Making Learning Fun Makes It Effective - Dr. Kishore Gopal Banerjee, Associate Professor at Manipal University College of Malaysia
Michael Carrese: Hi everybody, I'm Michael Carrese. In this special episode, we'll be talking to one of the winners of the 2022 Osmosis Raise the Line Faculty Awards, who was chosen from over 1,000 nominations we received from 377 institutions around the world, with students and colleagues submitting videos and testimonials telling us how much they embody the six Osmosis core values.
Today, I'm joined by Dr. Kishore Gopal Banerjee, who is the overall winner for the Medicine- Osteopathy category. Welcome to the program and congratulations.
Dr. Banerjee: Thank you so much for having me. I feel honored and humbled.
Michael Carrese: That's great. So, why don't you tell us more about where you teach and what you teach and more broadly speaking, the role you play day to day.
Dr. Banerjee: Okay, so currently, I work as a clinical pathologist and as an associate professor in the Faculty of Medicine in Manipal University College, Malaysia, which is one of the premier institutes in the Malaysian region for healthcare. By profession, I'm an MBBS MD doctor and a clinical pathologist. Pathology is my area of specialization.
Michael Carrese: I'd love to get some more personal background and professional background and particularly find out what drew you to teaching. Why did you ultimately decide to pursue that role?
Dr. Banerjee: I was born and brought up in a village area in West Bengal, India, which is in the border area between India and Bangladesh. I spent my early part of my life, around fifteen years there. It was pre-Google era, pre-internet. It was not there at that point of time. As a student, I felt that I was very eager to learn. I was always trying to learn. I finished almost all the books in the local library. When I used to go to the library or the local book shops, and I used to ask for more books. The challenge I faced at that point in time is that they used to tell us that they needed to go to the big cities to bring back the books. “You need to keep waiting, you need to wait for another week or one month.” So, I felt that education was not accessible to everyone at that point of time. As a child, I also felt that.
From that, I still managed to rank eighth in the top ten in the state board and I also got a National Standards of Education scholarship from the Indian government. Then I cleared both medical and engineering entrance exams, but I chose medicine and I did medicine at Calcutta Medical College -- now it is called Medical College Calcutta -- which is also one of the oldest institutes in Asia. Then after finishing my MBBS, I applied for the specialization, and in India, you need to appear in a competitive exam to get a residency. I ranked sixty-first in all of India in the entrance exam and I chose pathology by choice.
Most of the people prefer to choose clinical subjects, like more glamorous subjects...surgery and medicine. I was getting almost all other subjects, but I chose pathology because I felt that my strength is in dissecting data and I can correlate data quite well, so I thought that I should play to my strengths rather than going with what others are doing.
So, I chose pathology and I felt I took the right decision. Then I joined as a pathology resident in All India Institute of Medical Sciences New Delhi, which is considered the most prestigious institute in India. I completed my residency from there, my post-graduation specialization. I did also my senior residency there, and then I started my career as a pathologist and also as an educator.
Michael Carrese: I'm just wondering about those early days of teaching. Was it what you expected and what was the learning curve like for you?
Dr. Banerjee: So, it started in this way: when I was doing my residency, my co-residents used to tell me that they loved being taught by me. Even before an exam, they used to be taught by me. They used to tell that they loved the way I explain the things in the seminars I discussed with them. Even my mother always told me that your biggest strength is your explanation capability. So, I started to understand that if I do this thing, if I become an educator, it would be, I think, more beneficial for others. I started to understand that it's my calling at some point in time.
Michael Carrese: And do you know what it is about the way you explain things that works, that's effective?
Dr. Banerjee: Students told me that I use a lot of analogies, I use a lot of real-life examples. I would like to give an example here. I visited a sushi restaurant ten, fifteen years back, and when I visited that, the idea came to me how to explain diabetes mellitus. For example, in a sushi restaurant, what happens is the customers actually stand in rows or sit in rows and usually the conveyor belt is carrying the sushi. I told my students that let's say that you are very hungry, you went to a sushi restaurant and your hands are tied back and you're waiting. You can see that the sushi are going on the conveyor belt, but you cannot touch that.
