Be happy with the “H” Index of Hippocrates

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“Publish or perish “

This sound bite is regularly uttered by all academic leads in any university or medical school. I don’t know, why this bothers me. Looking back, many of our mentors & professors never had any great publications. Still, they were extraordinary teachers and wonderful clinicians with great wisdom. They created generations of high-quality doctors who are present all over the globe now. Is scientific publication that important in a doctor’s life? After pondering for quite some time, got a hazy answer to that query in one of my sleepless early morning academic dreams.

Hippocrates was one of the applicants for the post of professor of medicine at Harvard medical school.His application was rejected for a dismally low H index. The reluctant father of medicine tried to impress the authorities, by telling them that his experience was vast and used to teach medicine 2000 years ago, well before their country USA was discovered. The father of medicine almost begged to reconsider their decision.The miffed Harvard academic office ridiculed the old man and insisted nothing will work, except a minimum H index of  50 or atleast 10 papers as first author in a peer reviewed high Impact  factor journal. A dejected Hippocrates returned to Kos islands and asked his new generation fellows, what is this H index and Impact  factor stuff ? His students were worried about their guru’s ignorance. They some how convinced the greatest ever medical teacher to urgently subscribe for a platinum membership of a premium medical authourship services located in the Boston suburb and fixed a 30 day deadline for his first manuscript.

(What is this H index ?)  Why is it so popular?)    Ref : J. E. Hirsch  An index to quantify an individual’s scientific research output

Off to Kos Islands 

Now, let us travel back in time,2000 years ago to this picturesque nation, Kos islands in the Aegean sea,. This is where Hippocrates taught lessons under his favorite tree. No teaching apps, No 4k audiovisuals, The humble noise from within his lips became great wisdom thoughts. All that students had were set of ears to hear him. Hippocrates became the celebrated father of medicine for two reasons. He was the first to dispute the then-prevailing thoughts about human health and disease. He first proposed for every illness there is a hidden reason ie the beginning scientific basis. He insisted and negated the idea that diseases are bestowed upon by evil forces and spirits. The second one is more important. He realized knowledge, skill, and power are a deadly mix for the healing industry if they lack responsibility. He foresaw non-academic factors that will try to challenge the integrity of medical professionals and the health care delivery systems. It is astonishing to note how he could predict this 2000 years ago and wrote the behavior code for medical professionals which has become immortal.

Be happy with the “H” Index of Hippocrates 1

How to grade the quality of medical professionals?

Scientific publication is just one of the indices of quality assessment for medical professionals. Grading them based on a few manufactured rating systems is beginning to look like an academic comical. There are many more visible and invisible, quantifiable and non-quantifiable quality assessment parameters that deserve attention.

Research  & Innovations are indeed the pivotal pillars that take us to newer frontiers of medicine. But, It is explicitly clear now, the prime purpose of research is definitely not aimed at the growth of science. It is more of a survival tool, intertwined with commerce, status symbol, pride, peer pressure, self-esteem, rivalry, or just a filler for CV. 

Final message 

Blanket statements like Publish or perish at any cost could be a dangerous doctrine to adopt in medical education which is essentially about healing and caring (& whenever possible, curing). In one sense, medical teaching is little to do with research. Many of the great professors in our country never published a single paper. Unfortunately, research and teaching have been made to look inseparable. Beware, history has repeatedly taught us medical professionals need not be hyper-intelligent. They need to be just wise, men /women of integrity, enriched with sincerity, righteousness. Proper consumption of knowledge is much more important than the creation of it. Let us hope the future will be at least as perfect as the past. 

Postamble

My  H index stands at 15, I must confess I am confused a lot. Should I bother for more, or be just be happy to reach the H index of our mentor and father of medicine, which is numero Zero, and propagate his work. 

Reference 

1  Grzegorz Kreiner The Slavery of the h-index—Measuring the Unmeasurable..Front. Hum. Neurosci., 02 November 2016

2.Academic excellence does not always require publication  Ernest L Boyer argued in his 1990 book, Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities for the professoriate,(BoyerScholarshipReconsidered)

3.Too much academic research is being published https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20180905095203579 

 

 

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