Qualities of a Good Medical Teacher

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 Qualities of a Good Medical Teacher

A teacher should be knowledgeable, hardworking, sympathetic,
devoted, honest, show patience and above all
he or she should be humane

Prof. Nasreen Javaid,
Former Professor of Pharmacology
Fatima Jinnah Medical University, Lahore.

Education is the key to success in life and teachers make a lasting impact in lives of their students. They are the most responsible members of society. Good teachers can inspire hope, ignite imagination and instill a love of learning.

Allah SBT says in the Quran “Rehman taught Quran to mankind by His mercy; HE created man and taught him to express in speech. (Sura Rehman 1-2)”. Allah SBT mentions teaching of the Quran even before creation of man.

The holy Quran was revealed to our Holy Prophet PBUH. Jibrael brought the first revelation “Read”(Iqra). Our Prophet PBUH recited behind the angel and learnt from him and then taught the people and spread the message of Islam. He was epitome of a teacher and he is role model for all people. A good practicing Muslim should essentially have knowledge of the Quran and follow the Sunnah of the Prophet PBUH. In Islam the role of a teacher is duly emphasized.

One of the most difficult and challenging task is to teach. No doubt a teacher must have a number of qualities to be a successful teacher, however a medical teacher must have additional qualities, not only to impart knowledge, but to inculcate in the student certain values, principles, skills ethics and other disciplines as his/her students are future doctors who will deal with human lives and sufferings and thus the responsibility and teaching ability is comparatively much more than teachers of other disciplines. Unfortunately, the standard of teaching has greatly deteriorated over the past years, and is an important contributory factor for low standard of medical education both undergraduate and postgraduate.

In the first place the objective of a medical teacher must be well defined which should be not just making the student to pass examination and get a degree but to produce a doctor who is knowledgeable, is skillful and above all has human values such as honesty, sympathy, dedication and is not just out to make money. Certain qualities required to make a successful teacher are: he/she should be knowledgeable, hardworking, sympathetic, devoted, honest, show patience and above all he or she should be humane.

To begin with a teacher must have all embracing knowledge of the subject he/she is teaching. There is a Hadith “When a man/woman seeks knowledge and teaches good to others everything on this universe asks forgiveness for him even the birds and fish and ants pray for that person. Seeking of knowledge is mandatory for all Muslims male or female.”

Some medical teachers dig out their old notes or books which may be quite outdated. Medicine is advancing at a tremendous pace. Teacher should have updated knowledge and should keep abreast with modern discoveries and inventions; for this, he/she should read latest editions of books and see journals and spend time in the library; even in subjects like anatomy with modern technology like electron microscope minute details at molecular level are reported; in physiology more and more mediators, hormones, neurotransmitters and various receptors are coming up; thus up to date knowledge not only helps to diagnose and explain pathogenesis of disease but can form the basis of treatment.


The teacher should have the ability to teach appropriate material, and not deliver everything to show his knowledge. He should give a lucid explanation and teach what the students can grasp, and are able to reproduce in examination and apply in practical life, so that students do not lose interest. He/she should take the help of innovative teaching techniques like overhead projector slides, charts, etc. While teaching the teacher should not read from his notes or transparency multimedia and slides. Students lose interest and sometimes go to sleep; also the material to be taught should not be dictated, but the teacher should face the students, explain in a simple way, and speak loudly and clearly. During the lecture occasionally ask questions to find out if they have understood, and that will make students more attentive. The students should be made to actively participate and not be passive listeners. There should be an interaction between the teacher and the taught, occasionally he/she can have a brain storm and surprisingly they can bring out very good ideas/suggestions.

Teachers should encourage students to do regular study by asking them questions from previous lecture. At the same time teacher should not create a terror and students are afraid and not gain from what is being taught. He/she should sometimes relate an incidence or experience related to the subject or cut a little joke. This will make the students relax and at ease and become much more recipient on what is being taught.

A teacher should have a lot of patience and not lose temper. For instance if the student does not understand and ask questions, some of them may be annoying, he should exhibit control. He/should be sympathetic and must have students’ interest at heart; should be humble, punctual, have good manners and have a good moral character. Our holy Prophet PBUH was a model of good character. Allah SBT says, “and verily you Mohammad PBUH are an exalted of standard character.” (Sura Qalam - 4). He dealt with people gently. Teacher should not be arrogant and show good behavior not only with the students but other staff as laboratory attendants, nurses, technicians, ward boys, even sweepers and above all patients rich or poor. Teacher should be a role model for the students; should not have a grim face and occasionally smile. Allah’s messenger PBUH said “your smiling face for your brother is an act of charity.”

