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January 2012 Archives

Traditional vs. Western Medicine, Memories, & More

Sam is a U of M pre-med student in the Global Future Physician course, who recently traveled to India as part of a 3-week experience. Below is a reflection on his recent experience.

"This picture was taken in Kenchanahalli, India on the campus of a Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement healthcare facility. This particular building was, as the sign indicates, an Ayurveda Treatment and Research Center. This picture has paramount implications in regard to the Indian healthcare system."

Sam_India_2011.jpgTraditional and "Western" Medicine
"Ayurveda is system of traditional medicine in India that translates in Sanskrit 'ayus' meaning longevity and 'veda' meaning knowledge or science. This form of medicine uses both preventative and palliative forms of treatment to fight against ailments of the body. Most traditional systems of medicine are rejected or considered alternative forms of medicine by an allopathic centered healthcare system.

In India, this is quite the opposite. The building, which this picture focuses on, is situated across the way from a 10 bedroom allopathic clinic. These two clinics work in a complimentary manner to assist their patients using both of the systems most beneficial attributes. I really was impressed with the integration in both forms of treatment, setting aside each system of medicine's differences for the good of the patient."

Most Memorable Moment
"Without at doubt, the most memorable moment I had while in India was pushing our bus off of a Mysore road. It broke down while on our way to a palace after we passed a speed bump. We sat for a while hoping the bus driver would fix the bus, but after about 20 minutes of stressful waiting and traffic piling up behind us, we finally had the O.K. to push the bus off of the road."

My Advice to Students
"Advice that I would give to students that are going on the trip on the future is to go into the trip ready for anything! Keep an open mind!

Try things you're scared of. I played a game cricket with the locals with absolutely no knowledge of the game and almost no means of communicating with them. But you know what? I had a blast, regardless of the fool I made of myself, this was undoubtedly one of the fondest memories that I have from the trip.

I remember Dr. Prasad told us right when we got there and I took it to heart, he said, 'Totally immerse yourself while you're here.' I feel like I immersed myself just about to the best of my ability and walk away from the trip with almost no regrets about what could have been."

- Sam, Pre-Med U of M Student

Market Memory...Time, Wealth, and Disparities

Rachel is a U of M pre-med student in the Global Future Physician course, who recently traveled to India as part of a 3-week experience. Below is a reflection on her recent experience.

"On our last day in India, somewhere at a stop along the road between where we had been staying in Mysore and the city of Bangalore, the question came up of what we would miss the most once we returned to Minnesota. It was not an easy question for anyone to answer, but now that I have been home for almost two weeks, the answer I gave that day is much more real to me.

I would miss the colors and the liveliness of the city we stayed in; everyone was so carefree, and rather than in the U.S. where it is easy to find yourself rushing from place to place all the time, while in India, whether it was a result of the daily tea breaks during the day or just a slightly different way of life, time seemed to slow a good way.

Lee_Rachel_Blog-Picture.jpg This picture is one of my favorites from the trip, showcasing some of the colorful tikka powders at the Mysore market. We went to the market our very first day in India, and it was definitely a bit of a culture shock experience as I found myself so suddenly and completely immersed in the crowds of people and aisles upon aisles of different fruits, vegetables, and colors such as these.

Although I did not realize it at the time, as we learned more and more about India during our stay, I realized how many of those things could be brought back to this one excursion. For example, the area around the market showcased some of the disparities that are so prevalent throughout the country - small children came up to us begging for money, along with elderly women slumped on the ground gesturing to their mouths for food.

However, as we learned, a lack of food or wealth is not the problem in India. In fact, many tons of food rot every day, and the richest man in India - the third richest man in the world -owns forty percent of the country's wealth; the problem lies in the distribution (or lack thereof) of these goods. The market was also merely across the street from the Mysore Medical College and Krishnara Jendra Hospital, the government hospital in Mysore, both which were places we later got to tour and compare to their private counterparts. Therefore, although not only was the market a wonderful cultural experience, it was also extremely important in being a central place to so much of the rest of our trip that helped me to learn about so many things including the people, culture, health, sanitation, and disparities.

Prior to going to India, I had no idea what to expect. However, despite going into this program with so many unknowns, I have come away from it with a much greater understanding of not only the culture and healthcare system of India, but also a greater understanding of myself and what it means to be a global future physician, as well as a global citizen. My advice to students going on this trip in the future is to keep an open mind, ask questions, and remember that you are not only there to learn about health, but also to learn about yourself and others, and it is so important to take time to reflect on everything that you learn."

- Rachel, U of M Pre-Med Student

Becoming a Global Physician

Evan is a U of M pre-med student in the Global Future Physician course, who recently traveled to India as part of a 3-week experience. Below is a reflection on his recent experience.

"Non-violence, truthfulness, service, and sacrifice. These are the core values of the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM). I honestly did not know what to expect when I stepped onto the plane for almost a 24-hour journey to Mysore, India. My initial impression was that we would be visiting a bunch of hospitals and discussing differences in how doctors treat patients between the U.S. and India. I was partially right, but the trip as a whole shifted my perspectives of what it means to be a physician, a citizen, and a global community.
Before I get into this too much, I want to say a few things about the two pictures. The statue is a bust of Swami Vivekananda, the humanitarian whose ideas SVYM has defined as their own core values. Swami Vivekananda's beliefs were one of the two inspirations for SVYM. The other inspiration was Mahatma Gandhi, whose beliefs had an immense influence in India and the rest of the world.

