Teaching strawberries


Strawberries are nice. They smell nice, they taste nice, and they are pleasant to look at. But strawberries are also fragile. Keep them out in the heat for too long and they physically deflate, they change color, they turn bad. They don’t stay fresh forever. They don’t last very long and wilt at the slightest adversity.

The Strawberry Generation is what some of us call the new generation of mass-produced doctors in this country and its not without justification, despite what others who think otherwise. The complaint pages of major newspapers are often filled with letters of frustrations and disgruntlement written by young doctors who could not bear the rigor of working under intense stress and difficulties – young doctors who whine about bad working conditions, lack of rest, unsympathetic superiors, etc.

We have too many strawberries around.

The other day, I did what I have never done before in more than a decade of teaching undergraduate medicine – I walked of my class. I did that after discovering that none of the 10 or more students gathered around me that morning for bedside teaching had done their part of the work – they were supposed to have clerked and examined a patient each prior to the class. Without a good case presentation, there was no point in carrying on with the class.

I expressed my disappointment, mumbled that I had something else to do (I had an entire eard rounds to do and several referrals to see) and not wishing to waste anymore of theirs or my time, I walked through the circle, hearing a few whispered ‘I’m sorry Sir’ and walked away.

I wasn’t happy with what I did and I wasn’t angry, not in the least bit. I am hoping that what I did would push the message home to these young students – that medicine is tough, it’s a life long commitment and it requires a lot of hard work.

I want my students to be made of better stuff and avoid being labelled strawberries when they graduate and start work.

6 thoughts on “Teaching strawberries

  1. Thank you for being so encouraging. I understand why they refuse to teach, because I’ve seen hos who are not even remotely interested in learning. It’s just so difficult to go on when I’m being treated as incompetent all the time. When I started 2 months ago, I was clueless. I wouldn’t say that I’m fully competent now, but at least I have improved. Baby steps each day; as long as I know something that I did not know yesterday, I’m happy enough. Only way I can motivate myself:)


  2. I too, just started working as a ho. I would definitely agree with you that there are indeed some house officers who are negligent and lack the initiative to learn. It’s just a pity that where I am currently, all the house officers are thought of as simply being incompetent and “strawberries”.

    These days, I am finding it hard to remain positive. I make sure to arrive at work at least one hour before I officially am on duty to round on my patients. Whilst I know I am lacking in knowledge, I try my hardest every single day. When I go off duty, I make sure I read up on whatever things that I did not understand. If I don’t know something, I’ll make sure I know it the next time. Doesn’t effort count for something at the very least? Mos are unapproachable to answer any questions – mostly they either reply sarcastically or just ignore us. No one starts off being completely competent, but I am finding it increasingly hard to believe that anyone even has an interest in teaching us. I don’t mind getting scolded, as long as I’m told where I went wrong and the patient was never in any danger. But is not being able to memorize lab results really so bad?

    I really hope that I’m not sounding like sour grapes, but I just wanted to point out that while there may be some of us who start off as less competent and lack confidence, please don’t give up on those of us who are putting in the effort everyday.


    • Thanks for sharing this, Minli. I am glad you (still have) a great determination and positive attitude. This will carry you far. Which is also why I wrote this blog post – my hope is that my students will, by the time they graduate, have moved beyond mere strawberries.


  3. when i want to lapor diri at JKN Sabah, i over heard a group of parents and their children discuss with officers there about quiting their ho since their kids got no life during ho.. i was shocked.. just bcoz that lame excuse, the parents encourage to do so and complaints to officer.. im a not doc, im just pharmacist-to-be, doing my prp, i know maybe people think prp/pharmacists are not bz like ho/mo, but for me, health professionals are bz and demanding, i know it and already set mind about it.. my bro is ho in srwk, yes he is bz, but i never heard his complaint.. the only things he keep told me how he wish to be 24 hours in hosp so he can help the patients there.. doc, in 100 docs we had, only few are reallt to be one, serve for the community..😦


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