Another important quality of teacher is he/she should be unbiased and just and not show undue favours to some. Allah SBT has created a balance in order you may not transgress this balance (Sura Rehman). He/she should be honest in his work and give proper time both in duration and quality and fulfil his commitments. Medical teachers are also examiners, in correction of papers and practical and viva they should be fair and just and not be influenced by pressures from friends, relatives, colleagues. Reputation of a teacher of being honest will protect him/her and people will be reluctant in asking favours from him. Another unfairness to students is due to their large number. Students are not examined properly and due time is not given in viva and practical to assess them properly and good mediocre and sometimes even poor students get marks alike which is outright unfair. The students who have worked hard get discouraged and poor students get a wrong idea about themselves. Similarly, the theory papers are not checked properly and justice is not done. Again there is a lot of cheating during examinations and tests. This should be discouraged and punished if caught.


Another aspect of dishonesty is teachers/examiners are approached and influenced. They should resist the pressures. Yet another practice in some medical colleges is that marks, positions, distinctions, medals are given to children of professors which they do not deserve. This creates a lot of heart burning frustration in good students whose rights are taken. Teachers should inculcate the values of honesty in students and they should know what is wrong; for instance, speaking proxy which is a routine practice is definitely dishonesty, it is a lie and deception. Also in tests etc. students cheat sometimes openly; some to get good marks, others to pass. With a great increase in medical colleges both government and private there is a great competition and efforts are made to show good results. In some institutions teachers even help the students and produce results which students do not deserve. This is one of many reasons of low standard of medical education

In practical work teachers must ensure that the students do their work efficiently and honestly. For instance, if they are not getting the expected results such as graphs etc., they should not cook results but try to analyze the reason; for instance, the fluid bathing as ringers solution may not be properly made. Teachers should stress that it is not just the results, but the correct methodology and understanding of the experiment that matters. In pharmacy they should weigh correctly and honestly (Allah has made meezan, balance, and man should not disturb this. [Surah Rehman]). In pathology students should make diagram of what they actually see under the microscope and not copy from a book or from a friend’s copy. On the clinical side students must try to learn and proceed in the proper manner. In the examination it is not just the diagnosis which they manage to find out but the proper method of examination that is required and this may also land them in trouble. For instance, they have heard the diagnosis of perforation of ear and the examiner may ask the student to examine the normal ear. The value of honesty should be stressed upon to the students and passing, taking marks, positions, medals by unfair means and taking the right of others is a sin and only gain in this world which is temporary, and they will be answerable to Allah SBT on Day of Judgment and HIS punishment will be severe.

A medical teacher should not only impart theoretical knowledge to his/her students, but even more important is to teach them skills, behavior, attitudes, etc. On the clinical side, students should be taught and trained to examine patients, and to do small procedures as simple as giving injections. Unfortunately, in medical colleges, due to large number of students, the batches posted in wards are very big. These should be further subdivided so that proper attention is given. In the first place students should be taught how to take proper history of the patient which if properly taken is very informative. The teacher should observe the attitude of the student towards the patients. They should talk to them politely and not hurt their feelings especially the poor and old patients who sometimes relate irrelevant events etc., who confide in the doctor about their problems, grievances; they should be heard patiently.

Clinical methods must be taught and this is done in 3rd year. Usually students on entering 3rd year clinical classes have the feeling of euphoria and do not pay much attention, and even absent themselves from classes. They should do the physical examination in proper order, as inspection, palpation, percussion, auscultation, and conduct the examination in front of the teacher. With great advancement in diagnostic tests like ultrasound, CT scan, MRI, the clinical examination is either not done or done very casually and a number of tests some very expensive are ordered. The teacher must stress on the students that after a proper comprehensive history and thorough clinical examination, the physician should have in mind a provisional diagnosis in fair number of cases and only those tests, if any, should be ordered which will help or confirm the diagnosis; thus many tests could be avoided. This will decrease not only the cost but a lot of inconvenience and waste of time. Learning process includes hearing (listening to lectures), reading (visual) books, notes etc., seeing it being performed and finally doing it yourself. The teacher should make the students perform or do in front of teacher, like palpation of liver, auscultating the lungs, etc. Teachers are also clinical examiners and they should evaluate the students seeing the method of examination and not just the diagnosis.

