Monday, April 03, 2017

Online postgraduate diplomas and degrees

When I pass my Exit Examination for the Hong Kong College of Family Physicians, I plan to take a postgraduate course to get a masters. This is not to extend the letters after my name, which we were jokingly told during our undergraduate studies. It is so I can fully understand the subject so I can put it into practice and help me to get into the fields I plan to go into the future.

With the improvement of technology, learning online has started to become the norm. Major universities are waking up to this and started to offer numerous postgraduate diplomas and degrees. Naturally you will lose the face-to-face interaction and any practical aspect which comes with the subject. However many people work full time and cannot take time off to attend a full time course. Even if the course is part-time, you have to consider travelling time and money. Some online course off an intensive teaching period, which you could attend during your annual leave.

I have been focussing on three main areas of study which I'm interested in - Family Medicine, Medical Education and Public Health. Below are the three main course I plan to take, with the other courses I took into consideration and why chose the particular course. Fees mentioned are for international students, so local students will be considerably cheaper.

I wanted to take a course which further develops my family medicine skills and knowledge. Our own college (Hong Kong College of Family Physicians) offers a certificate/diploma course. That one is primarily aimed at private doctors who are not specialising in anything, even Family Medicine, to show they have some skills in the area. Hong Kong Baptist University offers a postgraduate diploma / masters in primary care in conjunction with the University of Western Sydney. However the Baptist University doesn't have its own medical school, just a school of nursing and a private hospital, which means they don't have their own dedicated academic staff to teaching this subject. The medical teaching will likely come from private doctors or remotely from the University of Western Sydney.

There are two universities which offer online courses in this area apart from Glasgow. The University of Edinburgh has a masters of science course in Family Medicine. They have the best ranking amongst the universities here, placing 23rd in the QS World University Rankings in Medicine 2017. However the course at Edinburgh requires two periods of two weeks where they require face-to-face teaching at the university. That will require me to take annual leave and getting two weeks off is very difficult. Monash University use to offer a Masters of Family Medicine but have changed the title to Masters in Advanced Primary Health Care Practice. Monash is ranked 29th, so they aren't a bad medical school. The course details are somewhat vague but the real killer to this cost is price.

Monash will cost HKD 17,766 more than Glasgow, which is GBP 1800+ or USD ~2300 more. If Edinburgh didn't require me to attend face-to-face teaching, I would have taken their course. It is just GBP 297 than Glasgow, which is HKD ~2900 or USD 370+. I know I can afford the differences but it is not worth it. Glasgow is only ranked ten places lower than Monash, at 39th place, and I feel the University of Glasgow name carries slightly more value than Monash University's name.

2. Masters in Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Public Health is a subject where the whole content can be delivered online, since the content is mostly theory or non-practical based. Since this is the case, and public health schools are quite prevalent, there are many universities which offer this course online. Below are the universities which offer the course 100% online, except the Hong Kong universities which I have included as they are possible options for me. Ranking is based on US News 2017 rankings for Best Global Universities for Social Sciences and Public Health.

This decision is no brainer. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (or LSHTM) has the best ranking and is the cheapest university with a ranking in the top 100. Sheffield is cheaper but is ranked 118 places below LSHTM. The cheapest university with a ranking is Essex, which Staffordshire offers the cheapest out of all universities. I have the option of completing the course at more leisurely pace. Most schools intend for you to complete their masters in two years, while LSHTM allows you a maximum of five years. Another point which is not displayed in the table is that I can take their course by modules alone and don't have to do a dissertation or project, which a lot of the other courses require you to perform.

I would like to take this opportunity to make my point on differences between nations. UK offers the cheapest courses by far. Hong Kong offers similarly priced courses but you have to factor in the travel time and cost. However I would get Continuous Medical Education points if I attend the Hong Kong courses.

Next comes Australia, with the cheapest course coming from the University of Tasmania and the highest ranked course coming from Monash. Yet Tasmania is HKD 29,250 (GBP 4,900+, USD ~3400) and Monash is HKD 96,215 (GBP ~9,900, USD ~12,400) more expensive than LSHTM. 

USA is much more expensive than UK. The cheapest course is Florida (Difference between LSHTM: HKD 94,030, GBP ~6,600, USD 8,200+) and the highest ranked is North Carolina (Difference between LSHTM: HKD 403,000, GBP 41,000+, USD ~52,000). Most ridiculously is Southern California (or USC as it is more famously known), which is eye-poppingly priced at USD 81,541. That would be half year's salary if I was still working full time. How would they even attract international students with that figure? 

3. Masters in Health Professions Education, University of Glasgow
I eventually would like teach in some capacity, to trainees or medical students. Some part of the reason why is to feed my ego, to feel important, but mainly I do want better trained doctors (I have a whole blog entry I could write regarding improperly trained or not trained doctors).

The degrees come under a few names: Medical Eduction, Clinical Education, Health Professions Education. I've grouped into the same category since the content will be similar, if not the same. Like Public Health most of the course knowledge and theories are non-practical based. So you wouldn't lose so much between delivering the course online or face-to-face.

