How Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Stimulates the Critical Thinking of Medical Students

We recently had a life-changing event at the medical school of one of our partner universities in Vienna. Dr. Peter Pollack was our guest lecturer. A small, pleasent man who became a doctor at age 59 and has since done missions in Syria, Sudan, Sierra Leone, and other war-torn regions as an emergency room physician, shared with us his own powerful life-changing story. His wife came along too and helped us understand from the other side of family in danger zones. The presentation was enough to challenge the entire room to think in new ways by answering the question “What is a Doctor Without Border?”

Bringing Meaning to Life

The various ways that Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres – MSF hereafter) helps both Doctors and Patients might surprise you. What surprised me the most about Dr. Pollack’s lecture was not the fact that he went to medical school at age 59, but how the opportunity structure built by MSF gave Dr. Pollack the space and need to fulfill his dream, which was clear even to an outside observer: to give back in the most efficient way possible for those with the greatest need he could imagine. This dream is not Pollack’s alone, but the property of us all as we age, the known substance of our faith in the wisdom of years and the transition of our spirits to the next generation. Dr. Pollack is just an example of how the life-changing medicine of MSF not only heals the taker, but also the giver.

But there is another, greater meaning of life that MSF gives and it is the most obvious: MSF saves children and supports life-saving medicine. What is the importance of life? Of every single living human being? Can we exclude some groups from life? Those are the peering questions that both Dr. Pollack and the mere presence of MSF in the medical school brought to the audience of young doctor students, and that sit as reminders every day of our shared value of helping the vulnerable, especially the sick, and thinking critically in order to achieve the best solutions for these global – and increasingly local – populations.

What connects us to Medecins Sans Frontieres? Values

Some of the values that Dr. Pollack espoused and modelled are heard throughout progressive modern thought and for MSF labelled “independent humanitarian assistance” which is:

  • based on need
  • irrespective of race, religion, gender, or political affiliation
  • guided by medical ethics
  • the principles of independence and impartiality

These progressive values can confront certain cultures and areas where MSF works, and MSF is known to speak out on issues such as acts of extreme violence, when medical facilities come under threat, and when delivery of life-saving medical supply deliveries are hindered. One of the things we learned is that the adoption of a set of values shared by the participating doctors is enough to satisfy the requirements of the people in need of support, even if the people on the ground would prefer otherwise. In this vein, students were led to think critically about their own somewhate progressive values in relation to competing structures and belief systems. Also, taking impartial and independent decisions was seen as the only way an organization like MSF can work in so many places, to date as Dr. Pollack showed, having consulted with already 9 million outpatients across 70 countries.

Medecins Sans Frontieres Helps with Health Innovations

Although finding meaning in life and living according to your beliefs in medicine sounds extraordinary, what really stuck in this presentation and about MSF is their lean and practical innovative health solutions, especially when there are no hospitals or supplies to use, in other words “resource scarce” environments.

One of these health innovations is sugar. On the slide it read “Whenever possible we rely on regionally available drugs.” This principle of course seems logical – but only after experiencing the difficulty of buying, transporting, and administering drugs from outside sources, or hearing about it through convincing examples, like this one where Dr. Pollack challenged the audience with the question “what can be put into bullet wounds?” to which one student hollered out “salt” to which Dr. Pollack replied “I think you’d be in trouble if you put salt in that guy’s wound!”  the Answer: Sugar. And he’s right – medical school and knowledge of medicine alone will not save lives in resource-scarce environments, and doctors must rely on knowledge of context and think critically to find immediate solutions.

And yet another MSF innovation is a simple candy bar. Dr. Pollack called this the “Plumpy Nut” bar and said they taste pretty good – and pack 500 calories of nutrition. One of the most memorable statistics the class learned in the course section and video on malnutrition was that 50% of children in the world die before the age of five. This number is largely due to malnutrition, which is unthinkable to our modernized societies but a fact that should make each one of us pause and critically reflect on what direction we are headed and how fast. When resources are scarce and malnutrition has set in, it is time to think critically about survival. That criticality turns into lean creativity and broader understanding of the problem in the case of MSF: on the one hand this low-cost temporary fix can prevent a child from dying, but on the other there are longer-term issues that remain in need of more comprehensive solutions.

The session ended with a Q&A for Dr. Pollack’s wife, who both supported the mid-life change that her husband undertook as well as his choice to go to the places most dangerous even for doctors. The fact that Doctors Without Borders exists gives us hope that the next generation of medical doctors will have something to work towards, both as doctors and as supporters of quality of life for all, as innovators and as activists, as those who bring meaning to people’s lives – including their own – through their life-saving work around the world and inside the human soul.

