Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Lessons from Justice Pao

​Many of us may not think of ourselves as educators but are in fact playing roles that require teaching – be it mentoring junior team members and guiding less experienced peers at work, or even at home, as parents to children. Dr Gabriel Yee, Medical Lead at BVCH, shares some lessons from Justice Pao for us to be better teachers and learners!

I teach Family Medicine residents in SKCH as well as Sengkang Polyclinic. At work, I seize opportunities to share and educate staff on various areas from clinical matters to self-care and mindfulness.

Recently, I have been watching Justice Pao – a Chinese drama series set in the Song dynasty about an outstanding court judge. This fictional show has taught me many lessons applicable in real life!

Create a safe learning environment
The "famous" Grievance Gong was created by Justice Pao for anyone to signal when in need of help. He stays approachable and impartial so things are managed objectively and nothing is personal.

  • I try to be contactable always for my learners or colleagues and believe that there are no "silly" questions. I maintain contact with former students, who continue to consult me on difficult cases or even for life advice. It is a win-win situation as we are forced to re-examine our assumptions and learn together.

Encourage critical thinking
When his magistrates face problems, Justice Pao would take in all the facts before offering invaluable advice but allowing them to maintain charge over the case.

  • Except for urgent matters, when staff are unsure and approach me, I would first ask for their views as well as their assessment and recommendations. If their response is not appropriate, I will follow up with probing questions. Many times, I find that the staff is able to re-examine the facts of the case and come up with a good solution – possibly better than what I would have spoon-fed and prescribed.
Delegate based on expertise
 Justice Pao relied on his dedicated team (a fighter, a doctor, scribe, and bailiffs) for domain expertise. When he delegated tasks, he took responsibility for the consequences, even the undesirable ones such as having to face the emperor's wrath and being demoted to a commoner.

  • Our interdisciplinary teams (doctors, nurses, and allied health professionals) co-create the best care plans with patients and caregivers, considering their unique situation and preferences. I always emphasise to my junior doctors that they retain final responsibility for the patient's care, and to work with caregivers for the best possible outcome for the patient.

Staying humble
 Justice Pao ensured that his staff reflected critically on their practices and the veracity of their knowledge. He often shared his dilemmas with his staff and this consultative approach helped them co-create solutions that were better than his original one.

  • The world is becoming more complex, and we need the humility to acknowledge that no one person has all the answers. I see my role of educator as a transformational agent of change – to be the spark that ignites young doctors and fellow hospital colleagues to become collaborative, consultative, and compassionate individuals who think critically.

An adaptation from a Lianhe ZaoPao commentary by Dr Gabriel Yee

Dr Gabriel clinched the AM•EI Golden Apple Outstanding Young Educator Award in September 2022. He was awarded the Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians of London in April 2023.