Exactly the same thing happens in our body when we have diabetes mellitus. Our cells are hungry, and they can see that there's a lot of glucose in the blood, but for that glucose to enter inside the cells, they need insulin and insulin receptors to work. In diabetes mellitus, they're not available or there's an insulin resistance there. So, what is happening is that all the sushi are going through the conveyor belt, and even though we are hungry, the person who is standing next to the conveyor belt cannot access it and that's why we have so much glucose in the blood vessels and high blood sugar. This kind of idea always comes in my mind for almost all aspects, actually.
Michael Carrese: I think to me, analogies are the most powerful because people can remember them and repeat them to other people because if it's a situation like that that everybody can relate to...it's just a very powerful way to do it.
Dr. Banerjee: Absolutely.
Michael Carrese: So, were there particular people that inspired you to be a teacher?
Dr. Banerjee: Yes, absolutely. The most influential people who helped me to become a teacher are those people who actually saw something in me in the early part of my life. I particularly want to mention my primary school teacher, Mr. Sujon Banerjee, and my high school teacher, Mr. Sachindra Choudhury. They are the most influential people in my mind, apart from my parents -- my father, Mr. Indra Banerjee and my mother, Malabika Banerjee. So, particularly, I would like to mention those teachers, Mr. Sachindra and Mr. Sujon Banerjee.
The thing is that, as I mentioned, I was growing up in a part of India where there are a lot of challenges in the learning process. And at that time what used to happen was that in India or in West Bengal, there used to be a top ten students list. So my teacher always used to say that there are a lot of good students that are in this area, so somebody should be there in the top ten. But mostly the list was dominated by people from some elite schools in the big cities.
In the early part of my fifth standard, one of the teachers I mentioned said that, “Kishore is probably going to be on the top ten students list.” Nobody believed him at that point of time. So, he mentioned this thing to me one day that, “I am counting on you and you should definitely do well.” They kept believing in me when probably I was also not believing in myself in that sense. So, I ranked in the top ten after a few years. That gave me a lot of self-belief in that sense...that if you have means, the capacity to learn and have the capacity to persevere, you're definitely going to do well in life.
Michael Carrese: That's great. I could see why it stuck with you because it was such an early example of motivation and how it works. There is something about your teaching that caught my eye...about gamification. How do you work that into your instruction?
Dr. Banerjee: Actually, I feel that education, the learning process, should be fun because if the learning is happening in a fun environment, a stress-less environment, only then you can learn it properly. If it is work happening in a very stressful environment that “you need to learn this and you get marks out of this,” then I don't think students get motivated enough to learn. So, I always want to add an element of gamification to my learning process all the time.
Michael Carrese: What's an example of that? How do you do that?
Dr. Banerjee: I use a lot of social media in this. I have an Instagram channel called Pathology360 where I do that. I usually create a series called Who Am I? Let's say for a disease, I give the clue number one, then it is the clue number two, clue number three, and then, at the end I mention the disease and discuss the salient features of that disease or pathology.
Also, there are a lot of images out there that people usually confuse. Like, something could look like a cytomegalovirus-caused diseases but also a Hodgkin lymphoma-rich Sternberg cell. So, I have created a series called This or That to help them differentiate because much of pathology is about differentiating. In the newspaper, often we see a game where this is the image A and this is the image B and they ask what are the differences between these two images? Let's say in one image, there are five people there, and another image, there are three people there. In one image, there are two people are wearing a hat. In another image, nobody's wearing a hat. So, pathology is nothing but differentiating between the normal picture and the abnormal thing. It boils down to that, I feel, actually.
Michael Carrese: So, that's a good way to sort of start training their brain to think that way.
Dr. Banerjee: Yes.
Michael Carrese: That's cool, that's great. So, in order to win the award, as I mentioned at the top, you received many nominations and testimonials and I'm gonna read some of what we heard about you. “Dr. Kishore is truly passionate about teaching and his subjects. As his student, I've honestly never met a lecturer who gives 100% in what he does as much as Dr. Kishore. His energy when he teaches, whether online or face-to-face, is highly radiative, and even someone who isn't really into a topic will get into it when they listen to him teach. He knows how to grab students' attention and maintain it with him until the end of the lectures.”What's your reaction to that?