Watch the entire video here:

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Finance Professionals from EU Lack English

Banker-Engpass: “Extrem talentierte Leute mit gebrochenem Englisch”

Viele Banken und Versicherungen lassen sich wegen des Brexit in Luxemburg nieder. Die Personalrekrutierer stoßen aber an ihre Grenzen, da viele fähige Kandidaten nur gebrochenes Englisch sprechen.  Repost:

Luxemburger Bürger können schnell mit ihren Sprachkenntnissen beeindrucken, wenn sie zwischen ihrer Muttersprache, Deutsch, Französisch und Englisch wechseln. Aber Versicherer, Wertpapierfirmen und Banken, die nach dem Brexit-Außenposten in einem der wichtigsten Finanzzentren der Europäischen Union eröffnen wollen, werden überrascht sein. Headhunter sagen nämlich, es gebe einfach nicht genug Kandidaten in und um das kleine Großherzugtum mit seinen 600.000 Menschen, die über das ausgezeichnete Englisch verfügen, das benötigt wird, um die erwartet 3.000 Arbeitsplätze zu besetzen, die durch den Austritt Großbritanniens aus der EU entstehen dürften.

“Wir haben seit dem Brexit gesehen, dass wir bei einigen Kunden – wie einem großen Vermögensverwalter, mit dem wir es zu tun haben – große Schwierigkeiten haben”, sagt Christopher Purdy, Geschäftsführer der Personalagentur Greenfield. Sie verlangen “besseres oder perfektes Englisch und nicht nur fließendes Englisch. Es gibt aber keine tausend solcher Menschen.”

Personalvermittler stoßen an Grenzen

Luxemburg wird zum Land der Wahl für eine wachsende Zahl von Versicherern, Fonds und Banken, die aufgrund des Brexit aus Großbritannien umziehen. Der Versicherungsriese American International Group Inc., der US-Versicherer FM Global, die RSA Insurance Group Plc und der Lloyd’s of London Versicherer Hiscox Plc, sowie die Private-Equity-Gesellschaft Blackstone und Vermögensverwalter wie M&G Investments gehörten zu den ersten, die das an Belgien, Frankreich und Deutschland angrenzende Land als ihr neues EU-Drehkreuz wählten. JPMorgan Chase & Co. plant ebenfalls einige in London ansässige Banker umzuziehen.

Während Luxemburgs kleine Hauptstadt, Luxemburg Stadt, vielleicht nicht so hoch wie London oder Paris auf der Berühmtheitsskala rangiert, erzählen die Beschäftigungszahlen eine Erfolgsgeschichte. Da Englisch jedoch schnell zur Schlüsselsprache des Finanzsektors wird, stoßen Personalvermittler mit der traditionell frankophonen Ausrichtung des Landes an ihre Grenzen.

Den richtigen Mix aus benötigten Fähigkeiten und fließendem Englisch zu finden, wird besonders schwierig, wenn die Mehrheit der neu Rekrutierten aus der Region kommt, die hauptsächlich französischsprachig ist. Von 412.347 erwerbstätigen Personen im letzten Jahr waren knapp 111.000 Luxemburger und 186.649 Menschen kamen aus den drei angrenzenden Ländern, und hauptsächlich aus Frankreich, wie aus Daten des Statistikamtes Statec hervorgeht.

Französische Absolventen

Personalvermittlungsagenturen haben in der Vergangenheit viele Absolventen aus Frankreich mit vier bis fünf Jahren Erfahrung angelockt, die in ihrem Land keine Position auf ihrem Niveau finden konnten. Da sich jedoch die Wirtschaft in ganz Europa erholt, hat sich dies geändert. Die Menschen finden auch zuhause mehr Arbeitsplätze.

“Wenn wir in Frankreich rekrutieren, ist das schwierig”, sagt Jean-Francois Marlière, Gründungspartner von Marlière & Gerstlauer Executive Search in Luxemburg. “Wir rekrutierten in Paris für einen Vermögens-Planer hier und fanden Leute, die extrem qualifiziert waren, aber ihr Englisch war leider im Grunde nicht existent.”

