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Week 1

The first week has been great. I got to Querétaro, Mexico last Thursday morning and stayed in a hotel until Sunday. I got to my host family on Sunday and got all moved in. My host family has seven and almost eight people in it. There are the Grandparents, Isabel and Raúl, the two daughters Monique and Isabel. Monique is married to Martín and has two kids one is four and one is 10. Isabel has a boyfriend so maybe they will be getting married soon! My family has two dogs and a beautiful three story house.
I have already learned so much on my trip, my Spanish is improving quickly and starting Monday a couple girls and I are doing an all Spanish week. No speaking English allowed! This week was the first week of classes which have been hard because only one professor speaks English and the other two classes are a conversation class and composition class. The professors are more formal here and you have to treat them very respectfully, which is how it should be! I also learned you cannot eat or drink in class unless it is water.
One aspect of the Hispanic culture I have really had to get use to is the sense of time. Everyone here has their own schedule and their own time frame. A lot of times people just will not makes plans but then expect that you all are ready to do whatever. My friends and I always joke that speed limits and red lights are optional here because no one here really follows them. The traffic here is also insane. I have no clue how anyone drives in this place! I take the bus and taxi almost everywhere I go. It is very interesting because in the United States we have very strict schedules and rules and we follow them. Something I really love in the culture here is during the week the mom prepares meals when people are hungry and we usually eat La Comida together. However on Sundays everyone one eats La Comida together and this Sunday we had a BBQ outside with chorizo and carne asada.
I have seen a lot of the Centro area and Colonial areas of Querétaro and I am in love with every part of it! The streets are cobblestone and the buildings are older and colonial looking. After exploring the city we went on our first weekend trip and that was to Mt. Bernal. The elevation is 2510 m tall and I hiked all the way up with my group. The view from the top was breathtaking. Querétaro is so green and beautiful with rolling hills and small cities I could have stayed up there forever. After climbing the mountain we got to explore the city of Bernal and look in some local shops and get ice cream. Next weekend we are going to Mexico City and I am so excited!

Hasta Luego! el centro

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Week 2

Week 2 flew by and it was a blast. During the week the study abroad group went to a restaurant to watch one of the fútbol games and see the culture when there is a game going on. The restaurant was pretty full but nothing compared to when México was playing in the world cup. When México played people would fill the restaurants and then there would be people overflowing into the streets just trying to watch the game in the restaurants. In one of the plazas there was a TV set up and people were watching the game, setting off fireworks, playing music and having a great time. The scene was definitely really cool to see.
During the week I would usually stay home and do homework and I watched Harry Potter with my family one night. The professors definitely keep you busy with homework. I usually do homework from after Comida to when I go to bed. It’s crazy! There are some very culturally different things in México, aside from paying to use a bathroom, which is usually 5 pesos, there are also almost never toilet seats on the toilets! It’s just the toilet bowl. Also the men here are very forward with how they feel and sometimes it feels like they think they have a right to tell you what they think and if they want to dance with you they usually don’t take no for an answer.
For the weekend, the study abroad group went to México City and went to various museums and the Aztec Pyramids. I climbed to the top of the a smaller temple and was able to see some of the inside. I also climbed to the top of the Sun Temple. The altitude was huge and it was actually really challenging to climb however, there were grandmothers climbing up there just like me and some passed me!! We went to the museum of art and saw a Pablo Picasso exhibit along with art that told the history of México. We went to the museum of anthropology which was huge, we saw how humans evolved into the people we are today, we saw archeological sites which included underneath the now México city, before it was Tenochtitlán which was an Aztec city. When Tenochtitlán was conquered by the Spañards they built their building right on top of the Aztec houses and temples. As archeologists are discovering more of the city the citizens get to see a big part of their culture. We saw some underground burial chambers and we also saw where temples were being dug up in the city, which is cool because we only saw the tops of them because they are so far down. We also had the opportunity to see the sacrificial stone that people were sacrificed on. Another place that showed the history of México was the Plaza of Three Cultures. This plaza is in the middle of three major landmarks that are from different cultures and they had a lot to do with the revolution that took place. We got to see Chapultepec Castle which was turned into a museum telling the story of the royal people who lived in the castle before the revolution.
We also visited Xochimilco which is referred to as the Mexican Venice. There are beautifully decorated boats that you get on with a guide who takes your boat down the canals. The boats at Xochimilco are big party places and there were lots of celebrations happening when we went. People will also hop from boat to boat if they want to or see a girl they want to talk to! The culture there was wonderful, it is definitely a place people should go if they want to see some of the culture. The last place we went to was Frida Kahlo’s house. This was also turned into a museum and there were many cultural clues in the house. The house was bright blue on the outside and so colorful on the inside.
My Spanish has improved so much and now I understand why people go on study abroad trips! Week 2 flew by and I know week 3 will as well.

