Letter to Editor

  • Issue 60

Magdalena Mierzewska-Schmidt | Medical University of Warsaw, Poland

Fruits that come later……

As a young specialist in Anaesthesiology and Intensive Therapy, employed in a university hospital and a great enthusiast of teaching, I was lucky to be selected to participate in the first course of the International School for Instructors of Anesthesia (ISIA). It was a newly developed project under the auspices of the World Federation of the Societies of Anesthesiologists whose “father” and Faculty Chairman was Professor Gabriel Gurman (Israel). Five national societies each sent a group of four young specialists from Central and Eastern Europe, who were supposed to deliver the acquired knowledge and skills later on in their home countries on the national courses. The School comprised of three meetings of one week duration: Bratislava in October 2006 and April 2007 and Belgrade in October 2007. The faculty included well known anaesthesia experts from all over the world, as well as fantastic specialists in the art of teaching Dr Lesley Bromley, Mrs Shirley Dobson and Dr Mike Dobson from the UK. The school was excellent not only from the scientific and educational point of view. It also provided the opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences not only on the students – faculty platform but as importantly the student-student level and gave us a chance for networking. The meetings resulted in close friendships lasting until now.
The non-expressed purpose of this school was to produce leaders who could initiate a progress of the discipline in their countries. I think the success in this direction has been enormous, perhaps even bigger than expected by the school Initiator. I know that a lot of us have progressed a lot in our professional career since the time we passed the course. Today, among the graduates of ISIA there are professors, scientists, at least one leader of the National Society, chairmen of Departments, members of the WFSA and ESA executive committees.
Moreover, we are active lecturers, or perhaps teachers as I think that we do not believe in “lectures” as a way of teaching anymore. Some of us, including myself, had the honor to teach at next ISIA editions and ESA Teach the Teachers (TtT) courses.
I do think ISIA was much more important to my professional life than I initially thought. One of its invaluable aspects that I would like to underline, are friends in many parts of the world. Even though, we don’t meet often, every time it happens, we feel as if we have never separated.
Enthusiastic as I am about teaching, even I have not yet appreciated enough the importance of good education and acknowledged the fact that there is a lot that can be done about it. Teaching has always been important to me and also a considerable part of my professional satisfaction, as students do appreciate our efforts. Thanks to ISIA I know teaching is like medicine. A good teacher can never stop learning, analysing his teaching and trying to be even better. I have always thought that if teaching is to be effective it must be interactive and students involving. That’s why I believe in interactive teaching, case-based learning and problem-oriented teaching. It trains students and trainees in decision-making which is so important by the patient’s bed. However I do realise that ISIA gave me tools to do it better than I would have done it just instinctively. Being an ISIA student and graduate it helped me to reach the obvious conclusion that TEACHING SKILLS CAN AND SHOULD BE TAUGHT AND LEARNT!
The system of education in Poland still needs a considerable change. I was trying to promote this change as a person responsible for education in the executive committee of the Pediatric Section of the Polish Society of Anesthesiology and Intensive Therapy. To my satisfaction, these changes start to happen also in “my” Medical University of Warsaw. The authorities has recognized the need for improvement and initiated some steps to achieve it. I am very much engaged in educational activities of the Medical University of Warsaw, helping to get funds and to establish new tools to improve quality of teaching. We try to work on all parts of the educational process including feedback and assessment, trying to make it adapted to the modern students’ needs, aiming for a hands-on, practical approach as possible not losing the academic part of it. We don’t forget of modern tools such as e-learning or simulation training etc.
Finally and perhaps most importantly, the most significant point of the ISIA attitude was to stay open-minded, to push change, improve constantly and never stagnate, and produce teaching-learning environment. In other words , to treat anyone – whether patients, students, or doctors from low resources countries as partners.
Recently, as a result of a coincidence, I unexpectedly became the acting Head of the Department of Pediatric Anesthesiology and Intensive Therapy in my University. So I can experience myself how determined one has to be to produce real, long lasting progress. Now I see how important were the organisational topics at ISIA that I did not appreciate so much at that time.
ISIA could not have functioned like it did without the financial support of WFSA and ESA. I would like to underline how important is such support from international organisations in helping individuals in their professional progress. It is obvious that cumulative progress of individuals makes the whole specialty progress.
To conclude, for me ISIA has been a life-changing experience. I do believe that change for the better might be difficult if we just sit back and wait for it to happen. There will always be opportunities to look for what we can improve. Thank you ISIA!’