College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan and the FCPS Examinations

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  College of Physicians and Surgeons 

Pakistan and the FCPS Examinations

By Dr. Alaf Khan

Appointment by the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Pakistan, as examiner for Part-I and Part-II of the FCPS examination was an unsolicited honor. It made it possible to meet and befriend many eminent medical teachers from the medical colleges in the country and from the Pakistan Army Medical Corps. Firsthand insight into the strategy and objectives of these examinations was also fruitful experience. Surprisingly, I found the Generals from the Army Medical College and CMH (Rawalpindi) fairer and more balanced as examiners than some of the teachers from the civilian institutions. Especially inspiring were Lt. Gen. Mahmud Ahmad Akhtar, Lt. Gen. Iftikhar Malik, Lt Gen. Salim and Maj. Gen. Zaheeruddin with whom I was paired as examiner on various occasions.

Dr. Alaf Khan

My respect for Zaheeruddin rose steeply after we had been co-examiners on one occasion for the Long Cases. Our last candidate that day was a mature, calm, and well-read young man with excellent perspective. Zaheeruddin asked him one or two casual questions and then handed him over to me. Alaf Khan, he said, I feel tired. You go ahead and search him well. And searched well he was. I took him down so many medical alleys that I began to feel guilty of perhaps being unfair to this knowledgeable and confident young physician. We finally let the candidate go and began discussing how many marks to award him on a scale of one-to-ten. It is ten out of ten from me, I told Zaheer. But nobody ever gets 100 percent in this exam, said Zaheer. Is this scale meant for angels or for these candidates? I asked Zaheer, adding, I can’t justify withholding a mark or two from him. Zaheer relented and entered 9 on his part of the score sheet. That made an average of ninety-five percent. Zaheer put his hand on my shoulder and asked if I guessed why he let me examine the candidate solo and why he tried to withhold from him that one mark. ˜No; I did not think about it, I answered. ˜Well, said Zaheer, he is my ownTMO at the Army Medical College. And he is really good. There is obviously no dearth of people with such integrity among those wearing khaki. Zaheer was one such soldierly soldier.

It was always an inspirational experience to be co-examiner with eminent personalities of unyielding principles like Prof. Fazli Ilahi the surgeon, the ever-smiling Rose Madan and Gen. Iftikhar Malik. Prof. Yunas Khan, the soft spoken and courteous anatomist, was an impressive personality in the College. He examined the examiners by gently entering each viva room, sitting quietly and making sure that the examinations were thorough but fair. He was ourMunkir-Nakeer minus the iron rods. The saintly Prof. Khawaja Sadiq Hussain merits a lofty pedestal. A paragon of humility, gentleness, uprightness and academic excellence, Khawaja sahib is a man who is adored rather than admired by those who know him well enough. This may sound too flowery a tribute to Khawaja sahib, but will be considered an understatement by those who have known him personally well enough.

The College (CPSP), like other institutions in the country, has had its share of those who fondly had their names splashed on every wall and on every facility. A profusion of plaques on many things bore the name of one person whoseBlessed Hand (Dast Mubarak--------------------)had founded, initiated, planned, planted or inaugurated this thing or that. The blessed handseemed to have inaugurated everything except, perhaps, the lavatory commodes. But, then, I didn’t inspect every restroom. Besides, a commode is normally blessed with the haunches rather than with the hands anyway.

The Dissertation

The College had prescribed unattainable linguistic standards for the FCPS-II Dissertation. An Assessment Form containing twenty negatively phrased questions came to the Assessor with each Dissertation. The Assessor entered YES or NO against each question such as: Are there no more than one error of spelling or grammar per 2 pages? A single NO to one of the twenty questions condemned the candidate to rewriting the whole Dissertation. I approved, on the basis of overall content, each of the two dozen or so Dissertations sent to me. The language was almost uniformly poor. I corrected most of the errors in the text for the candidates benefit without penalizing them. With each Dissertation the College sent a pamphlet listing Guidelines for Assessors. That pamphlet itself had 2- 4 errors of spelling or grammar (or both) per page. I wrote repeatedly to the College Registrar, sent him a corrected and annotated copy of his own Guidelines and begged for the withdrawal of these unrealistic and unjust requirements. My pleas fell on a few pairs of deaf ears.

Shahid Jamil was a TMO of mine. One Assessor rejected his Dissertation because of three errors of spelling in two pages. I glanced at the Assessor’s handwritten verdict of four lines. The gentleman (or lady) had committed four errors of spelling and two of grammar in those four lines. I sent Shahid’s Dissertation, together with the Assessor’s note, to the President of the College and asked whether such a person was fit to be retained as an Assessor. Shahid’s Dissertation stood Approved. I bet no member of the College Council, or of our PMDC, can come up to the linguistic proficiency demanded of the FCPS candidates.

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Some useful hints for Trainee Medical Officers

Here are a few hints for avoiding confusion of thought while writing English prose.

  1. Choose simple, short and familiar words instead of the long, obscure and pompous ones. No need to say lengthy when long is just as good.
  2. Make your sentences short.
  3. Read each sentence aloud to yourself. Does it express what you want to say? If not, then redraft it differently. Can you read it in one breath? If not, then break it up into two or more sentences.
  4. Translate each sentence to yourself in your mother tongue. Modify your English if it does not clearly express your thought.
  5. No sentence should contain more than forty words. The longer the sentence, the fuzzier the thought.
  6. Do not add in brackets an unrelated statement to an independent sentence. The following is an example of whatnotto do: My nephew is a surgeon in Chicago (our neighbor’s horse was stolen last night).
  7. Punctuation marks and the location of adverbs need care. Here is a single sentence in four forms (a, b, c, d). Note how the meaning is changed by shifting the location of the adverb Only:
    1. OnlyI heard about this lecture toda: means no one else heard about it.
    2. IOnly heard about this lecture today: means there was no written or other form of announcement about it.
    3. I heardOnlyabout this lecture today: means I did not hear about any other lecture.
    4. I heard about this lectureOnly today:means I never heard about it before this morning.
  8. Avoid starting a paragraph with I and My. Loving oneself is no crime, but too much show of one's ego bores one’s readers.
  9. Prefer the short to the long word. Prosperousand affluentare no richer than the rich, nor are theimpecunious and the indigent poorer than the poor.
  10. Why waste time and breath on tremendous and fantastic whengreator fine can serve the purpose?.
  11. Convolutedmeans little more thantwisted. The three extra letters are a waste.
  12. Never use Double Negatives. You are not unaware of this meansyou know this damned well.
  13. Here is a sentence, supposedly in English, from page 120 of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan - A Personal History:

I never took for granted the knowledge I gained from being placed on the path by Mian Bahir, as I know from my own experience that it can be argued that just because someone has an extra sense or an ability to predict the future, it doesn’t prove that there is a God.

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