The aquaducts in the city.

The aquaducts in the city.

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A Weekend in Mumbai

This last weekend Peyton, Kylie and I went home with our friend Isha to Mumbai for the weekend. It was kind of a spur of the moment decision after canceling our initial plan to Goa because of the weather forecast being 100% chances of thunder and lightening storms. Turns out Goa had beautiful weather that weekend and Mumbai was pouring, often times flooding the streets. Regardless of the weather conditions I am so thankful we made the decision to travel home with Isha. We spent the weekend eating homemade food and exploring her city. From street shopping to seeing the “Gateway of India” we were able to get a slight taste of the city life which was a refreshing change after being surrounded by rural villages for a month.

Our mode of transportation for our 7 hour journey to Mumbai would be a sleeper bus. I have never really been on a public transit bus in the States, so you can only image my anxiety regarding a “sleeper” bus in India. Surprisingly it was great! Because all of my germ-a-phobe tendencies have gone out the door along time ago I didn’t mind the fact that the pillows and sheets were ready made (unclean) and the bus was set up as if every row were bunk beds. Isha and I were on the top and Kylie and Peyton were right below us. After talking with Ishas friends who were also going home for the weekend on one of their bunks we returned to our own to try and get some sleep before our big weekend in the city. I covered my pillow with my jacket, curled up with the shawl the Isha brought for me to sleep with and when I woke up we were in Mumbai. We left Loni at around 10:30pm on Friday and we arrived in Mumbai at around 5am tired and hungry. We took a rickshaw from the bus stop to Ishas home where we met her family and ate the best home cooked breakfast I’ve had in a very long time. Saturday was Ishas moms birthday we so we were able to celebrate with her and the rest of their family and later family friends.

The rest of the week consisted of good food, family time at home playing games and learning “Indian poker” and adventures in the city visiting the queens necklace on marine drive, the Gateway of India and one of the highlights of our trip street shopping. While street shopping Isha taught us the technique to bargaining which will hopefully come in handy our last week as we travel around India by ourselves.

The trip to the city to go street shopping was an experience in itself. We took the public railway which is so crowded it is easy to loose each other in the shuffle. When the reached the platform where we would be catching the train Isha told us to push our way on when the train comes. I didn’t really know what she meant by that until our train pulled up with people hanging out all sides. As the train was coming to a stop people were flooding out climbing over one another as other people were simultaneously pushing their way on. Literally pushing each other on or off. Now the train stops for maybe a few seconds before it takes off again so it was very chaotic to say the least. A little panicked we opted to wait for the next train. Now a little more prepared we waited and as the train came to a stop we pushed our way on, myself first, then Kylie, then Peyton as I looked back the train started moving with Ishas head no where in sight, after a few moments of shear panic I saw her smiling face. Instantly relieved we all made it on the train we found a seat and rode the train to Colaba Cauwsy.

Overall our weekend in Mumbai was the best one I’ve had here in India. I am so thankful to Isha and her family for taking us in and treating us so well. I felt so comfortable immediately after meeting her family, which made for a very enjoyable weekend. I was able to stay up late and talk with her parents as they shared stories and their family photo albums. If I’m ever in Mumbai again their home will be my first stop.

So thankful to have met this amazing family!

So thankful to have met this amazing family!

Queens necklace with the girls

Queens necklace with the girls

The Gateway of India! We met up with Murtaza who was home for the holiday weekend as well.

The Gateway of India! We met up with Murtaza who was home for the holiday weekend as well.

Myself, Kylie and Sasha, (Ishas sister) in the back of a rickshaw on our way to the mall.

Myself, Kylie and Sasha, (Ishas sister) in the back of a rickshaw on our way to the mall.

So excited to have found Starbucks in Mumbai!

So excited to have found Starbucks in Mumbai!

Ishas mom sending me home with goodies!

Ishas mom sending me home with goodies!

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Week Five-Lab and ART

Our fifth week here in Loni consisted of labs, the ART (Anti Retroviral Therapy) department and another Friday SHAPE program. On Monday and Tuesday we were posted in three different lab departments.

