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Character Development for Medical Students through Student Activities in a Pursue of Living with Society

a paper by Almahira Az Zahra

Faculty of Medicine Padjadjaran University

A study in Japan (Gunma University, 2009) found several problems that occurred in Japan society; video game becomes the most common toy for kids that it decreases their time to interact with others, people school entrance examinations are highly competitive (so that students must go to prep-school after regular school, which also decreases interaction with society), and parents do everything for kids and say “You need not wash dishes, clean your room or wash your cloths. We will find good prep-school or home teacher. So, just study hard!”

Those kind of problem are very influential on the social interaction that ultimately makes the community could lose the chance to communicate with people. The students, especially medical students that are generated from this social pattern are very smart and bright-headed, have a good personalities, very good class attendances, and hard workers. However, they have limited communication skills, are not good at making friends, and get very nervous in front of patients, medical staffs or other elderly people. In team work, they are demanding but passive, while the ideal condition is proactive. They also get depressed easily and prefer working in big cities such as Tokyo after graduation. The main root of student’s social interaction problem in Japan comes from poor communication skills which is formed since childhood. So it becomes a major challenge for educational institutions and professional organizations to solve these problem.

In Indonesia, problems regarding doctor-patient communication has been a major focus, especially malpractice issues, arrogant doctor (as in an article in kompasiana on August 2010), and doctors who are identical with money. At one side, the society point of view could be a good point for constructive criticism on medical profession. On the other hand, we find that people’s judgement are too subjective without  seeing why doctors must act like that. Besides limited medical equipments and negligence, the main issue is still communication. A good communication will give a good interaction between patients-doctors. Unfortunately, poor communication may lead to misunderstanding and will eventually lead to be a malpractice.

A character that should be owned by a doctor is not just having to the ability of communication. It  also needs standardization as a general reference for each doctor. The standardization is summarized as a standard competency for the physician, known as seven-star doctor. Seven-star doctor competence are care providers, decision-maker, communicator, community leader, manager, researcher, and faith and piety; which was originally formed to develop health systems based on 4 aspect relevance, quality, cost-effectiveness and equity. The standardization is not solely derived from academic activities. It needs a “school of life” that will teach doctors about humanistic values as a preparation to face the community. In campus, the school of life miniature is called student activity.

Basic Mindset

Here is a diagram that describe the importance of student life to build character and competence for medical students as the preparation to face the problem in Indonesia, especially in the health sector:

Figure 1. Basic Mindset

Role of Doctors in Community

In Indonesia, especially in remote areas, doctors have a significant role due to his profession in the field of humanity. Not only on the health aspect, but also on the other aspects of life, such as participating in decision-making for people in the village. Doctors also became a model for their surrounding communities, such as attitudes, the way of speaking, and working ethics that expected to be responsible, thoughtfull, efficient, and appropriate. If a doctor succeed to be a good model and his daily activity inspired many people, there can be an acceleration in the public health development in his community, and vice versa. This kind of model can be exploited by a doctor as an effort to develop a community. The process may not arise instantly, so it needs to be constructed first on the aspect of self development.

Self Development

Self development planning is analogous with architects who are planning to build a sturdy house. First, they only imagine the building, concept it on a paper, then make it real. The Islamic religion emphasizes the important of self development aspects. Anis Matta, in his Model Manusia Muslim Abad 21 book, explained that self development is not doubt psychology and self development school or training officially. Islam strongly encourages and emphasizes precisely this problem first. A good self development will produce a mature man who is ready to develop the community. This also needs to be applied in a series of educational planning for us as an initial formation of self concept in order to position themselves in social life.

Still according to Anis Matta, to apply Islam into personality, every Muslim must have a clear self-concept (as a container of personality), know the model of an ideal Muslim man (Islam as something that fills the container), and adaptation process (adapting between content and container).

If this is analyzed and applied in the same way of entrepreneurship: to see, to copy, and to modify, then doctors must:

1. Have a clear concept about themselves.

They realize that they will become doctors, realize their participation in community development, and understand their rights and obligations.

2. Know the ideal standard of medical profession

It is summarized in a seven-star doctor

3. Adapt

Adaptation process is learn step by step since in university through various activities such as student affairs.

How does student affair plays a role in the development of student character?

Student activities in campus are divided into units that make up the miniature of society. These units have an important role as a “school of life” for students. Because of its crucial role in the development of students, both rector in University or dean in faculty level will support the development of these units.

Generally, the purpose of the holding of student affairs are:

  1. To be a place to elaborate interests, talents and creativity of students
  2. To be a place for organizational capability development.
  3. To build a network.
  4. To be a place to prepare student as a capable cadre to contribute in a community.

In a larger scale, the goal of student affairs is to develop students’ potential to compete internationally.

