Based on the students’ votes Dr. Gergő Molnár, associate professor at the Clinical Centre 2nd Department of Medicine and Nephrology Center, won the “Outstanding Instructor” award for the sixth time last year and as an outstanding lecturer, he received the Romhányi medal last academic year and this academic year as well. These feedbacks are very important to him in order to stand his ground in his varied task system in the future as a teacher, clinician, and researcher.
written by Rita Schweier
- We are in a room at your clinic where there is a board and there are chalks for teaching purposes. Do you still use these items, which are considered old-fashioned today?
- Rarely, but sometimes I do, mainly when I teach nephrology. I regularly make the students use the paper and the pen, and it occurs that I draw illustrative figures in their notebooks. I find it important that the students take notes during the practices because this way there is going to be a record of them. A significant part of the students regularly bring their tablets and phones to the classes, they take a photo of the drawings on the board many times, they record the lecture or take notes with the modern devices.
- I presume that you mainly teach next to the sick-bed.
- Yes, since these are clinical subjects. First, we teach propaedeutics in internal medicine; the students have to learn how to ask questions from the patients and how to examine them. Of course, we do this point-of-care, in small groups. We show the students the certain steps that they repeat after us, with a lot of practice so that it perpetuates. When teaching nephrology and diabetology the examination of the patient is of lesser importance than the interpretation of the patient’s illness, namely the way we can diagnose it and distinguish it from other diseases. Besides these, we also have rotational year consultation, which is mostly theory; during this consultation, we discuss the most frequent diseases concentrating on everyday life and on the exam. I also have lectures.
- Is there a difference between teaching nephrology and diabetology?
- The device and method systems are unified; the only difference is in the number of classes: we teach diabetology theory and practice in a four-week period, while we teach nephrology in the whole 14-week period.
- What is the structure of a nephrology class?
- The students ask all the questions concerning the patient next to the sick bed. Then we retreat to one of the classrooms where we discuss the results of the patient, the assessments of the examinations in detail, we explore how we have established all this and the next steps, and the prognosis. There are certain pieces of information that we do not discuss in front of the patients because our hospital rooms are not single rooms.
- What kind of expectations do you have towards the students?
- We have minimum expectations that consist of knowing the basic syndromes, their diagnostic criteria, and of recognizing the most frequent nephrology diseases. The further knowledge is built on this, which covers the whole internal medicine. Usually, a patient does not only have a nephrology disease but also three or four complementary diseases, which we also discuss. Basically we teach internal medicine with highlighted priorities. Diabetology is a very dynamically developing field of medicine, there are many patients, the choice from the new medication is wide, and therefore we aim to review how we can teach this subject in more academic hours in the future.
- Since when do you teach?
- As a full-time PhD student, I had the opportunity to try this field and I am very grateful for that. After that I was abroad but since 2007, when I came home, I have been continuously teaching, which means for almost 12 years. I like doing it and the students can feel it as well.
- Did you have a master?
- Yes, I had several. Teaching was always essential at our clinic; the lectures of our founder, Professor Artúr Hámori were famous as well. When I was an Undergraduate Research Society student, Professor István Wittmann and Professor Judit Nagy taught me how to give a presentation, they cared a lot for me. I have learnt several methods and tricks from my teachers and I have integrated them in my teaching. The difficulty lies in the fact that neither of us have a qualification of this, therefore the students’ feedback confirms whether we do it right. It is also not certain that it is similar in the case of every subject.
We place great emphasis on interactivity at out clinic, and on teaching in smaller groups in the interest of efficiency. We find it important to continuously ask about the clarity and that the students discover the connections on their own, that they guess things autonomously because they will remember those better. I teach nephrology in a way that it is like a detective story for the students. The patient comes in, tells us some of his first complaints and based on these we try to get more and more pieces of information about him, and in the end, we find the cause. Of course, it does not work like that in everyday life but in teaching it is effective because it encourages the students to be active and at the same time, it shows how we can get to the end of a process. As I see it, the students like this too.
