Friday, November 09, 2012

UCMS Delhi - Lecture and Workshop

I was invited to Delhi for two events early this month. The venue was the University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi. I delivered a lecture on Literature Searching at the Quarterly meeting of the Indian Association of Pathologists & Microbiologists, Delhi Chapter. There were about 50-60 members in the audience at the start and in a short while it shot up to a little more than 150! A large number were PGs and faculty from other colleges in Delhi too. It does feel good to have reached out to such a large number, even if they "took away" only the "tip of the tip of the icerberg" that I'd loved to have shared with them!

PGs of UCMS and more...after the event IAPM event    
The next day was an exciting one :). The Medical Education Unit had invited participation from PGs in the institution and later opened it to all interested. So we had a range - from 3rd Sem students to Professors! The nicest part was that they sat in mixed groups for group activities.We started at 9 am sharp and went on till 1.15 PM. 

I always enjoy every workshop I do. (Okay to be extremely honest - except for *some* of the industry sponsored ones... but let us leave that out from here).  But, there was something different here. There were UG students / Interns who knew some bits better than their seniors and were faster, but they did not have to be scared of being better. This is not always the scenario in an Indian medical college. Younger people could even tease the older people - yes faculty included and it was all part of the game. No one offended any one; every one helped the other.. and there was good learning. 

One young friend Pranab Chatterjee (First year PG) had attended my lecture about a year ago. At that time his feedback was "I just realized that I have been using PubMed the way a caveman used the hammer in the Paleolithic era". (I always loved this one and even used it in a poster I presented!) During the break I asked him "So how much of today was new learning"? And my dear friend says "Let me put it this way. Till this morning, I thought I knew all about PubMed". PC - more than your feedback, it is the way you give it to me that is so endearing! And to top it up, when you cover the workshop so well in your blog, that is like icing on the cake :)

With Pranab... QMed (and I) need you guys to promote our cause!

Other stuff that made me feel great about this event was

a) Rajat Thawani - an intern who was assigned to arranging for "break-snacks" ensured that they spent just enough to keep people from feeling hungry. It is so different from the regular "focus on food" that often happens at CMEs

b) Dr Navjeevan Singh (my colleague calls him "one of the best friends of QMed") did a great job of telling people all about QMed before the event

c) Dr Satendra Singh Phalswal who knew a lot about PubMed and has done workshops at UCMS, earlier lent support. I wish I could spend more time with him working together!

d) There were three librarians attending the workshop!

e) Many Facebook friends' email ids became faces :)

Overall - a big thanks to every individual who attended - you were all great fun!

I cannot help mention my fabulous hosts Dr Navjeevan Singh and his wife Dr  Upreet Dhaliwal - both faculty members of UCMS who hosted me in their home. If I look like I've put on a couple of kilos in the pics here, it is thanks to their awesome hospitality and care :)

Oh - and on the travel bit... I just about made it to my return flight.. thanks to the Pre-Diwali shopping crowd as well as some other rally that caused miserable traffic jams. 
And - I was about 6 days too early to miss an excitement in the "To Delhi" flight. (Six days later - the same Indigo flight had a passenger who caused security problems). Aaah - thank God for small mercies!

UCMS - I hope I get more opportunities to come out there!

Group activity
Dr Upreet with two PGs

Dr Navjeevan Singh multitasking - supervision plus clicking pics!

With Dr Upreet and Dr Satendra

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Thrissur - Kerala - teaching Principals and teachers

I was invited by the Kerala University of Health Sciences (located in Thrissur, Kerala) to do a whole day workshop on literature searching on On October 31, 2012

The Travel

Travelling to Thrissur was a reasonably long act - flight to Kochi and then a 1.5 hour drive (of course that is like driving from Mumbai airport to the city area during peak hours). This time, I had the added mini excitement of driving from the Mumbai airport terminal to the aircraft which was in the International Airport area. We went "all the way" there only for our bus driver to discover that he took us to the wrong aircraft and to get us all the way back to the domestic terminal!

Then came a positive surprise. Nothing important, but fun and a "convenient one". The flight I was booked on was a Jet Airways one, with a 4-digit flight no. I could not even do a web check in - so I assumed it was a Jet Konnect flight. But it later was mysteriously renumbered to 3-digits. The "convenient/fun" surprise was that I got free breakfast. Sounds kiddish, but I do appreciate the convenience. And somehow, most often I feel that the food charged for on most flights are actually bad.

The ride to Thrissur was green, green and more green - something I adore about Kerala and that belt.

In Thrissur, I was put up in a small hotel near the University. It felt like a cross between an uppity hostel and a cosy home. The couple in charge were almost like hosts. The lady could speak only Malayalam, but she was full of smiles and chattered away. She actually asked me when I would come back next :)

The Workshop - And a Very Personal Experience

My workshop was on the next day. Now here was something that touched a chord in my heart. One of the faculty members picked me up at 9.25 am and drove me to the venue (a five-min ride). The Dean Research received me and escorted me to the hall where I would be speaking for the first hour (and later moving to the E-library for the hands-on sessions).

As soon as I walked in to the hall (I entered first), the audience stood up!!

And no - it was not an audience of students. Majority were senior faculty and six of them were Principals of Medical Colleges! Okay - granted that age wise I may be closer to the "senior" folks. But this was something I had not expected and I was completely caught off my guard! Deep inside my heart I am a medical librarian. And Principals would have been my bosses if I worked in a Medical College. Which means I would be the one standing up if they walked into an area where I was sitting!

I must admit that for a moment I was embarrassed and then regained composure, smiled brightly and said good morning to all and shook hands with one person I knew.

Now why did I specifically mention this incident here? One of the fairly regular points of discussion amongst librarians is their "status". They are right. Our profession, in my opinion too, is very very often not given the status it deserves.

I do not wish to go into details or even encourage a debate on this. All I am saying is that the problem of status has two angles - the "system problem" and a "personal angle" . As an individual, I know that I have reached the day when I get respected by seniors / people in positions / people with far higher qualifications and more. They value what I know and the work I do, and treat me as an equal. If I had only cribbed and lamented, I obviously would be ignored, leave alone being respected.

Of course my being treated with respect or as an equal, does not solve the status problem. I would love to do lots more to solve it. But apart from the "system factors", what is needed is that we (medical) librarians need to do two more things:

a) We need to "move" towards working "with" students and health professionals to help them solve information problems. This by working with them, and also constantly upgrading our knowledge in the field
b) We need to "let them know" about our abilities. And understand that they do not know many things that we know (which is not a bad thing!)

Unless we change these communication issues, status is going to remain a problem!

The Workshop - the actual session/s

Coming back to the program, after an initial lecture on the theory of information and its retrieval, we had pretty intense hands on exercises cum problem solving sessions. The whole group was extremely enthusiastic and worked really hard at learning. That was something! And again, I need to stress that the participants accepted that I was the teacher/expert and gave their all. I am sure no one thought about status at this point!

I must add some other good things that happened here. One was that the librarian of KUHS was extremely keen to learn anything more than he already knew (which was a pretty good deal). And the faculty of the  University discussed a lot about how to take these programs ahead. Kudos to the VC and the Dean Research and their team for organizing the event and for their interest in taking things ahead!

PS - For those not from India - we have a custom of standing up when a teacher / older person walks into a class / room