Generational challenges to radiology education and practice
Department of Biomedical Imaging, University of Malaya,
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
A number of sociologists and demographers have studied
generational differences in-depth but despite this readily available
information, individuals and organisations tend not to see their own lives as
part of an era and are unaware of the characteristics of his/her generation
Generational differences as shown in Table 1  have real
implications on how employers and employees, doctors and patients, teachers and
students as well as journals and their readers interact. Each new generation
brings a unique set of attitudes to the interactions which frequently do not
fit the expectations of today�s leaders. For today�s organisations to fully
benefit from the diversity of skills and perspectives of this upcoming
generation, they must incorporate the Gen Y outlook into their cultures,
organisation and management styles. It is also vital for the Gen Y to recognise
and accept the other generations around them.
The majority of today�s college students are part of the
Generation Y who considered to be the first human natives of the digital
landscape . These digital natives are characterised as:
- operating at twitch speed (not conventional speed)
- employing random access (not step-by-step)
- parallel processing (not linear processing)
- graphics first (not text)
- play-oriented (not work)
- connected (not stand alone)
They are also more ambitious and optimistic than
Generation X, are the most ethnically diverse (35 percent are non-white), and
favour different values and learning styles from their predecessors . Additionally,
Generation Y students face parental and self-pressure to study hard and excel,
and they have proven to be up to the challenge. Today's students also expect to
control "when, where, how, and how fast they learn." These students
"perceive their learning environments as boundless," with most owning
laptops that have sophisticated functions  and they no longer consider the
physical library to be essential to their educational experience .
This generation is also responsible for a shift to
user-driven innovation which has led to a democratisation of innovation
processes, resulting in an explosive growth in products and features in various
disciplines, particularly when combined with digital communications networks.
There are groups of prosumers  who have created their own blogs, electronic
journals, and discussion groups outside mainstream media, where they openly
exchange their ideas and allow others to build on them. Many Gen Y doctors
share their thoughts publicly via the so-called �Web 2.0' tools like blogs and
social networking websites such as Twitter , Facebook , MySpace , and
As Generation Y moves from their current position as
medical students to become doctors, then onto specialists and leaders, they
will bring with them these new challenging perspectives, collaborative and
networking skills. Through their social online networks, these professionals
not only discuss business ventures, successes and failures, but seek each
other's advice in open mentoring opportunities and even share personal feelings
in these virtual spaces.
Gen Y desire long-term relationships with employers, but
on their own terms with work-life balance, better engagement with management,
opportunities, responsibility and recognition of good work . The medical
profession is a different world from when Baby Boomers and even Generation X
(in their 30s) graduated.
There is a profound gap in the perspectives and priorities
that may exist between senior physicians and their young colleagues. Many older
physicians and academics perceive young students and residents to be lazy,
self-interested and pampered partly because they wish to have a clear
separation between work and other parts of their life [12, 13]. For example
these younger physicians prefer and expect fixed hours, a good call schedule
with reliable coverage, and regular vacation time. The young doctors and
students on the other hand, consider their mentors to be harsh, uncompromising
and unaware of how the world has changed since they were medical students
themselves. While the academic medical faculty acquires more than 70%
of new information from printed journals, younger doctors are increasingly
turning to the electronic page as can be seen with their iPhones, Blackberries,
3G mobile phones, and netbooks. The end result is a festering hostility in
hospitals, medical practices and training programs.
Such fundamental differences must be recognised by the
educators, leaders, managers and editors in order to ensure they stay relevant
or else they face becoming the most recent addition to the heaps of dinosaurs
from all the eras before us. Parents and adults are no longer the competent
leaders of the changing society, but rather the uncomfortable facilitators
trying to keep abreast with the rapidly changing technology and other social,
economic, political and environmental issues, including the all-encompassing
effects of globalisation.
Table 1 Today�s workforce: Veterans or Pre-Boomers, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y .
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|Received 6 September 2009; accepted 4 February 2010
Correspondence: Department of Biomedical Imaging, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, 50603 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Tel.: +603-79492069; Fax: +603-79581973; E-mail: email@example.com (Basri J.J. Abdullah).
Please cite as: Abdullah BJJ,
Generational challenges to radiology education and practice, Biomed Imaging Interv J 2009; 5(4):e31