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Students as teachers

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Medical students have been teaching their colleagues for generations

In 2013, Silbert and colleagues have taken a “modern” look at students teaching their colleagues.1

Eighty-nine years ago, my father failed anatomy. During his repeat year, the students at his dissection table asked him, their more “experienced” colleague, for help. That year, he passed anatomy with a distinction.

After gaining his Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS) (Edinburgh), he served as a surgeon in the North African and Italian campaigns. Returning to South Africa in 1946, he asked the Foundation Professor of the Department of Anatomy at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg — the well known Australian, Raymond Arthur Dart — if he could teach anatomy. Dart said that he had no money to pay him, but that he could teach part-time if he wished.

After a year of unpaid teaching, Dart explained that he had been testing him, and that he could have an appointment as a lecturer (later senior lecturer and then reader) at a full-time salary for part-time work. Dart wanted him to keep up his surgery so that he could teach practical and surgical anatomy.

In 1960, my father left South Africa in protest at the government’s apartheid…