We spent the morning in the biochemistry lab, the afternoon in the pathology lab and after lunch we observed what was being done in the microbiology lab. In biochemistry we were given an introduction to what all is done throughout the central lab. As you walk in there is a register in which the patient first checks in. Attached to the check in counter in the back is a room where blood is drawn and a patient number is given. This number will be attached to everything affiliated with the process of the blood sample from using the centrifuge to separate the blood to the blood smears. After the number is assigned the blood sample is sent to the necessary department. In the biochemistry lab we observed the lab technicians using the centrifuge and the processes of separating the serum from the blood making the sample more effective for testing and related purposes. Each lab technician had certain tools that would extract exactly the amount needed for each sample making less room for error.

Later in the morning we made our way to the pathology lab where we watched the lab technicians taking blood samples and creating slides. First the serum sample was placed on the slide and with a skillful swipe a smear was made across the glass in the shape of a thumb. From there the slide was taken to the sink and crystal violet dye was applied to stain the slides. After waiting for the dye to set the slide was given a wash, dried and taken to be mounted. The lab technician then placed glue one the slide, applied a cover and the preparation of the slide was completed. We then proceeded to work with microscopes and differentiating between red blood cells (erythrocytes), and the different kinds of white blood cells (leukocytes). The white blood cells have five different types each with their own function: neutrophils, monocytes, lymphocytes, eosinophils and basophils. All a general refresher of microbiology lab back home. We worked with the microscopes ourselves identifying each type, as well as watching the lab technicians while they counted how many of each were found taking a count out of 100 cells. This number of white blood cells counted could give an accurate depiction if something was off in the blood count, confirming that an illness or disease is present.

After taking lunch we met back at the lab and observed what is done in the microbiology department. After a brief overview of the department we went to another section of the hospital where practical classes were held. There we saw culture growth on blood agar plates of bacteria such as vibrio cholera. We later made our way to the microbiology museum where we saw preserved samples of bacteria, viruses, fungus and worms. We were also able to view slides of malaria, tapeworms and staphylococcus.

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On Wednesday and Thursday we were posted in the ART department. This department is for patients who suffer from HIV/AIDS and other complications and diseases that follow caused by the suppressed immune system caused by the HIV/AIDS. We watched the medical interns as they saw each patient checking their medical records and prescribing the anti-retroviral medication. We were told the patients must come in once a month to receive their medication and update on the status of the disease and the progression of their symptoms. This was the first time I had been around and HIV/AIDS patients in a hospital setting and it was interesting to see all who were affected. The interns told us that they see around 30-40 patients a day which I thought was a surprisingly high number.

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On Friday we joined the two interns from Drake University, Leonard and Rachel to participate in the SHAPE program in Bhandardara. We drove two hours, into the mountains to village in one of the most beautiful places we have been to so far. The green and mountainous landscape was gorgeous with waterfalls flowing from the side of the mountains in the distance. The program was conducted as is had been before when we observed the SHAPE program in the previous weeks. There were two nursing students, two dental students and one physiotherapy student. We sat in the classrooms as the interns explained proper care for your health to the children in Marathi (the local language). It was cute to see the children’s responses to us while we were there, lots of giggles and pointing.

The gorgeous view

The gorgeous view

The cutest kids at the SHAPE program

The cutest kids at the SHAPE program

After getting caught in the monsoon rains

All smiles after getting caught in the monsoon rains

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Week Four-Rural Village Surveys

Monday-Tuesday

We started our week in family medicine where we met Dr. Linge and the four medical interns that we would be posted with for the next two days, Varsha, Girish, and two girls named Sneha. Dr. Linge was full of knowledge on India’s healthcare. He explained the history of how years ago doctors were not just thought of as physicians but also as gurus or life coaches. Patients would come to see their physicians for not only healthcare but also counseling on issues ranging from marital problems, to purchasing a motorcycle. He seemed to be a very well respected doctor because had many people coming to him not just because he was a family medicine doctor but because he was well known for his personal relationships with his patients and expertise in medicine. We were told he has been seeing patients up to five generations back with many people traveling from as far as Mumbai (a six hour drive) just to be seen by him. Dr. Linge explained to us the five dimensions of wellness which parallel with what we are taught back in the US that health does not just consist of your physical health but also your emotional, spiritual, social and environmental. We were able to see patient check-ups and throughout the whole examination Dr. Linge would explain what the symptoms were, the medical history of the patient and then after his examination what his conclusion and referral would be.

