“Connected” the Movie


I just watched the movie “Connected”, by Tiffany Shlain and there were many themes that resonated with me. Perhaps the theme that most resonated with me was the concept that genius lies within the “integration” of left brained (analytical) function and right brain (artistic) function, and the advent of the prominence of literature lead to an overdevelopment of the left brained activity. The movie also spoke of the interconnected nature of existence, and how science has divided and separated everything into disciplines which has made things problematic.

I walked away feeling that my own theories have at least to some degree been echoed in one film maker and one neurosurgeons projection of their minds, or at least my interpretation of it.

After the movie I had some very open-minded conversations with the folk who attended this www.wakeupsydney.com.au event, including a group of people with other diverse backgrounds whom I discussed impressions of the move with afterwards. We all seem impressed by the movie but had different reflections. One lady whom I talked to, with kids of her own, commented that she liked the movie, but also wished that it impressed “more” that the internet and social media revolution may be decieving us by leading us to feel connected on the surface, but really lacking the depth of connection that we once had when face to face was the main way that we interacted.

This film doesn’t really provide answers to the questions of today, as Jono Fisher, the organizer and founder of ‘Wake up Sydney’ events suggested, but it certainly does provide valuable perspectives and a platform for discussion which was encouraged by the twitter hashtags #connectedthemovie and the facebook page (‪http://www.facebook.com/connectedthefilm ) suggests. I think it is a necessary and interesting discussion.

I believe the concepts in this movie affect all of us no matter which field we work, and especially for those of us in education, healthcare and academia, because it is all about how we use our mind, how we process and share information, and how communicate with one another. However, at a deeper level perhaps it provided us with a potential view of some of the tools of how we can tackle solving the problems of todays world, and on a more sober note, how this challenge is something that we can no longer ignore.


Adopting a “beginner’s mind” in delivering medical education!

I just read a great post by a medical student on their blog called “Drinking from the fire hose” talking about some strategies to improve teaching in medical students which prompted the following reply from myself. This post was in itself a response to a post on Kevin MD.com’s blog about “Reward or punishment in medical training” (another good read).

Here’s my response – Thanks for raising four great strategies for good teaching  

1. know your audience,

2.  Give real-time specific feedback,

3. Adopt a beginners mindset, and

4. Take time to teach,


I particularly liked the third point;


“3. Adopt a beginner’s mindset when teaching. Lead your learners down your thought process, from beginning to end. Teach your students how to THINK, instead of trying to transfer knowledge to them (the internet is better and bigger than you are).”

The beginners mindset is spoken about a lot in Yoga philosophy and I quite like it. In the game of education, we all started from a point from where we “didn’t know”, and moved to a point where we “kind of know” – and this process was called learning. I think the process of learning and discovery is really fun, but unfortunately under the scrutiny of poor feedback techniques (which essentially is the same as saying “poor communication techniques”) that potentially pleasant experience can become painful (and often does in many peoples experience in medicine). 

Speaking as an educator I couldn’t agree more with the notion that one should “adopt a beginner’s mindset” as this is a great strategy. I also like your comment about “leading learners down your thought processes” as I think this is an essential step which is often missed in clinical education, particularly because of time pressure. However,  I believe the purpose of this is not to “teach your students how to THINK”, but rather to show them how “YOU” THINK and let them decide for themselves of how they can either accept or reject that strategy for themselves in figuring out how “they” will think – either way having presented yourself as the model it can give them a framework for learning how to learn for themselves.  Anyway that’s just my two cents! 

Great pos & good luck with your training!


Bish 🙂




Sculptures in the Sand!


Here are some pictures of us creating sculptures in the sand last Sunday!

This was a perfect relaxing end to a stressful weekend, and it was so wonderful to be able to stroll down to Bondi beach for a swim with Sanna and Happy. Finishing the day with some creativity was just what was needed!

