What motivates doctors?

In a previous year, I wrote about why there are motivations for going through medical education in North America despite the high costs…

While preparing a slideshow about deep brain stimulation (DBS) as a treatment for dystonia patients, for a bioengineering course, I was reminded that doctors are often rewarded when they see clinical improvement in their patients.

A 7-year-old child with genetic dystonia, who was unable to feed herself or stand up erect, received a DBS implant in 2009. At the 1 year mark, she had improved 91.2% in motor skills.

Visually illustrated:

7-year-old standing erect after deep brain stimulation

Wouldn’t you be touched if you saw this happen?

Last month, a video of Joanne Milne, a hearing-impaired woman who was able to hear clearly the days of the week for the first time, went viral online:

I’d like to think that compassion remains alive and that humans are still innately good creatures.

Jin, S. T., Lee, M. K., Ghang, J. Y. & Jeon, S. M. Deep Brain Stimulation of the Globus Pallidus in a 7-Year-Old Girl with DYT1 Generalized Dystonia. J Korean Neurosurg Soc 52, 261-263 (2012). doi: 10.3340/jkns.2012.52.3.261

Penn Engineering survey questions

Excerpts from the Penn Engineering student survey…

SEAS survey: “I can cope with being the only person of my race/ethnicity in a class”
Me: “Not applicable”

SEAS survey: select your ethnicity/citizenship…
Ethnicity or Citizenship question on survey

Me: why are these mutually exclusive?!

Lowering the bar on education isn’t the answer

The following article was initially drafted with a guest author, Kirill Peretoltchine, at the end of July 2012.

A giant statue in the opening ceremony of the Athens Summer Olympics in 2004, onto which laser images of geometrical shapes and scientific concepts were projected, was a powerful reminder of a bygone era. Ancient Greece was a birthplace of logical thought, education, mathematics, science… and democracy.

The Renaissance was marked by an explosion in the diffusion of ideas, and the naissance of the scientific method that has allowed us to explore this world. This was the time of Copernicus, Galileo, Michelangelo, and da Vinci — the last of which, far from being just a scientist and artist, was also an engineer and writer: the stunning definition of a Renaissance man.

And one of the founding fathers of the United States of America, Benjamin Franklin — also the founder of our alma mater — was a polymath himself. Politician, scientist, writer…

There is a reason we honour and respect figures like da Vinci and Franklin, even if we, enlightened with 21st century practicality, do not expect to educate the entire populace in their image.

Both of us were shocked to read a real proposal by an educator at the City University of New York for the lowering of educational standards and the removal of mathematics from standard curricula.

We agree that there are serious deficits in the North American educational system that are in need of redress. We also concur that it is impractical to teach higher math effectively to every high school and college or university student. But we are firm in our belief that lowering the bar isn’t the answer. Andrew Hacker has a limited view of mathematics that fails to appreciate its value, and his solution of removing math from standards is flawed.

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