- A teacher influences, motivates with his personality as well. Have you also dealt with personal development?
- I would rather say that I paid attention to the development of my teaching skills. There were and there are many opportunities for this today as well in various, organised forms. We present a lot in scientific forums and there is an opportunity for us to measure our teaching and presenting skills.
- Although you received the „Outstanding Instructor” award last year for the sixth time, I think you do not sit back since you have to constantly renew yourself in your profession and there are always new students with whom you have to find the common voice.
- We have to pay attention to the students individually and in groups as well since their preparedness and needs are different; they are also different humanly, which requires diverse communication from us. The stress, the atmosphere, and the style change every occasion. The expansion of our professional knowledge is also essential since new medicines and treatment methods appear, which we have to be up to date with, therefore there is no way for us to sit back.
Teaching in a foreign language, which in my case is mainly German, is not easy despite the many years of routine. Fortunately, there are many of us at the clinic who teach in German. Teaching medicine in this language is a much greater challenge than teaching in English because it is harder to learn the professional terminology, there are less Latin phrases in it. Fortunately, we have a close cooperation with the Department of Languages for Specific Purposes, the colleagues help us and the students a lot; on the one hand in the maintenance of their language knowledge and on the other hand in their contribution to the teaching as demonstrators. I regret that I do not have the opportunity to deal with more Hungarian students. There are days when after the two 1,5 hour long practices I have a 1,5 hour long lecture, then I run to the lab, then I have to perform at the department as well. There are many tasks, therefore it feels good when I receive positive feedback and my work is recognised. It confirms that it is worth working. Our department is among the best teaching clinics, which is also motivating.
- How do the students help your work? Are they enthusiastic, active, and committed to knowledge?
- There is a big difference between the teaching forms in this regard since a big lecture is less interactive than a point-of-care practice. It is harder to involve the students for long during a lecture, the greatest routine and aptitude are necessary for it. At a practice, it is easier to spot the daydreaming students, to ask a question specifically from them so that they wake up. The German-speaking students tell us many times how different our teaching is from the one that they experience at their home university. There it is unusual that the lecturers know even part of the students by name while here it is natural, the small groups consisting of 10-12 students are advantageous in this respect as well. We have a personal contact with them, we already know them when they come to the final exam.
I remember a student from the beginning who went to study in Vienna after the third year, then he came back after one semester because there he was lost in the crowd, they did not pay attention to him. Personalized teaching has many advantages and it has a good effect on the students as well. We receive emails years later in which they ask for recommendation letters for job applications, which is also a positive feedback for us.
- Do you consider yourself a strict teacher?
- Yes but I try to be fair. Our aim with my colleagues is to have unified teaching aspects and expectations and to conduct the examinations realistically and fairly. Many times the students ask for an opportunity before the exam to revise the patient examination; I always try to find the time for it, even if it is not easy to solve it.
- Your work as a lecturer has also been recognised since you received the Romhányi medal two times.
- It is a great honour for me that I received this award in the last and in this academic year as well. It was a great experience for me that I sat next to professor Szeberényi at the award ceremony. When I was a high school student, I took part in a university admission preparatory course and he was the one who coordinated this process. Professor Szeberényi has received this award for twenty years as a theoretical professional who holds the best lectures; therefore, it was a good feeling that besides him, I have also received it as a clinician. Professor István Wittmann and Professor Judit Nagy received this acknowledgment more times, which confirms that I had excellent masters and it also indicates the continuity.
I think that it is not only me who received this award but the whole clinic. I have to emphasize that when the students vote, those institutes and clinics get to be the first ones in line who have a relationship with them in their fifth and sixth years, and in this respect, we have an advantage. The foreign language teaching is also significant in this matter because the votes of the English and German language students push those teachers who teach in Hungarian to the background although they do their jobs just as well as we do.