Family Medicine Department

Family Medicine Department

The family medicine group! Peyton, Sneha, Sneha, Girish, Dr. Linge, Varsha, Myself and Kylie

The family medicine group!
Peyton, Sneha, Sneha, Girish, Dr. Linge, Varsha, Myself and Kylie

Wednesday-Friday

Wednesday through Friday we had very busy days with our morning and afternoon sessions being at different locations. In the mornings we were posted with a team who were surveying families in the surrounding rural villages with two or more girl children ages 13-25 for the “girl aspiration study”. The goal was to survey the families and narrow down candidates for finical assistance. There would be 100 girls chosen to be supported through this program paying for their education, or healthcare or anything else they may need. After being chosen PMT will take on the financial burden that these girls are facing. The day consisted for surveying the families asking questions such as their monthly income, how much land, livestock, crops and furniture was in the home. Other standard questions we also asked such as their name, cast, religion ect. As the team was surveying the families they would translate for us what was going on and the candidates responses.

"Girl aspiration study" team

“Girl aspiration study” team

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Surveying the families

Surveying the families

After having lunch we started the second half of our day, meeting at the center for social medicine. There we joined the CSM staff and eight interns which we had met before at the yoga model day. We were told that the second half of our day would be spent surveying different health aspects in a local village. There will be a new rural clinic built for this village in the future so the information gathered would be used for baseline data to compare to after the rural clinic is built. We spent the day performing simple tests such as blood pressure, blood glucose level, height and weight. Standard questions were also asked such as their name, age, religion and cast. It was an amazing experience to watch the interaction between the people living in the village and the medical students. This is something that would not be seen in the states. I was even able to help in checking blood sugar levels as well as attempting to take blood pressure. The medical intern Peyton and I were “teamed” up with Murtaza was very patient and tried to teach me how it is done. Now I can say I learned how to take blood pressure in rural village in India (kind of, I still need practice). One thing that stood out to me was the fact that many people that we surveyed when asked their age, they had no idea. Because birthdays are a big celebration in the US I could not imagine someone not knowing what their age is. There were also a few diabetic individuals that we surveyed that were aware of their diabetes yet continued to eat high amounts of sugar and not take medication. Because of these cases it was encouraging to know that a health center would be available to this village in the future so that these people and the generations to follow can become educated on the importance of proper healthcare.

Our "team"

Our “team”

Taking blood glucose levels

Taking blood glucose levels

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Week Three-Mobile Clinics

On Monday we were posted back at the Babhaleshwar rural clinic to complete our three day rotation. Our new posting started on Tuesday and we were able to join the mobile clinic team for the next three days. Right now PMT (Pravara Medical Trust) is in the middle of an HIV/AIDS screening project for the migrant working population. The mobile clinic reaches these migrants workers in rural areas that would otherwise not seek out healthcare. Migrant workers in India are often from out of state some traveling even farther from places such as Nepal to find work, often to send money back to their families. These migrant workers range from construction workers, hotel workers, sugar cane farmers, factory workers and more. Currently the rate of HIV/AIDS in the migrant working population is 5-6% which is much lower then the rate before the implementation of the mobile clinics services to this population. HIV/AIDS in this area is spread primarily through sexually contact, recreational drug use has been a problem in other areas but not in this target area. Therefore the goal is to not only screen for HIV/AIDS but also educate the migrant workers on safe sex practices.

The Mobil Clinic

The Mobile Clinic

On Tuesday we left for our first day in the mobile clinic along with three nurses and Dr. Patil. Along the way we made a few stops picking up a lab technician and the medical intern that would be joining in the screening efforts. Our first day was spent screening construction workers in a near by village. Each individual had their blood drawn which would later be screened for HIV/AIDS. They were then able to bring forth any other health concerns to the doctor on site. We saw many minor complaints such as general pain and common colds. Check-ups and referrals are free however medicine comes at small a price, what the mobile clinic charges is very cheap compared to anywhere else the patients would go. The simple medication prescribed that was able to be given at the mobile clinic cost around 10-20 rupees (15-30 cents). For anything more serious including testing positive for HIV/AIDS the patents would be referred to PMT for medication and counseling. One aspect to the mobile clinic that I was so impressed by was the educational counseling that was provided to these migrant workers on site after the screening. One health educator would sit down with the group of workers and give a seminar on safe sexual health practices. They even had a model of a penis with condoms to visualize, as the health educator demonstrated proper use and disposal of a condom as well as different ways to promote the prevention of STDs or STIs. As simple as this may sound many of these people are uneducated and being counseled in this way can be all the difference between contracting a life threading illness such as HIV or not. It was very eye opening to watch the registration of the patients and seeing their education being listed as no education at all. The first day the highest level of education I saw was fifth grade. When I asked Dr. Patil what their children’s future looked like he explained to us that the government has expanded schooling to even the rural villages so that every child is getting an education, improving the next generation to succeed and have opportunities that would otherwise not be possible.

