How Public Lectures Can Help Educate Our Nation

A few days ago, I hosted a public lecture at the Faculty of Medicine, a first of its kind here at the University of Rwanda.

From my perspective, public lectures can be educational tools for developing students’ broad knowledge and promoting dialogue about important issues that are often left out of the curriculum. It is a time for renowned speakers — lectures, government officials, student champions — to transmit their research, ideas, and achievements to others, and promote a faculty-wide discussion of current concerns, thus perpetuating excellence in any given profession.

As our vision is to build an honour medical society, I thought this initiative could be a guide for what awaits medical students in the future, and could help them enjoy the full potential medical school has to offer.

Our speaker, Professor Phil Cotton, a medical doctor who was recently appointed principal of the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences at the University of Rwanda, talked about his life in medicine. He stated that he went to the worst school in London, where the teachers always mocked him for expressing his passion to become a doctor, saying the school only produced the best street cleaners. But he never gave up. He remained motivated to work even harder to achieve his dream.

Mr Cotton emphasized that a medical career requires respect, humility, and hard work. He also stated that health care is a human right, which, when empowered, can remove oppression. He encouraged everyone in attendance to refuse prejudice against people, show love to each patient, and feel proud to be in a place where you can provide assistance with a commitment to respect and value for everyone.

Mr Cotton then called upon students to explore the world and make the most of other talents they may have. Emeli Sande, for example, a student of Medicine at the University of Glasgow, went on to become a singer. Her album, “Our Version of Events,” spent seven non-consecutive weeks at #1 on the charts and became the best-selling album of 2012 in the UK with over 1 million in sales. Mr Cotton stated this to show that students shouldn’t be tied to or stressed out by medical school, but should change what society may think about practicing doctors and pharmacist. Mr Cotton himself is also a Methodist Pastor.

Ultimately, Mr Cotton wanted to inspire students to be great achievers, enjoy what they are doing, and have a good attitude in their profession.

When asked if he achieved everything he dreamed of, and if not, how far he thinks he still has to go, Mr Cotton answered that he hasn’t achieved his dream because his dream is to change the world, even though he’s already provided much aid to the poor and oppressed through various initiatives.

These kinds of lectures on different aspects of medicine and its related fields are great opportunities for inspired thinkers to share their knowledge with a community of curious souls, and for that reason we should be pulling in more local heroes, as well as internationally recognized experts, for future discussions.

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