How to foster and encourage genuine, curious learning in a medical student

I just had a conversation with a physician and faculty member at my school. He started the conversation like this: “It’s alright if you disagree with me, and I can disagree with you too. Good academic discourse should allow people to disagree with each other.”

He then allowed me to question him and explain my perspectives for over an hour as he explained his answers, helped clarify some points, and gave me more to think about.

The conversation was about insulin. I don’t think it should be used exogenously in the management of Type 2 diabetes, and I had a meta-analysis in hand, other studies to discuss, and all the work by physician/author Jason Fung to reference. I said insulin worsens the disease, it is physiologically undefendable, and it continues to exist because it pulls in massive profits by pharmaceutical companies.

The physician I spoke with practices in a clinic and prescribes insulin often. He heads research in diabetes, insulin, and other metabolic conditions — and he has become an expert in this realm.

We weren’t arguing; we were exchanging ideas. And that is how learning should be.

He didn’t have to have this conversation with me, but he did. I love that. He is fostering my curiosity and interests, letting my inquisitiveness guide my education. He is encouraging my critical thinking even when it results in opinions different from his own. After each one of my questions, he honored it before responding, saying, “That’s a great question, and I like that you brought that up. Here’s what I think.”

The conversation today is to be continued. And in my opinion, medicine’s de-conditioning from current Type 2 diabetes management is going to be one of the biggest battles of 21st-century health. But solving that problem wasn’t the goal today.

The takeaway today was the commitment from someone in a teaching position to foster and encourage genuine, curious learning in a student. That’s something we could all commit to.

Our duty, as students, is to become passionate about something. An educator’s duty is to encourage that passion and help mold it into a future. Today was a great example of this, and I am grateful for the experience.

It’s what learning is all about.

Jamie Katuna is a medical student.  She can be reached at her self-titled site, Jamie Katuna, and on Facebook.

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