Dr. Banerjee: I feel super happy, I feel super grateful. I usually get these kind of messages in social media platforms, and also sometimes my students message me in WhatsApp. When I read that, sometimes it brings tears to my eyes. I start to cry actually. There are some messages so emotional in that sense, and usually I read those messages before going to bed, and I read them and then I fall asleep and I think it gives me a lot of motivation to improve further.
Michael Carrese: That's wonderful. Do you have students who stay in touch with you?
Dr. Banerjee: Yes, a lot of students. They tell me that they found a cancer, and I taught them earlier about that cancer, and they saw a patient of that and when they saw that patient, it reminded me that I taught them those topics. So, I feel a great sense of satisfaction. It is a satisfaction, a pleasure to me, actually. That's the beauty of education, really. It is wonderful.
Michael Carrese: So as you may know, Osmosis has six core values, which are: Start with the Heart, Spread Joy, Have Each Other's Backs, Imagine More, Open Your Arms and Reach Further. Is there one of those that you feel you embody best, and tell us why?
Dr. Banerjee: I think embody Imagine More a lot because I feel that there's a key role
of imagination in teaching. Because if you can imagine things and create analogies and compare things with a real-life experience, then it becomes very easy for the student. And I feel Osmosis for the last ten years has brought revolution in the world of medical education. What it has done, is basically simplified the very complicated concepts in medicine and put them into bite-sized medical videos of five minutes or ten minutes, which has helped people understand medicine -- not only the medical students, but also clinicians and other healthcare professionals throughout the world.
It is one of the best things that has happened in the field of medical education, I feel, in the last ten or fifteen years. And the way they convey the idea, the way they use the certain sound effects in the video...that's fantastic actually. That means they're trying to provide you a 360-degree level of learning experience using all your senses. So, that's incredible. That's fantastic and as an educator. I feel greatly motivated when I watch a video by Osmosis.
Michael Carrese: Well, boy, we love to hear all of that. And speaking of imagination and creativity, the illustrators are just brilliant in the ways that they augment the images with things that help tell the story that they're trying to tell. It is quite impressive.
Dr. Banerjee: Yes, absolutely. All aspects of Osmosis videos are top notch, I would say.
Michael Carrese: Oh, that's great. I’m just wondering what's next for you as you think about your teaching, evolving as an educator, and what's next for your college?
Dr. Banerjee: Personally, I want to introduce a lot of technologies in my education. One of the things I want to do is use more technology to aid in learning, and I don't know how to figure it out.
For instance, I have a lot of ideas when I am teaching granuloma disease. I think of a prison...that granulomas are a prison in the cell. So, if we create an immersive experience for the students when I am telling a story, and the students can also be part of that story through using technology -- like using the metaverse or artificial intelligence -- I think that would be wonderful. Because what I'm trying to do right now is tell them a story and help them to visualize something which I'm also visualizing in my brain. But if they can really see what I'm thinking, and they can be part of that story, then I think the learning process will be wonderful.
I'm very sure the technology is going to figure it out in next decade, maybe. I have a lot of stories to tell, and I really don't know how to tell that story effectively. I have that idea in my brain, but the problem is that I don't have access to the right technology, because I'm not skilled enough for that, I feel, to tell it in the right way. So, that's what I want to do in the coming days, if I get the opportunity.
Michael Carrese: Yeah, it's a really interesting subject to contemplate, because it might require educators to acquire those skills -- to learn how to build a virtual environment in the metaverse -- or the educational institutions will have to bring in people or upskill people on their staffs to help educators do that, because I totally agree that that would be a really impactful way to teach.
Dr. Banerjee: Yes, absolutely.
Michael Carrese: So, as an educational institution, we love to fill knowledge gaps, and love to take direction from our guests about something that we could do -- a video we could make, or a course we could develop -- to fill a knowledge gap, or bust a myth, or otherwise tell people something that you really think everybody ought to know. What would that be?
Dr. Banerjee: I feel that in a lot of parts of the world, medical education is currently thought more of as rote learning, I would say...memorization of a lot of things. But learning medicine can be fun, can be interactive, can be painless, and I think already Osmosis is doing it in a great way. I feel that the future is quite bright for medical education, and if we use the technologies, and use the right kind of motivated people who want to teach, then I think it would be wonderful for, not only for Osmosis, but for the rest of the medical communities also.
