Clinical Experiences in India

Some friends of mine in the tiny village of Patti, in northwest India among the foothills of the Himalayas.

My friends in the village of Patti.

Jason Chodakowski, M2 

In July of this year I had the privilege to travel to rural India with four other students (Amy Abramovitz, KJ Hansmann, David Brooks, and Katie McDonald) as part of a unique global health program funded by the Center for Global Health and NU-AID at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. We set out with the goal of broadening our public health knowledge, increasing our cultural competency, and developing our clinical skills by participating in a four-week clinical shadowing experience across Northwest India. We rotated in a variety of different settings, from tiny villages like Patti tucked away in the foothills of the Himalayas to the bustling city of Dehradun, in both public and private healthcare sectors. During our time in the clinics, on the wards, and in the field we were able to witness healthcare disparities as they are manifested between rural and urban regions, between private and public sectors, and between different socioeconomic groups. We were able to see how differently, for both cultural and economic reasons, medicine is delivered half a world away.

That month spent in India was an unforgettable and magnificent experience: the medicine we witnessed, the physicians and nurses we worked with, and the patients we got to interact with brought the kind of perspective to my medical education that only an actual, immersive experience that being abroad could bring. We didn’t stay in hostels or hotels – we lived with Indian families in their homes and in dormitories within the hospitals. Nothing can beat that kind of immersion; nothing can beat waking up in a tiny mountain village everyday at dawn to do yoga with the villagers shortly before working in the health clinic, or being woken up in the hospital by a nurse to aid in a delivery or assist in the ED. India brought piece and calm to my mind and body, it gave me perspective on the doctor/patient relationship, and reminded me what medicine is really about – one component of the greater endeavor to help ameliorate human suffering in the world.

But our time in this amazing country wasn’t solely spent in the clinical setting. We had the opportunity to explore palaces and temples, to hike through jungles, and to sample the multitude of sights and smells, the cacophony of sounds, and the delicious and exotic foods. India left a lasting impression – one that no doubt will shape my medical career, but also my personal life. It left wanting to return to the more disenfranchised parts of the world to practice medicine, it left me a with a firmer perspective and appreciation of my own upbringing, and it left me with fond memories of a country I would dearly love to visit and explore again in the future.

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