ROCing the boat

Warning! This post is very old and may contain information or opinions that are no longer valid or embarrassing.

Image of ROC Logo

Last year I attended the first phase of an intensive training course called Research Orientation Course (ROC). It provides training for medical students on scientific methods and research.

I learned a lot from this course.

I think we, medical students, are being taught in a negative way which is based on rote learning only. This results in conformist physicians who lack any understanding of the history and philosophy of medical science. And know nothing about why and how science works. Students are oblivious to the fact that what they have learned is not dogma, and medical sciences will be updated, changed and revised in the future, infinite number of times.

All of this results in graduates who will have to overcome lots of hard coded mental sets to be able to upgrade their knowledge and skills. ROC emphasizes on the importance of logic, inquiry, rationality, reasoning and scientific methods in our field.

The way the course is designed promotes sharing of skills and working in groups. Rather than selfish individualism and competition. It involves interactive and brainstorming sessions.

Course organisers share an important insight, regarding course contents. They inject wide variety of topics like cinema, management, ethics, philosophy, information technology, presentation skills and etiquette to round out the course. The course also tries to introduce us to the scientific community, how they work and interact.

Probably the most obvious habit, I developed in ROC, is that I unconsciously add to any statement I make the word "probably"!

Here is a quote from a document describing the course:

It is interactive hands-on training covering basic science, clinical and community based research for medical undergraduate students to qualify as research assistants of one year duration. It is a project that is designed and organized such that the participants, early in their formation years, comprehend and design workable scientific strategies that enable their integration into disciplines destined to implement change in the health arena. This project aims to provide a more inductive way of thinking and problem analysis, to encourage and motivate the undergraduates to participate in health related and research activities, to provide the participants with skills that facilitate their exposure to the professional medical activities, and to provide the research community with research assistants of high standards. This course will be conducted through interactive sessions, working groups, informal meetings with senior professors, orientation lectures and practical work in supervisors' projects. Participants are recruited according to certain eligibility criteria from medical undergraduate students who are evaluated as the best in their interaction and the best score in written evaluation test. They will be placed into currently running research projects as "Research Trainees" under full supervision and guidance of the principal investigators.

ROC takes place in Palestine Hospital, Heliopolis. The first course started in September 2000. The second started in January 2004. The third phase of the second course will take place this summer. The graduates of the first course were very enthusiastic in organizing a second course.

ROC is organized by:

  • Dr. Ahmed M. Abdel-Tawab, A pharmacology professor in Ain Shams university who is trying to fiercely change the mental set of the Egyptian academia. He is the kind of professor who always finds himself surrounded by a swarm of inspired students. And probably the one of the few professor with a more profound impact on science, in comparison to others in our university.
  • AHED a multi-disciplinary NGO focusing on addressing the health, disability and environmental questions in Egyptian society from community-development perspectives.
  • Dr. Adel M. Mishriky, Suez Canal University.
  • Dr. Nadia H. Rizkalla, Suez Canal University.
  • The course is currently being funded by Dr. Abd El-Wahab El-Messiry.
  • The late Dr. FathyArafat the brother of the palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. He was concerned with humanitarian aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He was very generous and supportive towards ROC.
  • ROC I graduates

I am writing this after I attended a whole day session on the 1st of February, discussing the contents of the next phase, watching and discussing Tarkovsky's Solaris with Ms. Arab Lotfy and a session about etiquette by Mr. Abdel Fatah Shabana former ambassador of Egypt to Japan and Germany. Preceded by a small opening ceremony (the day before) in memory of Dr. Fathy Arafat and a small speech by Dr. Abd El-Wahab El-Messiry.