This is how it happened;- the three of us first randomly drew in the sand after our swim and some impromptu beach Yoga. I drew a heart, Sanna drew a dolphin, and Happy made a giant “peace sign” that encompassed both our drawings (but unfortunately it went right through Sanna’s dolphin -Oops! But fear not this potential tragedy created an opportunity further down the line…read on and find out what happened!)

We were already content with out two dimensional images, but then suddenly, as if by magic, we were driven to carve up the sand around the images to make them enter into the third dimension! These once lifeless symbols began to take on a new form, with a sense of life and vitality injected into their core!

Whilst we were carving some people would stop and watch us as they walked along the beach. Everyone was quite interested in what we were doing, and some even looked at us as if we knew what we were professionals (little did they know that this was the first time I’d done anything like this in my life – how ironic!)

What touched me the most was the fact that all the little kids were so fascinated by these 3D drawings in the sand. Honestly, I never imagined that they would be such a point of interaction!

We would say “so what do you think this one is?” – and a delighted little one would say “er.. I think…it’s a Love heart!?” looking at the image of the heart. Or when we pointer to the sunflower “it’s a flower!” to which we would reply “that’s good! It is! Do you know what kind of flower it is?”.

We also asked the interested children whether they would like to join us in the carving process but most were non committal – and perhaps justifiably so. After all sand sculpting appeared to be an onerous and slow task (much like data analysis- little did they know what I have been doing with my time of late!).

However, breaking the popular trend, was one 8 year old girl who came back to us, after her sea bath, and started carving out the third drawing without any encouragement!

Prior to her arrival it was clear that this image had been unfairely left out. It was bad enough that it had been dissected in half (in the name of a peace symbol) but our subsequent lack of attention in the sculpting stakes, gave the impression that it was playing second fiddle to both the heart and the sunflower! Lucky for the dolphin there was this talented young girl who diligently and gracefully resuscitated life back into its yet undiscovered form. Bravo to the creativity of Children! She’d managed to create a masterpiece by the time she was being called to go home, and better still – she agreed to pose in front of her artwork right before the sea would take it back to it’s point of origin!

So there you have it – “sand sculpting on the beach” – it was such fun and I fully recommend it next time you head to the beach!

PS – If you like sand sculptures – also check out this short film which makes amazing use of the beach for motion picture art!

Mindfulness in health and well being!

I just heard a fascinating podcast interview Ellen Langer on conducted by Kelly Howell. 


Ellen is a social psychologist and Harvard professor who conducted a groundbreaking research project called “counter-clockwise”. Her study was initially carried out over a decade ago on an elderly population, and it showed the power and potential for our perspectives and beliefs to have a positive impact on our health. This research led Ellen to a life of focussed on unlocking the potential of consciousness, and a career dedicated to ‘Mindful health and the power of possibility’.

The counter clockwise study found that in a group of 80 year olds there was an observation of increased health occuring in those who expected to be healthy over just a week-long period, when compared to those who held on to their usual beliefs and expectations about their own health. 

This podcast is an easy listen and well worth the investigation as Ellen’s research findings not only have the benefits that could help you encourage a healthier attitude in your loved ones who are getting older, but there’s something there for anyone of any age!

After listening to this talk I wanted to  check out Ellen’s website (www.ellenlanger.com) where apparently the first chapter of the book  “counter clockwise”  is available to read!

Excerpt about Ellen from the website

“…her pioneering work revealed the profound effects of increasing mindful behavior…and offers new hope to millions whose problems were previously seen as unalterable and inevitable. Ellen Langer has demonstrated repeatedly how our limits are of our own making.”

Perhaps this is an important new dimension of health care research? So as researcher and doctor, “I” would love to hear what “your” thoughts about the findings described in this podcast.

How you feel these concepts apply or don’t apply to your life, or your family members lives or your patients lives? (if you are involved in the treating of or healing of patients)

I look forward to reading your comments (please don’t be shy!). Happy reading!

Peace out.

Bishan 🙂


Book Reviews for anyone interested in Medicine, compassion, positivity or Poetry?

I was recently given the opportunity to write recommendations of up to 5 books that I could recommend for a book review section in a popular emergency medicine website that I occasionally write for (Life in the fast lane). 