The nurses (they call nurses sisters)

The nurses (they call nurses sisters)

Taking blood samples for the HIV/AIDS screening

Taking blood samples for the HIV/AIDS screening

Filling minor prescriptions

Filling minor prescriptions

Education/Counseling on safe sexual practices (proper condom use ect.)

Education/Counseling on safe sexual practices (proper condom use ect.)

On Wednesday we drove the mobile clinic out to three different hotels which are found everywhere on the side of the road. These hotels are actually just roadside restaurants, with small housing in the back which the migrant workers live in. At the last hotel we visited we met a man who had already tested positive for HIV however had not been taking his medication for 7 or 8 months. When he was asked why he had stopped taking his medication he said because he had run out of medicine and did not have the time to go to the hospital and get more, because he had to work. After some counseling from the staff the man agreed to travel to PMT the following day in order to get his medication.

Second day with the mobil clinic with Dr. Patil and the nurses

Second day at the mobile clinic with Dr. Patil and the nurses

Thursday we did very similar things as Tuesday and Wednesday, taking blood samples and providing simple check-ups to those who had minor issues. Thursday the migrant workers we screened were factory workers at two different paper mills. At these camps there were a lot of women as opposed to the other two “camps” we visited which were entirely male. These women, many elderly work so hard in the hot sun, for many hours. However many of them left with a giant smile, thankful for the services the clinic provided. One of the last women to be screened gave me the biggest smile and extended her hand to mine, although the thought to not shake this women’s hand did cross my mind, I reached out for her and held her hand with both of mine. As she said what I am assuming was thank you in their local language, I said you’re welcome in english. Although there was a major language barrier, it was a special moment for me.

Stamping the patient foms with the word "camp" to mark that these patients were from migrant working camps

Stamping the patient forms with the word “camp” to mark that these patients were from migrant working camps

On Friday we were able to observe one of the Center for Social Medicines current projects, the School Health, Hygiene and Environment Program also known as the SHAPE program. Here we were greeted by sweet kids and smiling faces. The shape program aims to reach the children in rural areas implementing health promotion in the schools with different health models. There were two students from the nursing college, two from the dental and one from the physiotherapy department to teach the children simple health straggles such as hand washing, oral hygiene and different exercises to improve spine development. The SHAPE program is being implemented in nine selected remote & tribal villages.

Nursing students presenting on health and hygiene

Nursing students presenting on health and hygiene

Children learning physiotherapy activities

Children learning physiotherapy activities

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Weekend Adventures

As I dive into the third week of my internship I am finally letting the fact that this will be the place I call home for the next 8 weeks sink in. The excitement of the unknown has slightly subsided and I am starting to get use to the way of “Indian life”. I have created my own little sanctuary in room 203 of the Silver Jubilee International Hostel. My air conditioned room, cable TV (only my room has cable and I am currently watching friends while writing this blog post),“American toilet” (as opposed to a squat toilet) and my shower that is a refreshing escape after a long day keep me humble and thankful for these simple pleasures. I am missing food from home at this point, a cheeseburger, salad and sushi have been my most recent cravings however I have brought enough snacks from home that I am not completely deprived from familiar food yet. Other then food cravings and obviously missing my family and Taylor I am really enjoying experiencing a culture completely different from my own. Throughout each day something will randomly hit me, and I will think “I cant believe I’m in India”.

Kylie, Peyton and I

Kylie, Peyton and I

This weekend Kylie, Peyton and I ventured out of Loni to spend a weekend exploring the Ajanta and Ellora caves. Our first weekend trip was an adventure to say the least! Our only struggle we had over the weekend was our driver because he spoke little to no English and had a bit of a wandering eye problem. Needless to say we have spoken to our director Dr. Soma and Mr. Nana (yes his name was Mr. Nana) will not be driving us anywhere again. As far as our hotel, food and of course the caves everything went extremely smooth. Our first stop was the Ajanta caves which date back to around the 2nd century BC to the 6th century AD and are among the earliest monastic institutions to be constructed in India. These caves were all intractly designed and constructed by Buddist monks who ate, slept and worshiped in these caves. After being deserted, the caves were reclaimed by the wilderness and were later discovered in 1819. We were told that when the Ajanta caves were discovered there were bengal tigers living inside among the ancient painting, carving and pillars. Seems like something that would be out of an Indiana Jones movie. These bengal tigers still live in this area and are sighted regularly around the caves in the evenings coming out around 6pm. There are 30 caves that make up a horseshoe-shape bordering the Waghore River.

