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Gospel Music & the Gurukul system of Medical Education May 16, 2006

Posted by scan man in medical blogs, Medicine.

Bloglines alerted me to a new post by Dr. Hebert a few days ago. I read a few lines and thinking that it was about Jazz and Gospel Music, something that I don't know anything about, I quit.

I came across the post again in Grand Rounds (hosted by Dr. iBear at Doc Around the Clock) today…

Dr. Hebert of Michael Hebert's Medical Gumbo talks about apprenticeships in medical education and eloquently contrasts that with the gospel group the Zion Harmonizers in Med Ed and the Zion Harmonizers. Where is the future of medicine headed unless we take a little tip from the Zion Harmonizers?

Curiosity aroused, I went back and read through the entire post.

To echo Dr. Flea, I'm Speechless.

This is the best thing that I have read about medical education in the sixteen years that I have been a medical student and a doctor.

Dr. Hebert has quoted the Hippocratic oath to make a point about apprenticeship as a way to learn medicine..

It was not always thus. The history of medicine is rich with preceptor-apprentice relationships. At one time, this was the expected method of medical education. The Oath of Hippocrates, written 2,400 years ago, gives more than a passing nod to apprenticeship:

I swear . . . . To consider dear to me as my parents him who taught me this art; to live in common with him and if necessary to share my goods with him; To look upon his children as my own brothers, to teach them this art if they so desire without fee or written promise; to impart to my sons and the sons of the master who taught me and the disciples who have enrolled themselves and have agreed to the rules of the profession, but to these alone the precepts and the instruction.

If we look further east (and a few centuries earlier), we find an obvious parallel in the haloed Gurukul system of education in ancient India with its Guru-Shishya tradition.

Knowledge passed on thus to generations of students in the ancient Greek and Hindu civilizations are at the core of most modern science and philosophy. The reason why we still remember them and their methods.

Medical educaiton, which was essentially an apprenticeship until the nineteenth century, has become, over the past century, more 'scientific' and 'professional'.

I wonder if anyone will remember this 'information assembly line' system of 'education by committee' two thousand years hence when, presumably, the chief medical officer would be assisted by computers, robots, medical droids and holograms.



1. mchebert - May 16, 2006

I would like to thank you for adding the Gurukul concept to my train of thought. Perhaps I should have thought of it before — my wife is a Sikh! — but I did not pick up on the parallel.

The data accumulates in our profession, Scanman, but the methodology is withering away.

2. scan man - May 17, 2006

Thanks Dr. Hebert. I really meant what I wrote. We need more doctors like you who can express themselves well to spread out the message that Medicine as an Art is still Alive.
I learnt from Wikipedia that the very word Sikh is derived from Shishya (student).
Sikh as pronounced by us Indians (seekh) means ‘to learn’ in Hindi.
I knew your wife is a Sikh. Moofie told me that some time back.

3. OrthoDoc - May 19, 2006

Scanman, that was a lovely post. I have added Dr herbert to my blogroll. Your comparison to the Gurukul system couldn’t be more true.

Without your post I wouldn’t have known about it.

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