Luxemburg hat eine lange Tradition im Privatbankengeschäft und ist auch diversifiziert genug, um zur weltweit führenden Fondsindustrie hinter den USA aufzusteigen. Das Großherzugtum hat sogar Unternehmen angezogen, die in sogenannte Weltraumminen investieren wollen – die potenzielle Ausbeutung von Mineralien in Asteroiden und anderen Himmelskörpern. Ein Boom auf dem Private-Equity-Immobilienmarkt hat es Headhuntern erleichtert, neue Aufgaben zu finden, aber sie haben Schwierigkeiten, Geschäfte abzuschließen, “weil die Kandidaten, nach denen wir suchen, ehrlich gesagt schwer zu finden sind”, sagt Marlière.

Talentkampagne geplant

“Wir sind nicht mehr im Bereich Back-Office-Jobs tätig, sondern in weitaus mehr technologischen und technischen Positionen, die ein viel höheres Niveau an Ausbildung und Erfahrung erfordern”, sagt Marlière.   Viele Arbeitgeber haben die Herausforderungen des Arbeitsmarktes noch nicht erkannt, da sie erst beginnen, im Vorfeld des Brexit Strukturen aufbauen, sagt Alexis Yaghi, Ländermanager bei Vialegis Luxembourg.

Der Mangel an lokalem Personal bedeutet, dass Headhunter versuchen, qualifiziertes Personal mit einer ausgezeichneten Beherrschung der englischen Sprache von weiter weg anzulocken. Gwladys Costant, Partner bei dem Personalberater GoToFreedom, sagt, dass heutzutage ein Drittel der Kandidaten aus ganz Europa kommt, und zunehmend aus osteuropäischen Ländern, die “jetzt sehr attraktiv sind, besonders für Positionen im Finanz- oder Steuerwesen”.

Abgesehen von der Bezahlung bedeutet dies, dass Luxemburg hart arbeiten muss, um ein Land zu verkaufen, das den Ruf eines verkehrsgeplagten Nests hat. Die Finanz-Lobbygruppe Luxembourg for Finance plant daher eine neue Talentkampagne, um zu zeigen, was das Land zu bieten hat. “Wir geben nicht vor, Paris oder Amsterdam zu sein”, sagt der Chef der Agentur, Nicolas Mackel. Luxemburg hat “andere Vorteile und wir wollen diese zeigen und herausstellen”.


Overcoming Over-Testing: Why companies need to re-train staff how to think

Testing has a lot of value. It’s convenient. It’s replicable. It gives clear data on colorful charts. It seems there’s a test for everything these days, and kids – as well as adults – are focused on passing rather than the joy of learning.

For many decades now, testing has been the ‘norm’ of our education system until University or Technical school, or in my case, early apprenticeships. At higher levels of skill the testing system breaks down, so why is there so much emphasis at the lower levels if we want to make our students smarter? This overreach of testing equates in the real-world to young people having a limited understanding of practical action, which in turn requires companies and organizations to ‘retrain’ individuals over and over again.

In order to be valid, “paper-and-pencil” or “e-learning” tests need to be measured through mediums of standardized text or number, therefore the ability to answer questions is dependent on only two forms of understanding. If we accept that intelligence can be shown in multiple ways, for example through an artistic work or piece of music, then we must also accept that passing a computer-based exam does not show the breadth of any individual’s intelligence.

What happens when young people are subjected to test after test after test until they no longer expand their breadth of learning, except for better test preparation skills? As adults they have neither the critical thinking ability to critique based on context nor the creativity to expand their definitions of personal achievement.

Furthermore, test-takers are incentivized to reflect only on whether they didn’t pass or how to trick the results. This ‘test anxiety’ has caused some people in Japan and elsewhere to commit suicide, and even more problematic than psychological problems is the marketability of both human anxiety and quick-fixes. There is a major industry of test preparation and it is all based on fear and success transfered to cheap paper.

Over-testing can be overcome when we consider the brain-based evidence that there are at least eight different types of intelligence (see Howard Gardner, 2014). Intelligences are not tested but rather potentials needing to be developed and thus engaging your Multiple Intelligences leads to products valued in a culture. Things like portfolios, prototypes, and pieces of art are examples. These sorts of ‘products’ engage the active intelligences in the learner’s mind, and are closer to the gold standard of demonstration rather than the statistical standard of being average.

People engaging their Multiple Intelligences is bad news for the testing ‘industrial complex’ which accounts for a market size of over $30 billion US dollars.

The testing mentality is not entirely wrong. There are good reasons to use tests, and sometimes they are even valid – in very specific disciplines like math and language. For example, in the area of Language Testing where one of my companies the Advanced Language Institute works, there are now computer systems that can gage a speaker’s level based on audio frequencies and large databases of word combinations. However, these are weak alternatives to the conversation-with-an-evaluator approach, where body language and context can be wrapped into a full encounter with another human being.