Ajanta Caves!

Ajanta Caves!

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At the lookout point!

At the lookout point!

On the second day of our weekend adventure after staying the night in Aurangabad we set out to explore the Ellora caves. However we first made a pit stop to visit the Bibi-qa-Maqbara or the baby Taj Mahal. After visiting this monument we continued on to the Ellora caves. Our previous day at the Ajanta caves completely exhausted the three of us and because the Ellora caves are spread out so far (some a coulpe miles apart) we decided to just visit cave 16 also known as the Kailasa Temple. This temple was breathtaking and is known as the worlds largest monolithic sculpture. The detail of the rock-cut architecture that was constructed over five centuries was like nothing I have ever seen and the whole experience was surreal. This rock cut temple was built by King Krishna of the Rashtrakuta dynasty in 760 AD and was built to represent Mt. Kailasa.

Bibi-qa-Maqbara (or the baby Taj)

Bibi-qa-Maqbara (or the baby Taj)

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Ellora Caves

Ellora Caves

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Week Two-Rural Health Clinics

This week we had our first official postings which were at two different rural health clinics. For the first three days Monday-Wednesday we were posted in Rahata and for the second two days Thursday-Friday we were posted in Babhaleshwar.

Rahata Rural Health Clinic

Rahata Rural Health Clinic

Babhaleshwar Rural Health Clinic

Babhaleshwar Rural Health Clinic

At our first day at the Rahata clinic we were given a tour of the facilities including, a patient check up room, a lactation consultation room, a room for patients who need to use a short term IV and finally a lab. We were briefed on the process used for blood typing and checking hemoglobin and assisted the lab tech in filling out forms when the patient was present as well as putting on the arm cuff before he drew blood for testing. I also was able to help conduct a pregnancy test (similar to the ones in the US). The patient gave a urine sample and with a dropper I placed 5-8 drops of urine in the well of a plastic test, just like in the US if there was one line the patient was not pregnant, if there were two she was. This patient was in fact pregnant and the lab tech ask if I wanted to tell the mother the news. After finding out the mother wanted this pregnancy I excitedly agreed. When I passed the news on to the mother saying “yes you are!” in Hindi I did not get the reaction I was expecting. After words were exchanged with the lab tech and the patient I later found of that the mother actually did not want the pregnancy and was asking what route she could take to abort the baby. This made my heart hurt a little only because I was expecting to tell a mother she had life inside of her only to find out it was unwanted. However that is part of life and part of working in healthcare.

Rahata Lab

Rahata Lab

Blood typing

Blood typing

Lab Equipment

Lab Equipment

A medical student who was interning at the clinic explained most of what we saw in the clinic and as time went on we got to know him and found he was very nice and also helpful in explaining to us local places to eat, what the names of dishes were and local places to visit. The intern explained to us as he was briefing us on what the clinic offers, that there is a campaign in India called “save the girl child” the campaign was set in place because families especially in small villages still have the mindset that a male child is what is desired. This mindset resulted in girls born into families who did not want them being abandoned, even cases of female babies left in garbage cans or on the roadside. Often times these families would also continue to have children until the had a male, increasing the family size and creating a situation where the families could not afford to care for all of the children. When I asked about adoption agencies the intern explained that although there are many of them, the people in the rural villages often times would not go and seek them out. This raised another question, about the abortion rate. We then found out that in India it is a law that you are not allowed to find out the sex of the baby until birth because so many woman would abort the baby if it were female. We were told that there were certain cases of Dr.’s who would tell the patients if they were having a girl and perform the abortion. These Dr.’s that were caught obviously would loose their medical license. I was surprised to hear of these stories but could understand that in a lot of rural areas there are un-educated people, and backwards ideas such as this still exist. It is very encouraging however to hear about initiatives such as the “save the girl child” campaign as well as efforts made by other institutes such as PMT to fund programs that go out into the communities and offer scholarships to specifically girls who want to further their education giving them the same opportunities as males.

