In this series we find out about our people’s passion for educating the next generation of healthcare professionals. Dr Munirah Alhamid, a Senior Resident in SingHealth Residency's Geriatric Medicine Programme, talks about the mentors who have inspired her to teach and about her most memorable moment as an educator at the bedside.
What role do you play in medical education?
I usually take medical students for bedside teaching when they rotate into geriatric medicine. Whenever we have new residents joining the department, I take the time to teach residents on the importance and rationale of a comprehensive geriatric assessment, and enhance their cognitive history-taking skills by going through the diagnostic criteria and how to elicit pertinent points with them.
I do this during my own free time. I try to incorporate these aspects into ward rounds too.
Who has inspired you to be an educator?
I am fortunate to have worked with several clinicians who inspire me. Dr Jim Lim, Senior Consultant, Department of Geriatric Medicine, CGH, was a consultant I worked with as a medical officer (MO). Dr Lim teaches and inspires by example.
If there was a clinical question that we both were unsure of, he would make time to look up the answers together and discuss the issue. This taught me that it is all right to admit uncertainty no matter how senior you are, and that it is important to keep learning.
Dr Anupama Roy Chowdhury, Consultant, Department of Geriatric Medicine, KTPH and Dr Dennis Seow, Senior Consultant, Department of Geriatric Medicine, SGH are also inspiring educators who I worked with during my Senior Residency.
Dr Anu takes the time to explain her thought process to me when managing patients with complex conditions. Different clinicians have different clinical approaches, so understanding the underlying process helps me develop my own approach.  Dr Seow takes the time to observe my clinic consultations and would give valuable feedback about how I can better improve my history taking and patient management.
To me, that’s an important attribute of a good teacher – the ability to pick out the strengths and weaknesses of their students and give constructive feedback.

Since you've been an educator, what was that one moment that made all the hard work worthwhile?
That would be when I helped an MO gain confidence in inserting arterial lines. She was experiencing much difficulty doing it and was starting to feel defeated. I sat down with her to watch her technique and took her through the procedure, step-by-step.
It was worthwhile taking my time to guide her. She was so happy when she successfully inserted the arterial line on her first try for her next patient. The patient too, benefited from her improved skill.
She was grateful and told me that no one had ever taken the time to teach her how to position the patient optimally and how to stabilise her hand during insertion, which made a huge difference in her success rate.

How has teaching impacted your medical career?
Teaching has made me appreciate that learning can come from many sources. As a trainee in Geriatric Medicine, my work often involves discussing patients’ issues not only with my seniors, but also my juniors, nurses and allied health professionals.
I value the opinions and perspectives of my team members and often find that there is a lot that I can learn from them. I believe this has made a positive impact on how I manage my elderly patients who often have very complex conditions.

If you had a magic wand, what changes would you make to improve teaching and learning?
I hope to make ward rounds more conducive to learning.  Although it can be a very busy time, it is important to find the opportunity during ward rounds for the team to reflect on clinical issues and teach junior doctors how to develop an appropriate management plan.
This is because often, junior clinicians are very keen to understand how certain decisions are made but they may be afraid to ask. I had the opportunity to go on rounds with a clinician who would make all the MOs ask her at least one question at the end of session. I feel that this is a good practice and should be encouraged.
What is your teaching and learning philosophy?
To me, the rain tree symbolises what learning and teaching should be. It is a majestic tree with widespread branches, whose canopy provides excellent shade. In order to grow to such a height, the roots must be set right and grow deep.
Our teachers set the example of how one should learn and teach. With time, water and sunlight, the tree grows tall and expands. This reflects that that with the right guidance, wisdom and knowledge is built over time and that learning is a lifelong process.