I set out for India, to a rural village called Loni in the province of Maharashtra (the same province which contains Mumbai), with a lot of preconceptions, a lot of ideas about how it would be, and a lot of curiosity about how the people live. Some of my thoughts on how things would be were correct, but there were many things which broke my preconceptions.
My Franke GLI global theme is Global Public Health, and my challenge is related to mental health treatment, perception and stigmas, and how it relates to physical health and society. Considering that around 99% of the population is religious in one way or another (with over 80% being Hindu) and the primary occupation is agricultural, I thought this experience in Social Health and Development at the Center for Social Medicine (CSM) would fit nicely with my own interests and studies. The CSM organization is a locally started NGO which has totally transformed the local and surrounding areas of Loni. As a branch entity of the Pravara Institute of Medical Sciences – Deemed University (PIMS-DU), the CSM works to expand the rural and tribal populations’ access to healthcare and livelihood services. This comes in the form of primary healthcare centers, mobile medical outreach, HIV/AIDS migrant worker screening camps, school health education programs, partnerships with government and NGO organizations to rescue children and women in compromising situations, and much more. They are constantly working to promote the health and welfare of the rural population, women, and vulnerable groups to achieve the best outcomes possible. The work they have done in rural India is truly amazing and inspiring.
Rural India is a place of chaotic fluidity. Many people of different religious beliefs live together, oftentimes within the same village, and are mostly non-contentious with one another. Traffic laws seem to be non-existent (though that is a common attribute I found in rural and urban areas), and yet there is a flow that somehow manages to work despite this. This flow appears to extend into the medical arena as well. Doctors at the local hospital operated quite differently to the states. Many rural farmers and workers are still illiterate and, despite the reach of technology, run off a more relaxed perception of time. There is no making appointments. This means that through the day there are times of high-volume and times of no-volume. It really keeps you on your toes. This combined with the variety of extremely progressed and “rare” cases made it very interesting to be around. I had many opportunities to witness interactions, treatments, and cultural norms which you don’t see in documentaries. I also got to know the more minute aspects, since the slow times gave me ample opportunity to have discussions with the doctors and students. All around, my clinical experiences were ones I could only have had in rural India.
The public outreach work and rural postings were quite rewarding. Being able to see the people and the children in their normal, daily routine was both intriguing and fun. The children were all so cute! It was inspiring to see what is being done by both the government and private organizations to help elevate the health of the people. The number of experiences are far too many to write about in just one blog.
All I can really say is this: Go see it for yourself! Experience the challenges, the successes, the food, the people, the weather, and the wonder! It wasn’t an easy experience, but I’m so thankful for all the support and assistance I received to go on this life-changing journey!
Joseph | Exercise Science & Global Public Health | Summer 2018