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The Oxbridge fallacy: the importance of knowing your facts


Interest in medical education
Harold Lambert Physician
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I was so interested in medical education that when I was a senior registrar I went to my boss, Max Rosenheim at that time I didn't think there was any way in which my infection interest could come together, which by accident it did and said, 'You know, this education would be very interesting. What do you think if one could took, take up medical education as your specialty in medicine?' And he sort of pondered and he said, 'I don't think people would take you seriously'. They probably would now, but he... I'm sure he was right then, and that was how interested I was in the whole process and then you got these associations for the study and these sort of minute sociological studies about seven interviews with four students. I thought it got pretty boring really, but the... the other thing is of course they all kept going on about the principles of medicine and we mustn't overload them with facts. Well, actually, I don't think there are many principles. There are a hell of a lot of facts and I think, you know, there's a huge amount of stuff out there and you've got to know a lot of it. There's no escaping that. What I think is valid, which is that they... you shouldn't at undergraduate level be expected to know facts which are almost certainly going to be totally irrelevant except if you go into a particular specialty. So, you know when we were doing anatomy...  there are four layers of muscles in the foot or something and, you know, I can't remember even their names let alone what they were about, and a lot of operative surgery you were expected to know about, which is completely ridiculous. But if you talk about the general context of a patient and a doctor together, I think there are a very large number of facts you need to know, actually.

British doctor Harold Lambert (1926-2017) spent his career tackling infectious diseases, helping in the development of pyrazinamide as an effective treatment for tuberculosis. He also published work on the rational use of antibiotics and was a trustee and medical advisor for the Meningitis Research Foundation.

Listeners: Roger Higgs

Roger Higgs was an inner city GP for 30 years in south London, UK, and is Emeritus Professor of General Practice at Kings College London, where he set up the department.

He gained scholarships in classics at Cambridge but changed to medicine after a period of voluntary work in Kenya in 1962. He was Harold Lambert's registrar for 18 months in the early 1970s, the most influential and exciting episode in his hospital training. He set up his own practice in 1975. He helped to establish medical ethics as a practical and academic subject through teaching, writing and broadcasting, and jointly set up the 'Journal of Medical Ethics' in 1975.

His other work included studies in whole person assessment and narrative in general practice and development work in primary medical care: innovations here included intermediate care centres, primary care assessment in accident and emergency departments, teaching internal medicine in general practice and establishing counselling services in medicine.

He was made MBE in 1987 for this development work and now combines bioethics governance, teaching and writing with an arts based retirement.

Tags: undergraduate, facts, speciality, anatomy, surgery

Duration: 1 minute, 43 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008