Recommend up to 5 books, that for whatever reason, you think people interested in emergency medicine and critical care MUST READ. Fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, poetry, whatever… The world’s your oyster! Submissions will close on March 12 2012. I’ll pull them all together into a blogpost (or series depending on how many there are…)

As usually I left the writing of these recommendations until the last minute (as entries were due in yesterday), however, I did start drafting my responses as soon as I read about this wonderful project. 

Straight away I thought “wow – this is a great opportunity to write about that book that I has really inspired me in recent times” Medicine and Compassion, and a book that shares my favourite prose, “Poetry”, with the medical community. I also thought that perhaps I could recommend a book that will help with a subspecialty I’m passionate about – International Emergency Medicine, after all I slaved away writing a chapter in this book with my supervisor and after recently seeing the book in print I think it could be of benefit to the specialty, and finally I wanted to recommend a book that is all about what I believe is most important in life – positivity and motivation, and “healthy thinking”. As for the 5th book – well I guess there has always got to be room for new opportunities so i’m always on the look out – What would your recommendation be?

1) Medicine and Compassion: A Tibetan Lama’s Guidance for Caregivers
Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche (Author), M.D. David R. Shlim (Contributor)

This is a great book gives practical methods of how to cultivate “compassion” and find our inner beauty so that we can deliver better care to our patients and each other. Compassion is a quality that is easily lost under the stresses and time limitations of modern medicine, but with the logical strategies given in this book perhaps we can all improve this situation? The co-author Dr David R Shlim, is an ex-emergency doctor who gave up the pressures of emergency medicine in the US to work in Nepal in travel medicine. He set up a travel medicine clinic in Kathmandu and there started treating the Tibetan Buddhist monks who ‘taught’ him how to be a more compassionate doctor, something that he previously thought that maybe was something you either were or weren’t born with. One such learned monk was Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, a Tibetan Lama, who was encouraged by Shlim to share his wisdom and insight with a greater audience through this book. 

The preface goes spells out “The book is timely, as it presents an antidote to the current climate in medicine that is dominated by high technology, and an increased intrusion in medical care by financial considerations.”

The book starts with a line that perhaps many of us can relate to, “medicine and compassion – I don’t think I ever heard those words spoken together in medical school” and goes on to be a simply written, enjoyable and inspiring read!

(I believe this is a “must read” for all doctors!!)

2) Playing God – Poems about medicine,  
Glenn Colquhoun (Author) 2007
Glenn nicely describes some every day events from the world of medicine, and highlights their humanity through the wonderful medium of poetry with this collection of poems. 

As one reader said who gave this book 5 stars;- “It was a long time between poetry reading when I read this book. This made me remember why poetry is so wonderful, good for the soul. This is my favourite NZ poet and anybody who has ever had a loved one fall ill, who has been ill themselves or just who feels compassion will enjoy these poems.”

I remember meeting Glenn back in 2002 when I was about to embark on my first registrar term, which happened to be a rigorous 6 month rotation in Intensive Care medicine at Waikato Hospital, New Zealand, and at that time Glenn was a GP from a remote area had just finished the same 6 months. On that day I remember seeing Glenn at the ward round table and after handing over his overnight patients after completing his last night shift for the term he gave us, a group of scared newbies registrars about to embark on one of the most challenging (but rewarding) ICU terms in the country, some useful encouragement which I remember to this day. 

He told us that no matter how scary the situation there was always guidance in this job, which turned out to be true, and when ever you felt most alone and out of your depth he always heard a voice, almost like the voice of God telling him what to do (only to realise later that this voice was none other than the deep South African accent of John Torrance, or perhaps one of the other Intensivist bosses, telling you to what to do through the department mobile phone!). There was so much humility, humor and wisdom in what he said I really wanted to check out his writings later on when I heard that there was a poetry book published by him, and certainly his writing conveys the same grace that he had in person!

(This is a good book for doctor poets!)