When you are considering standardized tests other than in the areas of language and logic, think again. This is part of the reason why your company or organization needs to re-train and re-train again. This is part of the reason – in addition to social media addiction – why your kids and colleagues don’t think. This is part of the reason you’re reading this post, because you too might have been a victim at some point in your life of the testing overload.

Pass yourself out of tests or you’ll fail the biggest test of all called life!

Facebook recalls AI that created own language

Original Article:

Some wonderful things are in development because of advances made in artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies. At the same time, there is perhaps an uncomfortable fear that machines may rise up and turn against humans. Usually the scenario is brought up in a joking matter, but it was no laughing manner to researchers at Facebook who shut down an AI they invented after it taught itself a new language, Digital Journal reports.

The AI was trained in English but apparently had grown fed up with the various nuances and inconsistencies. Rather than continue down that path, it developed a system of code words to make communication more efficient.

What spooked the researchers is that the phrases used by the AI seemed like gibberish and were unintelligible to them, but made perfect sense to AI agents. This allowed the AI agents to communicate with one another without the researchers knowing what information was being shared.

During one exchange, two bots named Bob and Alice abandoned English grammar rules and started communicating using the made up language. Bob kicked things off by saying, “I can i i everything else,” which prompted Alice to respond, “balls have zero to me to me to me…” The conversation went on in that manner.

The researchers believe the exchange represents more than just a bunch of nonsense, which is what it appears to be on the surface. They note that repeating words and phrases such as “i” and “to me” are indicative of how AI works. In this particular conversation, they believe the bots were discussing how many of each item they should take.

AI technologies use a “reward” system in which they expect of a course of action to have a “benefit.”

“There was no reward to sticking to English language,” Dhruv Batra, a research scientists from Georgia Tech who was at Facebook AI Research (FAIR), told Fast Co. Design. “Agents will drift off understandable language and invent codewords for themselves. Like if I say ‘the’ five times, you interpret that to mean I want five copies of this item. This isn’t so different from the way communities of humans create shorthands.”

Facebook ultimately determined that it wanted its bots to speak in plain English, in part because the interest was in making bots that can talk with people. However, researchers at Facebook also admitted that they can’t truly understand languages invented by AI.

Harvard Business Review – Global Business Speaks English

World-leading experts agree that it’s increasingly important to give employees and yourself opportunities to advance in your foreign language and general communication skills.

Here’s an excerpt:

Adopting a global language policy is not easy, and companies invariably stumble along the way. It’s radical, and it’s almost certain to meet with staunch resistance from employees. Many may feel at a disadvantage if their English isn’t as good as others’, team dynamics and performance can suffer, and national pride can get in the way. But to survive and thrive in a global economy, companies must overcome language barriers—and English will almost always be the common ground, at least for now.

The fastest-spreading language in human history, English is spoken at a useful level by some 1.75 billion people worldwide—that’s one in every four of us. There are close to 385 million native speakers in countries like the U.S. and Australia, about a billion fluent speakers in formerly colonized nations such as India and Nigeria, and millions of people around the world who’ve studied it as a second language. An estimated 565 million people use it on the internet.

The benefits of “Englishnization,” as Mikitani calls it, are significant; however, relatively few companies have systematically implemented an English-language policy with sustained results. Through my research and work over the past decade with companies, I’ve developed an adoption framework to guide companies in their language efforts. There’s still a lot to learn, but success stories do exist. Adopters will find significant advantages.

Why English Only?

There’s no question that unrestricted multilingualism is inefficient and can prevent important interactions from taking place and get in the way of achieving key goals. The need to tightly coordinate tasks and work with customers and partners worldwide has accelerated the move toward English as the official language of business no matter where companies are headquartered.

Three primary reasons are driving the move toward English as a corporate standard….

Read the Entire Article Here


Starting an English-Only program is a significant task in Japan, but for many Austrian and German companies it is much easier, as the general second language in Europe is English, and most people in the German-speaking territories can speak some English.

Yet at the Advanced Language Institute we understand the need for expert-level knowledge of vocabulary and a constant need to upgrade and practice one’s communication skills, especially when you are working on interdisciplinary, multimillion Euro projects. We agree with the assessment of Professor Neeley and others, that in professional fields across all disciplines, English is not only the standard, but the expectation at the most advanced levels of communication worldwide.