This is the one course I had difficulty choosing. There were many course I could select but I narrowed the options down to four universities. The other universities were either too expensive or didn't have a good ranking in either medicine or education.

Melbourne, even though a very highly ranked medical school, isn't worth the extra added cost. Edinburgh would have been my choice since the degree has already been approved as a quotable qualification in Hong Kong. However the course is research oriented, which I rather avoid. Glasgow has the nice balance of being a well ranked medical school with a reasonable price course. 
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Sunday, March 05, 2017

Holiday plans 2017-2018

For those who know me from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, I've been busy preparing and taking my Exit Examination for the Hong Kong College of Family Physicians. Basically it means I'm trying to gain the title of "Specialist in Family Medicine". I know I won't pass because I bollocked up the clinical audit part of the exam, by handing in the audit late and incomplete. Hopefully that is the only part I have failed.

Since there is nothing I can do about the outcome, my focus has turned to my holiday plans for the next two years. I am very obsessive compulsive when it comes to holiday planning, as I have prepared trips years in advance. I already scheduled a trip to Taipei this year, no matter what the outcome of my examinations were. I'm taking my mum along this time because a) she hasn't had a proper vacation for a long time and b) I need her to help me navigate the language (since I can't read Chinese or speak Putonghua). For 2018, I have two trips planned. I want to go back to the UK in May/June 2018 so I can catch up with my brother and friends. I couldn't go to Seoul last summer, so I'm heading there in October 2018 to coincide with the WONCA (World Organization of National Colleges, Academies and Academic Associations of General Practitioners/Family Physicians) conference.

All this scheduling has left me a gap in late 2017 for a small trip. I have prepared options but I'm a bit indecisive in the matter, so I'm throwing it out to the public to gather opinion. I have four options, in order of date:

1. Tokyo Game Show (23rd to 24th September 2017)
Apart from E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo) and gamescom, the Tokyo Game Show is one of the most significant gaming conventions in the world. Since you need to be a member of the video game industry to gain entry to E3 and gamescom is a bit far away as it is held in Cologne, the Tokyo Game Show is a more accessible option. I want to see what games will be coming out and see if there are gaming options for smartphones and tablets, as I've gone back to gaming recently after my cousin gave me his Xbox 360. The tickets are not expensive (¥1000 for advance tickets, ¥1200 for onsite tickets and ¥3000 for VIP tickets) and I can always do a bit of sightseeing. I've been to Tokyo twice before but I can't remember anything from the previous trips.

2. Malaysian Grand Prix (29th September to 1st October 2017)
Although I'm not a enthusiastic fan of Formula 1, I enjoyed the experience of the Singapore Grand Prix in 2014. I was also intrigued by the hospitality tickets for the Grands Prix (that's the plural of 'Grand Prix'), so I looked around at the other Asian Grands Prix to see what they could offer.

There are seven Grands Prix in Asia. I've been to Singapore, so I can rule that out. The Chinese Grand Prix is held in Shanghai but the circuit is actually in the outskirts of the city, which makes travelling to and from the hotel a bit of a hassle. Also I don't feel comfortable going to Chinese countries and not being able to speak the language (hence why I'm dragging my mum with me to Taipei). The only thing putting me off going to the Bahrain Grand Prix is that there is no direct flight between Hong Kong and Bahrain. This adds to the inconvenience and travel time. The Japanese Grand Prix has the same problem as the Chinese Grand Prix. It is held at Suzuka but that's about an hour away from the nearest city, Nagoya, and there isn't much I want to see around there.

That leave me with three possibilities: Australia, Malaysia, Abu Dhabi. Melbourne hosts the Australian Grand Prix and since I've just been there last year, I won't be back anytime soon. Abu Dhabi seems intriguing, since I've just found some attractions worth visiting. However it's a bit far away and would be reasonably expensive.

That leave the Malaysian Grand Prix, held in Kuala Lumpur. To be more exact it is in Sepang, an hour outside of Kuala Lumpur. I know I'm being hypocritical, since I excluded the Chinese and Japanese Grand Prix for being too far outside the main city but I also had other reasons not to choose them. Also I have a friend who lives in Sepang, so I could bunk up with my friend and save on accommodation fees.

I've been to Kuala Lumpur twice but I can't remember the attractions I saw (my memory is failing me), so I probably want to refresh my memory. The hospitality ticket I'm eye is not that expensive at ~US$2000.

So what is putting me off going to the Malaysian Grand Prix? As I said, I'm not a big fan of Formula One and I enjoyed the experience of Singapore Grand Prix but less so of the sport. It helped that the Singapore Grand Prix also had concerts by John Legend and Robbie Williams. Also going alone (as I will be) seems a bit pathetic and I don't know why. It's going to be difficult to find somebody to go with me and fork up that amount of cash.

