He makes difficult concepts easy to understand
(from left) Dr Paramanantham with his occupational therapy students Zelda Chen and Charmaine Koh on their graduation day
Meet Dr Ramanujam Paramanantham. The senior lecturer at the School of Health Sciences – more affectionately known by the shortened “Dr Param” – teaches anatomy, physiology, pathology and pathophysiology to both nursing students, and their adult counterparts taking on specialist and advanced diplomas. He also teaches introductory modules to Oral Health Therapy and Social Sciences students. Despite his busy schedule, Dr Param enjoys the challenge of teaching and sense of fulfilment he gets when students understand his explanation of difficult concepts.
Having worked in NYP for 21 years, Dr Param knows that new students grapple with learning and memorising lots of technical terms and complex concepts related to body systems and disease. Therefore, he tries to allay their fears by helping them mentally visualize the different processes.
Some aids he uses include simple hand drawn diagrams, models, videos and animation. He also creates interactive activities and explains how concepts are applicable to real life to help students better understand and appreciate their lessons.
His students regard him as a dedicated and genuine person, who understands them and their fatigue at the end of the day. They often enjoy talking to him, and many of them occasionally visit him for a chat even after they graduate.
What is your teaching philosophy?
Oscar Wilde once wrote: "Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught."
Although imparting organised knowledge to students is important, students appreciate quality teaching more than anything else. The lessons I teach have to be applicable in real-life. If the lesson content becomes too overwhelming, I will break the content into digestible pieces.
It is also important to keep the momentum going by breaking up the monotony of lessons. Students these days have hectic schedules so the last thing I want to do is to put them to sleep with a droning monologue. Instead, I try to make the lesson interactive and mentally stimulating, so that students develop a genuine interest in them and go back with valuable takeaways.
Recount one touching/ memorable incident involving a student/students you taught.
About 15 years ago, I taught a Nursing group that comprised a diverse mix of students from diverse academic and cultural backgrounds. One student in particular left a lasting impression on me.
He was extremely introverted. One day, I received a call for help from another student who witnessed his classmates verbally bullying the boy. I managed to intervene but I will never forget the heart breaking resignation I saw in the boy’s eyes. I then decided to arrange a few sessions to talk to the student and try to help him in any way I could.
These sessions were emotional for both the student and myself. It was tough to hear that he had not had an easy life. With his mother working constantly, he lived with his domineering sister and this led to his passive behaviour. I did all I could to help him and after a year, he came to me and told me he was emotionally healthier and able to stand up for himself.
I think it’s true that lending a listening ear is sometimes the most important part of healing. The student had thanked me but I felt like I had so much more to thank him for. He had taught me the value of pastoral care and the importance of mental health.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
Although I adopt an outgoing demeanour in the lecture theatre and I am friendly and open during interactions with my students and colleagues, I am largely an introverted person. I prefer to keep to myself in my personal life. I read whenever I can and spend my time on self-reflection.
I am always eager and willing to help students or my colleagues, but my favourite place is in my own head, where I just sit back and think about my day or a book that I just picked up.