Save The Girl Child

Save The Girl Child

Medical intern starting an IV

Medical intern starting an IV

On the second day and third day of our posting at the Rahata clinic we were able to not only observe patient care in the clinic but also visit schools in the surrounding area. Again we were warmly welcomed especially by the children who were both curious and excited for us to be there. During a school visit while sitting in the teachers office a family from a local villages behind the schoolyard had seen us through the window. When we stepped out side we were asked to come over to their village and have chai. After the approval of the lab tech who was with us we ventured into a small village with him. The people were so incredibly kind and gracious asking us questions which had to be translated and offering us chai which was delicious.
It is overwhelming how well we are treated when visiting the homes of strangers and how kind they all were. It was an amazing experience and the highlight of my day.

The family the invited us into their village

The family the invited us into their village

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Thursday and Friday we were posted at Babhaleshwar which was a much slower clinic. However we were still able to observe patient care and met a new medical officer and two more medical interns. We were able to tour the village that the rural clinic serves, we stopped at a specific location that acts as a government funded daycare which offers educational classes on health to the mothers and children and well as providing nutritional supplements if a child is undernourished. We learned that there are 8 similar locations throughout the village itself which has a population of around 8,000 people. It was exciting to hear that these government funded facilities are in every village in India. I am blow away by how much government funding goes toward healthcare in this country. All of the clinics we have been to or have herd about have been completely free other then the medication, which is very cheep if you are to get it from one of the clinics. At some locations even the medication prescribed is completely free.

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Week One-Orientation

Saturday the 21st was our first day in Loni. After 26+ hours of flying and maybe one hour of sleep we started our day. We first were given a tour of the Pravara Institute of Medical Sciences the campus we will be interning at and living by Mr. Jana. He showed us where the hospital, mess hall and canteen was. The canteen is where we will be buying all of our bottled water.

Sunday the 22nd was a day of rest. In India Sunday considered a holiday, we were able to organize our rooms and catch up on some much needed sleep.

Monday the 23rd we finally were able to meet Dr. Somasundaram (or Dr. Soma) which we have all heard so much about. Dr. Soma is the director of The Center for Social Medicine (CSM). He gave us an overview of India, and the community of Loni specifically. We watched a documentary on Padmashri Dr. Vitthalrao Vikhe Patil highlighting many of the accomplishments I have mentioned in an earlier blog post.

Tuesday the 24th was packed full of touring and embracing first hand what the “Pravara Integrated Rural Development Model” really is. We did this by touring the sugar factory that this town was built upon as well as the Chemical and Biogas Plants and Dairy Factory. I am blown away by the self-sustainabilty of the sugar factory in particular, nothing seems to go to waste. How brilliant to optimize all levels of productivity using biogas and fuel and other byproducts such as molasses and liquor as a separate resource of income. Finally we were able to visit the Pravara Public schools where the children completely stole our hearts. I think India has the most adorable children. During the second half of our day we were able to visit two colleges, PVP College and the Home Science College. Both campuses were beautiful and I am continuously impressed by the accomplishments that have been made by these universities as well as the Pravara school district as a whole. The success of these schools and the level of education that these students are getting is amazing.

Touring the Sugar Factory

Touring the Sugar Factory

At the distillery, alcohol is one of the sugar cane byproducts as well as molasses

At the distillery, alcohol is one of the sugar cane byproducts as well as molasses

Visiting the Pravara Public schools

Visiting the Pravara Public schools

Wednesday the 25th we were accompanied by Mr. Jori to the Co-Operative Society and the agriculture center where we were briefed on what the scientists were doing in efforts to research the chemically enhanced as well as organic bio-pesticides. These scientists are working with the farmers developing a personal relationship by helping and educating them on what to use on what crops and different ways to optimize their success in farming. We were then able to visit a farm first hand where we walked through just a small part of the 60 acres of land learning about the different fruit grown there including pomegranate, guava and mangos which we ate right off of the tree. It was such an amazing experience and I am so grateful to have been welcomed to the farm. One of the highlights of my Wednesday was when we visited the “deaf, blind and dumb” school. I am so throughly impressed by the intelligence, talent and joy that each one of the children illuminated. In one of the last classrooms we visited a blind boy sang us a song that brought me to tears. I was taken back by the beauty of each one of these amazing children. The second half of Wednesday we visited a trade school where we were able to first hand work with some of the boys in the mechanic shop as they were working with different motors and parts of the car. Finally we visited the little flower school where we toured a beautiful campus with some wonderful children, at this school they we at recess so we were able to watch them play sports and interact with each other rather then sitting in a classroom doing school work which was fun to see.

Eating fruit from the trees at the local farm

Eating fruit from the trees at the local farm

Mangos!