There are various phases that must be followed by a student when he or she decideds to follow a unit of student activity. The initial phase is an introduction where the student must know about the visions and missions of the unit. The next phase is forming of cadres. At this phase, students are given materials as basic competence to follow the activities. Generally, the materials are organization management, time management, self management, leadership, and materials to develop students’ interests and talents within the unit, e. g. vocalizing in a choir. After passing through the forming of cadres phase and becoming a member of a unit, the time for boards regeneration will come. If a student is elected as a board, the challenge will be greater. Students will learn how to manage the unit, plan the organization development, develop more creative idea, and teh most important things is to learn to analyze problems and the needs of students in campus as consideration of working program arrangement. Participating in the activities of student affairs is not without risk. The most frequent obstacles in the field are time management and priority so that this will train students to select and focus on specific areas to make their targets reached.

In the process of education in becoming a doctor, medical students are required to be more empathetic, to be sensitive to the surrounding problems, to be capable of analyzing and finding solutions to a problem in society, to have a plan to contribute for health development, and to have a good communication skill. These things can be reached through student activities.

Gradually, the routine of campus life will shape the character of a student. We can conclude that student affair has an important role in student self-development, character, and personality, which is a place for medical students to achieve the competence of seven-star doctor. We may expect in the future that the problems associated with softskill capabilities, especially communication, can be minimized because since studying as students, a prospective doctor have been trained to communicate, express opinions, and negotiate with people.

My Perspective

Each unit of student activities has visions and missions that aims to develop students’ interests and talents. I can feel how the process of student activitiy affect my daily life. There are three non-academic activities that have great influences in my life: Paduan Suara Mahasiswa FK, Medicinus FK Unpad, and Non-Government Organization Mitra Citra Remaja Bandung.

Figure 2. Student Affair Interaction

If we examine the miniature of life in campus (student activity) furthermore, at least there are five forms of interaction, which directly or indirectly affect the character in daily life. First, interactions with friends. In the form of this interaction, I learned about care, empathy, patience, mutual encouragement, to lead and to be led, and exchange ideas with friends. Second, interactions with stakeholders, who teaches us about negotiation, advocacy, and understanding the important role of a hierarchy in society. Third, interactions with the organization itself. Here I can feel directly the process of deliberation, compromise with condition, learn about loyalty, cooperation, responsibility, and I can get a visionary mindset. Fourth, interactions with academic life. This is very important because the main chore for student is studying. Because of that, a student must be able to have a good time management and priority management. Last but not least is the interaction with God. As a human, we must realize that everything would be more valuable if we intend for worship. So the expectation of reward from other human could be more depressed due to the sincere intention to worship.

Those five interactions may form two main characters for students:: professional character and humanistic character. As a doctor, these characters are summarized in a seven-star doctor. The professional characters are responsible, visionary, having a good communication skill, be able to lead, and a competent manager. Whereas the humanist characters are empathy, care, sensitive to social problem, and love to share with people. If we succeed to combine both professional and humanist characters, the future may be led by individuals who are ready to inspire people and bring the community into a better life.


The Indonesian nation has many multidimensional problems, including health. These problems require an appropriate, thorough, and comprehensive completion. As a future doctor, a medical student is required to be able to develop themselves not only in hard skills (academic aspect), but also soft skills to prepare themselves as the agents of change and as problem solvers in a society. There are minimum standards for a doctor as a reference for self-development, summarized in the seven-star doctor. These competencies in seven-star doctor can be obtained through the student life which collaborates between academic and the non-academic life. Student activity in campus, which acts as a miniature “school of life”, is one of the answers for medical students to develop their character and sensitivity to the problem in community.


One of the medical student’s weaknesses in character development in FMUP student affair is lack of activities with students from other faculties. In my perspective, this condition is not good because it makes them develop only in their own cage, without knowing how crowded the world outside is and how to deal with it. They never know other students’ thoughts that are very heterogeneous with more diverse scientific insights. They seemed to know only about health issues and lack of acknowledgement of other issues, such as social, tourism, politics, economics, and education. Medical students need more interaction with people from different disciplines so they can know where their participation in a multisectoral team later. That kind of interaction also train a medical student to face people with different backgrounds, to compromise with them, and to find common point of view that will eventually incorporated into a unity.


One comment on “Character Development for Medical Students through Student Activities in a Pursue of Living with Society

  1. akmal
    December 3, 2010

    hi There, i read your writing that really captured my interest.
    i’m a consultant of ‘talents Spectrum’ that helps societyto understand their inner potential talents, i’m in the process of writing my first book about future profession. we discussed about characters as well for our children to be able to face the future..hope we can talk some other time..tx Akmal

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This entry was posted on October 23, 2010 by in activity, Opini and tagged , , , , , , , .
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