yourself up to fail. I hereby resolve to ease up in this department!
I know most schools have opened and homework’s being hurled at students from all angles. But it’s really not too late to sit down and methodically plan out how you want to use your time for the new semester. Better yet, for university students, the semester hasn’t even begun yet. We still have a couple more days to plan out our semester. If anything, our grades from the first semester that are slowly filtering out (osmosis?) should pretty much be enough motivation to spur us on to want to do better than last semester.
For my high school readers, I know from (bitter?) experience, that in fifth form, being on this (wrong) side of January 1st, you’re kind of propelled faster and faster to your first exam date. Somewhere between the mounds of SBAs, past papers, and frantically trying to cover what’s left of the syllabus, time slips away. And before you know it, it’s the morning of your first exam. So take the time now, before you get swept away in the whirlwind of the days up ahead and plan, set goals, get more organised than you were last semester.
It’s going to take some time, a lot of thinking, and a lot of self-evaluation to make sure your goals are realistically achievable. But it’ll be worth it, because a couple of months from now, you won’t be in a panic over not covering everything, or not working enough papers because you would have already covered those things according to your plan.
Panic is probably one of the most dangerous emotions to have during exams. Your mind can literally go blank and you can find yourself unable to remember things like the names of the 20-something poems you covered for English B. Deep breaths and taking some time to collect your thoughts can prove to be incredibly helpful. It’s not for nothing panicked persons are advised to take a deep breath – it actually works! Oxygen getting to your brain and all that!
It’s the 12th day of the new year, and one week of school is already over. Don’t let procrastination get the best of you this year. We’re all guilty of procrastination at some time or the other, some of us much more than others. And it’s usually the crushing regret afterwards, when we realise we could’ve done so much better (if only!!!) that brings us to our senses.
So don’t end off 2014 with regrets, it’s early enough to make realistic goals. Stick to your goals and don’t give up on those resolutions just yet.
January 5, 2014 By
A few months ago, I saw the documentary “Sicko”. It’s directed by Michael Moore and compared the American healthcare industry with that of other nations. The Americans are finally grappling with universal health insurance…now dubbed “Obamacare”.
Even though I was horrified by the revelation that insurance companies in the U.S. have warped the healthcare system to such an extent that it’s geared towards churning out billions of dollars in profits instead of providing healthcare, I was even more troubled by the section of the movie that detailed Hillary Clinton’s healthcare reform proposal of 1993.
I was astounded that her opponents were willing to spend over US$100 million just to discredit her proposal. But most of all, I was disappointed in how even she could be paid off (US$854,462 the movie claims) to remain silent.
After I’ve completed my medical studies, I’ll be entering the ‘real world’. I’ll have to work within a system, and if that system is flawed or unfair, I’ll either have to accept things as they are, or make a move to bring about change. But it’s very difficult to be the lone voice speaking out. It engenders a feeling of powerlessness in not being able to change something that one knows can cause harm.
It shook me to the core to see how someone like Hillary Clinton, so passionate about something as vital to her as healthcare, could be so effectively muzzled and reduced to introducing her husband at ‘Easter Egg Rolls’. And the revelation that even she had a price that she could be bought off with left an even bitterer aftertaste.
The movie forced me to put myself into the shoes of the doctors, the insurance victims, the politicians and think about what I might have done had I been in their position. And then I started thinking about my future and what I could do to avoid being swept away by the money-making mentality that seems to have gripped medicine.
Looking around our amphitheatre, I realised that my fellow students were also deeply affected by the movie but in various different ways. Some seemed especially troubled by the stories of persons being turned away by insurance companies. The experience certainly made me do a lot of introspection and analyse why exactly I was so shaken by the silencing of Hillary in particular.
There’s always this unequal distribution of power working within a system and when those with entrenched interests and power don’t want to make changes, it’s difficult to turn the tide. In Hillary’s case, the powerful healthcare industry’s US$100 million fear mongering efforts to torpedo her proposal was unassailable.
I just hope that I can make the right decisions when confronted by tough choices. Something as rigorous as studying medicine changes you. I’ve already had to make adjustments. I hope that at the end of the process, I can still recognise myself and most of all that I can stand up for what I believe is right when it truly matters. I’ll have to set limits that I’ll never cross, based on my personal value-system.
It isn’t worth being rich if the price is a guilt-ridden conscience that keeps me awake at night. To play my part in effecting change in a mercenary system, I plan on volunteering my services to the poor and powerless during some of my free time and I can encourage my fellow physicians to do the same. While we mightn’t be able to accomplish a complete revolution in the system, we can do our little part at the individual level. Every little act adds up. Who knows? If there are enough of us taking innovative steps, we might just be able to reform our small part of the world.
December 29, 2013 By