Mangos!

Visiting the Trade School

Visiting the Trade School

Thursday the 26th we visited the College of Engineering, College of Pharmacy, the College of Agriculture and Biotechnology and the Institute of Business Management and Administration once again I was so impressed by the level of intelligence and accomplishments made by each school. At the college of Engineering we were given a bouquet of flowers. We were told that in India guests were treated as Gods. The kindness and generosity of this country has blown me away and I am so grateful be here learning and growing amongst some amazing people. The Institute of Business Management and Administration had equipment was high tech, class rooms that were architecturally gorgeous and a extremely kind facility. It was very interesting to tour the College of Pharmacy and get a better understanding of what goes into not only the creation and testing of pharmaceuticals but also the packaging, such as how tablets, capsules and injectables are packaged and tested for quality control. At the college of Agriculture and Biotechnology we were greeted by very friendly Dr.’s that did a great job of explaining and showing us first hand the efforts being made in bio-pesticides and insects that are our “friends and enemies”. The advances in research being made to identify what insects are wanted to protect the plants and those that need to be eliminated were impressive, but to find out that many of their efforts in insecticides were 100% organic was very exciting.

Flowers from the college of Engineering

Flowers from the college of Engineering

The Institute of Business Management and Administration

The Institute of Business Management and Administration

Friday the 27th we were able to join in a yoga class put on for a group of woman who are community health workers. CSM has started a program called the “health bank” where they are training woman from 8 different villages on different health models that they can learn and then bring back to their villages to introduce and implement. For example the first health model was how to dress, clean and treat simple wounds. The model the yoga model is the third. CSM brought in a yoga instructor to introduce simple and effective moves that the women can teach the members of their village. This was an awesome experience and with the help of some Indian students translating what the yoga instructor was saying we were able to participate. I feel so blessed to be here and to be experiencing everything that I am. I can now say that I have done mind and body yoga in India, how cool is that.

Community Health workers learning yoga practices to bring back and implement in their villages

Community Health workers learning yoga practices to bring back and implement in their villages

Some crazy yoga poses

Some crazy yoga poses

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Understanding the History of Loni

This first week has been our orientation to the campus, and a time to understand the history of the town of Loni itself. The real success of Loni, is due to man and a visionary Padmashri Dr. Vitthalrao Vikhe Patil. (Padmashri is the 4th highest honor bestowed on an Indian citizen from the Indian government due to their efforts/success in certain areas.)

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Padmashri Dr. Vitthalrao Vikhe Patil was born to an ordinary peasant family and was deeply moved by the poverty, illiteracy and disease that he saw in his community. Along side of the poverty he saw great potential for the community and sought out to make a difference and create a movement to empower and uplift this rural community. Although he was only educated through fourth standard he was not discouraged and continued to follow his path and see what he had envisioned turn into a reality. Eventually with the help of some people who believed in his dream as much as he did, a small rural town was built into a strong and unified community. Padmashri Dr. Vitthalrao Vikhe Patil used the resources that were available within the rural community (sugar cane) and is responsible for the first industrial co-operative venture in Asia which was started in 1949. This co-operative venture unified the farmers in this rural area and the Pravara Co-operative Sugar Factory was born. By involving the local farmers into this co-operative venture the power that was once in the hands of the private factory owners now lay in the hands of the farmers. No longer did these people suffer from oppression from money lenders and exploitation of big factory owners. He went on to establish the Pravara Medical Trust in 1972 which was meant to improve the health and health education of the people in Loni as well as the surrounding villages. Along with the establishment of the Sugar Factory and the Medical Trust, Padmashri Dr. Vitthalrao Vikhe Patil felt it was vital to establish other schools in the surrounding area to empower the children to reach higher education and to improve future generations.

All aspects of this vision are based off of the Integrated Rural Development Model. This community is run off of a self-sustaining model by which each community member encourages and helps one another. For example the sugarcane factory give farmers control over their crops. We learned while visiting the sugar cane factory that the factory itself is completely self-sustaining using the by-products of molasses, alcohol used as a separate source of income and bio-gas which is recycled and used to power the plant. I was impressed when visiting the schools that they run off of this model as well. Students who can-not afford to pay the fee receive a free education and those who have financial trouble can pay a low-cost fee. At the agricultural center farmers are encouraged to come and learn what will be the most beneficial for each individual crop and they have built a relationship with those who work at the agricultural center.

This community has built itself to be full of bright minds with a continued vision of improvement for the future.

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