This picture was taken at the Vivekananda Memorial Hospital in Kenchanahalli. This hospital is a 10-bed facility, which primarily cares for people living in rural areas. The unique aspect to this hospital is that the health professionals offer avurveda chikitsa, the Indian style of medicine. The Indian style of medicine is offered in other areas of India as well, but the unique aspect is how well SVYM can combine avurveda with Western medicine without creating conflicts or difficulty in treating patients. The hospitals that SVYM has created are only a small aspect of what they do in India, but to give a small taste of what else they do, SVYM has four main focuses: health, education, socio-economic empowerment, and sharing of ideas.

Health is more than just putting a hospital where there is not one. This is one of the biggest lessons I took during my time in India. This blog post does not have enough room to describe the positive actions that SVYM and India are doing to address problems in healthcare and public health. The most important idea that I will take with me is that we cannot expect our problems to be solved by others. It is not enough to say someone else will take care of it. One of SVYM's approaches to finding a solution to large-scale health issues, such as water sanitation, was to empower the community. They examined problems from a bottom up approach versus a top down approach. This is generalizing slightly as SVYM does work closely with the government in some aspects. However, the point is that a small group of driven individuals can create a big impact, especially by trying to address the issue from multiple levels.

I will finish this entry quickly, but the piece of advice for students for next year is this: Do not be afraid to ask questions (it is worth more than you think), realize that you are there for a reason, and take some time every once in a while to reflect on what you are learning about.

The picture below is that of our small group team in front of another of SVYM's hospitals in a rural community. I think the best way to sum up this entry is that it takes an individual to know your own strengths, but a team to be able to accomplish a common goal."


- Evan, Pre-med student in the Global Future Physician course

Governmental Hospitals

Katie is a U of M pre-med student in the Global Future Physician course, who recently traveled to India as part of a 3-week experience. Below is a reflection on her recent experience.

"This photo was taken in front of the government hospital in Mysore, India. The government hospitals are places that anyone in India can go to receive care. As you can see the government hospitals are overwhelmed with patients to see on a daily basis.
This photo is particularly relevant because we were in India to get a first hand look at public health and medicine and compare it to the United States. This aspect of the trip was important because it allowed us as students to get a clearer understanding of what medical care was available to the people of India.

While in India we also got the opportunity to see both a private sector hospital and a non-governmental organization hospital, these as you can imagine differed greatly from the government hospital. Getting a first hand look at all three allowed us to clearly see the differences in quality of care between the places and subsequently to compare those to what we would see in the United States. I learned that in India as well as in the United States the social determinants of health, especially their socioeconomic status, have a clear impact in what quality of care people receive.

This trip was memorable in many ways; however, my most memorable part of the trip was going to the market the first day we were in India and having a sudden and complete immersion into the culture.

I learned a lot about myself on the trip to India, but most importantly, I learned to identify what my strengths and weaknesses were and I became aware of how to capitalize on my strengths and work on my weakness. I learned how to be flexible, how to work effectively as a team, and how to be a better listener.

If I could give any advice to students that go on this trip in the future I would tell them to remember to keep an open mind and approach the trip without any reservations."

- Katie, Pre-Med student in "Global Future Physician", Reflection on trip to India

Community Is Where It All Starts

Sneha is a U of M pre-med student in the Global Future Physician course, who recently traveled to India as part of a 3-week experience. Below is a reflection on her recent experience.

"The community is where it all starts. This idea, first explained to our group before we went on our trip to Mysore, India, was one that I had heard before, but never one that I had extensively thought about. Of course it made sense; community support plays a key role in implementing change. Once we arrived at Vivekananda Institute of Indian Studies, we were swept away in learning about the various grassroots movements that have been started to implement better public health and education practices in rural communities.

Sneha_India_2011_web.jpgThis is a picture of the Community Development Initiatives department in the SVYM Vivekananda Memorial Hospital located in Sargur. As the sign explains, there are many approaches SVYM is using to make sure the community is engaged in creating change for themselves. This shows the integration between public health and medicine that has been adapted by the organization, a new concept among many American medical schools today. The initiatives listed - outreach services, nairmalya vahini, reproductive and child health, community based rehabilitation, community development services, and shikshna vahini - encompass many programs bringing information to the rural and tribal villages around Sargur. These include mobile health units to bring medications and physicians to the villages, educational skits and propaganda to increase awareness of common diseases and ailments as well as teach good sanitation habits, and resources and information about reproductive and child health.

I think the grassroots aspect of SVYM is the reason behind their success throughout their ventures. Rather than having nurses and teachers from outside areas coming into Sargur and trying to make a difference, SVYM has trained local tribal and rural members to be nurses and teachers. This provides a direct link between the community and the organization; community members helping community members helps to get ideas and education spread, and also ensures that the members will have interest in bettering their community first hand. The outreach activities provide fun and effective methods of learning about community issues, such as clean water and sanitation. In this way, SVYM is working at educating the members of the rural and tribal communities about the most basic and important skills that will improve their health. This community support allows them to try new ventures and introduce new topics.

Coming from an urban setting, I had hardly thought about many of these ideas before I went to Mysore. I was happy to see how public health and medicine collided to create this development system that has worked wonders for so many people, and I have definitely started looking at medical care in a different light. Rather than simply looking at patients' symptoms, I now realize that their lifestyle and surroundings play an equal or greater role in their health, and this holistic approach is more helpful in coming up with a treatment pattern. I would definitely recommend this study abroad program to any student who may be interested in medicine, public health, or both and how these change around the globe."

- Sneha, U of M Pre-Med Student

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