While in wards the teacher should observe and check the behavior of students not only with the patients (especially poor and illiterate) but with others as nurses, ward boys, senior and junior students and not insult them or be rude to them. Every person has self-respect and pride of performance of his work.

On the basic side practical’s as far as possible should be correlated with theory and practical work e.g. if diseases of heart are being taught, the practical must be on for example properties of heart muscle and effect of drugs on frog’s heart and histopathology of heart diseases. Teaching should not just be coordinated between theory and practical but also between different subjects. However, practically it may be difficult. This could be achieved to some extent by making schedule together by all departments concerned and in consultation and combination with each other.

For practical’s there should be smaller batches so that students can actively participate. If too many students are working on one seat, it is only few students who are actually doing the experiment; others are standing behind either talking or doing something and not bothered about what is being done and simply take down the results to enter in their copies. The demonstrators should go to the students, and not only help them but watch them and see they are actively participating and discuss with them the results etc. One could allot group of students to each demonstrator in each batch. They will be responsible for their group and at the end of year they can be asked about their performance when evaluation is done. Also the practical copy books should be checked in time, ideally it should be checked and signed on the same day or in the next class; very often the students are careless and near the examination hurriedly complete their copies by copying from here and there. The teacher has to check a large number of copies and cannot do justice. It is a pity when examiner finds gross mistakes in copies at time of examination.

Medical teachers should have a sympathetic attitude and have the students’ interest at heart. They should help them if they have any problem related to studies or otherwise. There should not be a distance between the teacher and students who should not hesitate to go the teacher for help. Some students with little encouragement can perform better and become confident. Medical teachers as professors are internal examiners and during the viva examination be sympathetic to the students. The students should feel relaxed. They should help the students who have been regular and performed well in tests etc. during the year but for some reason are not answering well. Very often the professors do not know the students individually. It is desirable that the record of tests, tutorial and attendance should be kept in the examination. A register should be maintained with full record of each student. If possible the record of students should be sent to parents twice a year.

We are Muslims and live in a Muslim country. The reason for the downfall of our society is we have lost all values, difference between right and wrong, and fear of Allah SBT is forgotten about our punishment, reward on Day of Judgment. This is because most of us are ignorant about Quran and Sunnah which gives us the way to live. Medical teachers refer and sometimes quote from Quran and Hadith, for instance embryology is described in Sura Mominoon.

Another problem faced by medical teachers is, that after the professional examination, results are declared after some time, all students are provisionally promoted. When results are declared, students who fail in one or more subjects have to appear in supplementary examination stop attending the classes which continue, after the appear in supplementary and return to classes after quite some time and are left behind, and again show poor results. The teacher should encourage these students, give them extra help so that they are at par with the regular students.


Another very important subject to be taught is Ethics, though this formality exists at time of getting M.B.B.S. degree, an oath is taken. When they start to practice, take a job etc., the worldly gains, greed, takes priority and they indulge in unethical practices and forget they will be held accountable on Day of Judgment. The medical teacher should play an important role and highlight the unethical practices, to make the students aware of them so that he/she is careful. For instance, the doctor may give a wrong certificate of illness to a person who wants to take leave from his job or to not to attend court and for other reasons. To prescribe medicines of a certain pharmaceutical company which is either not required at all or is much more expensive because the particular firm has obliged them ranging from presents to even trips abroad. To order tests some very expensive as CT scan which are not required from a particular person or center. Some surgeons do tonsillectomy, appendectomy, hysterectomy etc. when these are normal and charge lot of fees from the patient. For this they can be taken to court.

It is also unethical to take fees from doctors. They should be seen free. Most unethical rather criminal is to admit a patient with minor complaints and remove his kidney to be sold for a great price for transplant.

The objective of a medical teacher should not only be to impart knowledge but also to produce competent, honest, knowledgeable, dedicated physicians/surgeons with a good character, behavior and liked by people. On the basic side teachers have a great responsibility as their students are future doctors who will deal with human life and sufferings.