3) Textbook of Emergency Medicine – Vol. 1 & 2 , 
David, Brown, Nelson, Banerjee, Anantharaman, et al., (Authors)
Wolters Kluwer Health (Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins),Delhi, India 2012

This is an Emergency Medicine compendium and the first desk reference reference of it’s kind that was developed and published in Asia. 
Word from the Chief Editor, Dr Suresh David, “Most of our emergency medicine textbooks come from the USA. From an EM academic standpoint the world is divided into the West and the East. We are currently modifying and adapting from the West. So we created a book predominantly for the Eastern hemisphere. This book is a One-Stop-Shop for EM students, EMS personnel, EM postgraduates and ED administrators. He also said that the literature came from authors who were experts in their field. For example, the chapter on Diving Medicine was written by David Greene who is an Ex-Navy SEAL. The chapters on Frostbite and High Altitude Illness were written by Ken Zafren who has experience from Alaska and Himalayas. 

Dr. Judith Tintinalli, in the foreword, mentioned that this textbook matches practices to the resources and cultures of the region, and makes clear that EM is a tangible specialty in India and South-East Asia”

I think this book is would be a useful desk reference for anyone wanting to practice International Emergency Medicine in Asia, and in particular work or teach in the Indian subcontinent!

(By the way I wrote the chapter on treatment of anti cholinesterase poisoning with my supervisor, who is actually world expert on the topic, which is how I know about this book – so I just thought I’d declare that conflict of interest with this recommendation!) 

4) Healthy Thinking: How to Turn Life’s Lemons into Lemonade
Dr Tom Mulholland  
Dr Tom is an irrepressable enthusiast. His career has included being a Doctor, Pilot and Entrepreneur. He has been been a NZ Forest Service Forester, won a First Class Honours degree in Molecular biology and Graduated as a Medical Doctor from the University of Otago. Inspite of his impressive CV Dr Tom learned through personal experience that life sometimes serves us lemons when he lost control of his internet business and his marriage faltered.He writes about how to turn life’s lemons into lemonade as he has. His book has become a bestseller and his and personal speaking engagements for individuals and businesses make him one of the most in-demand motivators in Australasia. He now now also has his own television show Dr Tom – The Attitude Doctor.” – take from an internet book review (link above)

(I have only read sections of this book, but what I read was fantastic! Also my mum is a great fan of his books and her recommendations are worth their weight in gold, which why i included it in the list. I’m definitely going to get my own copy after writing this review and read the book fully mysefl!) 

Article on how “locuming” solved one Physician’s battle with burnout!

This is a very interesting article I found on “KevinMD.com” which is about a Neurosurgeon, Duane Gainsburg MD, in the US who moved to locuming to create a better work life balance.

He had some good definitions of stress and burnout;-

“Stress and burnout are often lumped together, but they are distinct processes. Unlike stress which is associated with over engagement, burnout is characterized by disengagement, blunted emotions, depression, exhaustion which affects motivation and drive, and demoralization. Stress produces a sense of urgency and hyperactivity, while burnout produces a sense of helplessness and hopelessness.”

And these quote really struck a cord with me, particularly the statement I have put in bold;-

“In private practice, I had the pervading sense that because of all the distractions and competing agendas I wasn’t able to deliver the best care I was capable of.  There was an underlying layer of guilt, and of missed professional opportunity.”

Now, I’m paid for the time spent taking care of folks, rather than for how much I can bill for this or that procedure. It’s a four-way win – families benefit from improved relationships with their doctor; I benefit professionally from the satisfaction of providing excellent care no matter how long it takes; the hospital benefits by providing continuity of care and consistent coverage, and I benefit financially by the time I spend in direct patient contact, whether in the operating room, emergency room, intensive care unit, etc.”

And my response to the article was that I was happy that he made a choice to honor a healthier work life balance as I myself am a great believer that when the doctor feels healthy and balanced (physically, psychologically and spiritually) then they will be able to deliver better “care” to their patients. 

Great article – good on him for having the courage to write and share this with a larger audience!

Thanks Bish:)