“Stop. Listen.” I was told this during my first lecture in pig husbandry from Dr Sainsbury. It was nearly 40 years ago now, yet I remember it well. We stopped and listened. “Silence – remember that,” requested Dr Sainsbury before he continued with the lecture. How strange!
Four weeks later we reached the end of the set of lectures and again Dr Sainsbury started the final lecture with the same request: “Stop. Listen.” Now, the ancient hall in which we sat echoed with coughs and splutters, sneezes and snuffles. That is what happens when you put too many individuals in too cramped an enclosure with insufficient ventilation, he told us.
Dr Sainsbury started the final lecture with the same request: ‘Stop. Listen.’ Now, the ancient hall in which we sat echoed with coughs and splutters, sneezes and snuffles
Truth be told the lecture hall was a small room that the 40 of us just about fitted into (yes, 40! Not the nearly 400 some vet schools have today!). It was part of the old farm buildings that were part of the Cambridge clinical vet school. There was no defined ventilation to speak of apart from the draughts coming through the cracks in the doorframes and the one broken window. And I have to say that some of the teaching was just as old fashioned.
Professor Steele Bodger was wonderful in his tweed jacket and waistcoat with a silk handkerchief in his top pocket. He was great if you wanted to know the history of large animal veterinary medicine. Forgotten your stethoscope? Never fear! A handkerchief spread over the cow’s abdominal wall was quite as good at allowing you to hear ruminal movements when you placed your ear against it. Do you remember the Williams reticular grunt? The sound made in a cow with “the wire” as the reticulum contracted during the non-eructating phase and the piece of bailer wire moved, having migrated from the reticulum through the diaphragm and into the pericardial sac.
Alaistair Steele Bodger – ASB – knew Eric Williams in the years before and regaled us with stories of his remarkable clinical skills. But up-to-date details of ruminant medicine were not part of ASB’s teaching strategy, so his lectures were a sheer delight for someone like me with an interest in veterinary history but not so helpful for someone going into large animal practice in the 1980s.
But let’s get back to Dr Sainsbury and his pig respiratory lecture. Years later I met him (sadly at the funeral of another member of the teaching staff) and told him how much I enjoyed his lectures. He asked if I was working with pigs and what I remembered of his lectures. I answered in the negative to his first question – although the first operation I had done as an ophthalmological intern was entropion in a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig. (Maybe the less remembered about that the better!) I just told him that truth be told the only thing I remembered was the “Stop. Listen” of the first and last lecture. He smiled and said that really was the most important thing to remember in the whole of pig medicine.
I just told him that truth be told the only thing I remembered was the ‘Stop. Listen’ of the first and last lecture. He smiled and said that really was the most important thing to remember in the whole of pig medicine
These days we have to provide the students with the key learning objectives of each lecture or practical class. “Understand ophthalmology” is not good enough – they have to be more specific. “Define the diagnostic steps required in approaching a red eye” is more like it. But isn’t that sort of stuff obvious if we are having a lecture on red eye? I would have thought so, but it has to be spelled out clearly.
When we are assessing students’ proficiency in practical tasks these days we need to put them through an OSCE: an objective structured clinical examination. That could be taking a history, making a blood smear or writing a prescription. Forty years ago we learned how to do those by watching vets doing it and then doing it ourselves under their supervision.
But that sort of opportunity was amazing. It gave me confidence in myself because John had confidence in me. Reflecting on it, I think that was even more important than the practical surgical experience I gained
I remember John Heath from the 608 Veterinary Group in Solihull, who first got me interested in ophthalmology. He was also the secretary of Warwickshire County Cricket Association and one day had to go to a committee meeting, so left me with a cadaver, a book on ophthalmic surgery and Jane, his wonderful senior nurse. Have a go at a parotid duct transposition (PDT) he told me, and after several hours of trying I managed it.
On his return, John gave me some tips and tricks to make it easier, and the next day, while he wrote up the committee meeting minutes in the corner of the operating theatre, he had another PDT for me to do, this time on a live dog… Well, he was in the same airspace so it was all within the RCVS guidelines, I suppose, and I interrupted his minute writing several times so he could give me advice on the tricky bits of the surgery. But that sort of opportunity was amazing. It gave me confidence in myself because John had confidence in me. Reflecting on it, I think that was even more important than the practical surgical experience I gained.
If, when teaching, whether in a lecture theatre or with a student on EMS, we can give our students confidence in surgery or when taking a history or giving bad news, that is so important. Those really are universal key learning objectives.