Michael Carrese: I would agree with that. There are lot of bright minds in medical education. You know, you're dealing with students all the time. What's your go-to advice to them about preparing for a career in medicine?
Dr. Banerjee: I would say to them that they should follow their heart, and they should not follow what the current trend is -- which subject is trending which the others are following. They should play according to their strength, that what suits their skill, and their mindset. They should choose their specialization area accordingly. That is one of the aspects I would like to tell.
Second thing I would tell, is that sometimes students are only motivated to learn to score well in marks or score well in certain exams. That should not be the only motivation for learning. The learning should be for fun. They should be to get some mental pleasure, to get some kick out of it, and if you're not getting that kick, something is wrong. I feel that they should self-introspect, and they should ask, are they really enjoying the process of learning? That's very important and vital because this is a great profession...not only because you are serving people, but also you are serving the community, you are serving your family and everybody in this process.
That means you can play a big role, not only as a doctor, but also as an educator or you can be an entrepreneur. There are many roles you can play as a physician, and I think you should be open-minded. You should not always think that “I'm going to do it in this fixed way.” You should have an open mindset rather than a fixed mindset.
Second thing is I feel that the medical students should read a lot of non-medical books because I see a lot of medical students are only reading medical books, and that means sometimes they create a myopic vision for themselves, they could only see things in a certain way. But if they read widely, if they read a lot of non-medical books, then I think they can think widely and that could help shape them as a better medical professional, and obviously they should enjoy the learning process more.
Michael Carrese: So, tell me a little bit more about them reading non-medical things. That means they can connect dots in a different way? Talk a little bit more about that.
Dr. Banerjee: Absolutely. If you don’t read a lot of things, it's like you have the latest version of the iPhone and you have only downloaded one app when you can download thousands of apps and you can use that iPhone in a different way. Similarly, you have an excellent human brain when you have joined this profession and so you should utilize your mental capacities in a better way, in a more efficient way. For instance, I read all kinds of books. I read the self-help books, fiction, non-fiction...all kinds of books. Particularly I'm very fond of self-help kind of books. I also read audio books extensively because books are a way to connect with those great minds. Let's say somebody has written a book, and just by reading that book for three hours you can get all the ideas the person has acquired through his whole lifetime.
Michael Carrese: Right. They did thirty years of hard work to write that book.
Dr. Banerjee: Yes, yes, correct. So, I feel that they should read extensively. They should not focus only on medical books, but they should read all kinds of books and it would help them as a medical professional. I'm very sure about that, because they will understand another person's perspective and that will help to build their empathy which is very important as a medical professional. So, those soft skills can only develop if they read more extensively, I think.
Michael Carrese: And I have to point out -- true to your claim at the beginning about being good an analogies -- the iPhone analogy was terrific. It immediately helped me understand what you were saying.
Dr. Banerjee: Thank you.
Michael Carrese: So, as we wrap up here...you already mentioned a couple of teachers that were influential but are there other peers, students, family members or anybody else you'd like to do a shout out to?
Dr. Banerjee: Yeah. I'm especially thankful to my wife, Parthamitra, my daughter,Archeesa, and to all my dogs. I have actually adopted a lot of stray dogs throughout my life. They always give me some peace of mind, some kind of tranquility to achieve further. I'm also grateful to all those students who helped me to become a great educator, or better educator, I would say.
Michael Carrese: You are the first person that's thanked their dogs. So, I have to say that you're number one on my list, as far as that's concerned. But listen, I'm gonna tell you, this has really been a great pleasure to meet you, Dr. Banerjee. We want to thank you for taking the time
to be with us today, and we congratulate you again on receiving the award. It's obvious why you were nominated and chosen, and we just want to wish you the best and thank you so much for what you do to educate the next generation of medical professionals.
Dr. Banerjee: Thank you so much for having me on this great podcast. It was great talking to you, and I really, really enjoyed this show.
Michael Carrese: Well, that's great. Thanks so much. I'm Michael Carrese. Thanks for checking out this special episode of Raise the Line. If you'd like to learn about the other faculty award winners from 2022, please check out osmosis.org/faculty-awards. And as always, remember to do your part to raise the line and strengthen the healthcare system. We're all in this together.