I have to decide soon about the Malaysian Grand Prix, since this will be the final year it will be held as the Malaysian Government is not renewing the contract.

3. WTA Finals (22nd to 29th October 2017)
Before anybody says I'm going only to perv at female tennis players - you're probably right. But I did enjoy watching the Hong Kong Tennis Open in 2015, so I want to see top level tennis again. My overall aim would be to see Andy Murray, preferably at Wimbledon, but the logistics of that seem very troublesome. As the WTA Finals are held in Singapore, this is a more convenient option. I didn't go to see many attractions the last time I went to Singapore, so I hope to rectify that with this trip. The only problems are that a) I need a tennis player to root for and the only female tennis player I would go and watch is Laura Robson, who is way off from qualifying for the WTA Finals and b) like Formula One, I'm not a big fan of tennis.

4. Tokyo Motor Show (27th October to 5th November 2017)
Like any other grown up boy, if it is not video games I like then it would be cars. As Japan is a significant producer of the automobile, the Tokyo Motor Show would definitely be a place to see what the motor industry is offering in Japan.

Again ticket prices are not that expensive (¥400-1600) and since it's held over ten days, there are plenty of days to choose from. The only downside to the Tokyo Motor Show is that it is a biennial event. So if I don't go this year, I have to wait for 2019 for the next opportunity.

At the moment, I'm leaning towards the Tokyo trips but I know this is the last year I have the option going to the Malaysian Grand Prix (and probably one of the cheapest hospitality tickets on the Formula One schedule).

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Left vs Right

I'm trying to stay out of politics recently but the situation in the world makes the subject very difficult to avoid. Politics are dominating the news and social media. The events of 2016 - mainly the refugee crisis in Europe, Brexit and the election of Trump to the U.S. presidency - have left me confused as to why so many people are taking right-wing views and has lead me to re-examine my political thinking as a liberal.

Ever since I could remember, I have always been a leftie. I wanted equality for all and believed climate change + animal rights are real problems the world should face. Yet I never really examined why I take these views on these issues. So I went back to basics and looked up the definitions of right wing and left wing. On Wikipedia (where else would I have gone to?), this was the definition of right-wing politics:
Right-wing politics hold that certain social orders and hierarchies are inevitable, natural, normal or desirable, typically defending this position on the basis of natural law, economics or tradition.
Before I go on, we should really establish that when the article mentions "social orders" and when I write anything about "social", what is really meant is wealth. Social classes went out the window after the World War 2 and was on really meant for countries where nobility thrived. What differentiates us the most in today's society is how much money you have. I don't deny there is this economic hierarchy. There will be people who will be richer or poorer than others. Yet I have a problem with how this social order is established and maintained. There are many who become rich via good, hard work. I don't have a problem with these people. My bile is reserved for those who arrive into the higher echelons of the social strata by scrupulous means. The methods include nepotism, exploitation of the masses, bending or breaking of the rules. I'll go more into this when I write about the economics of the Left and Right.

My argument brings me to the definition of left-wing politics (again, retrieved from Wikipedia):
Left-wing politics supports social equality and egalitarianism, often in opposition to social hierarchy and social inequality. It typical involves a concern for those in society whom its adherents perceive as disadvantaged relative to others (prioritarianism), as well as a belief that there are unjustified inequalities that need to be reduced or abolished (by advocating for social justice).
Before people start to label me as a Communist or a liberal elite hippie, I'm not advocating that everybody is equal. It has long been established Communism, where everybody is seen as equals, rarely works. The main Communist state of the Soviet Union fell and the other examples of Communist states nowadays are not really Communist (China, Vietnam) or don't thrive very well without some sort of capitalism to help (Cuba, North Korea). There never will be true equality amongst. We all cannot have the same money, material possessions, intelligence or physical attributes.

What I am advocating is equal opportunities for all. A person shouldn't be more entitled to a job, just because his/her relative owns the company or has connections to other businesses. A person shouldn't be denied access to education or health care because he/she has less money (something I will go into further detail when I approach education and health care).

Another moot point I have regarding right-wing politics is the use of "tradition". The term is rather vague but in essence people want to have things the same rather than change. I argue that things cannot always stay the same. Things will always change. We, as a person and a society, cannot stand still or we will cease to exist in our current state. If we continued to have tradition, the concept of slavery and female submission would have been kept. If we didn't progress, the Dark Ages would have continued and the sciences and the arts would not be where they are today.

A lot of "tradition" has used religion as its basis, something I totally disagree on. Some of my arguments against using religion as a basis of establishing rules and views on society is that not all people will be of that religion. There are people of other religions or of no religion, who will have different rules and views on society. Either there has to be a consensus between these groups of people, or a rule where the religion isn't affected (something I will elaborate when writing about gay marriage).

Delving into the definitions of left & right wing politics has re-affirmed by belief of being liberal but maybe not as liberal as I thought I would be. There always be a hierarchy, whether there are liberals or conservatives in power. But there always will be change and the end result should be an equal opportunity for all.