Dec 14, 2010
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Status
Other Health Professions Student
Interested in doing an International Rotation in India? Read about my experience below and contact Child Family Health International (CFHI) if you are interested:
I am a second-year physician assistant student at the University of Iowa and participated in the Rural/Urban Himalayan rotation in India this past October. This experience allowed me to be immersed in a culture and healthcare system very different from my own back home. Between the colorful clothing, smells, food, transportation and language present in Northern India I really felt like I was in a different world. Despite these differences, I found myself drawing some similarities between culture and religious practices in India to that of western culture and religion. For example, many Christian religions use specific robes, colors, ashes, candles, and water to represent certain aspects of their religious beliefs. In India I found myself watching a Hindu ceremony with many of the same basic objects but only in different forms, colors, and languages.
There are also multiple kinds of medical practice that we don’t usually encounter here in the United States. For example, many Indian doctors practice ayurvedic medicine, which includes a specific set of beliefs and herbal medicines. Other Indian doctors practice more traditional allopathic western medicine, while still some practice both. Encountering this alternate set of beliefs about medicine has really made me aware of some beliefs Indian patients in the U.S. may come to clinic with.
In Indian healthcare, many disparities exist between the wealthy and the poor. Though there are some government run hospitals in the urban cities, many citizens still live with life-altering congenital defects that people in the U.S. usually get treated for simply because they don’t have the money to pay for the surgery or expensive therapy. In addition, many citizens that live in rural communities don’t get healthcare at all. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work in a rural community while I was in India. Trekking through the Himalayans to serve this underserved population has definitely strengthened my desire to continue to serve the underserved in my community and around the world. Overall, this was a very positive life altering experience that allowed me to see the world from another perspective and is something I will definitely take with me in my practice.
 
Nov 13, 2011
1
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Status
Medical Student
I also participated in the CFHI's Rural/Urban Himalayan rotation, and worked in various settings providing medical care throughout North India. It was a soul-stretching experience that I am so grateful for, and I would highly recommend it to a friend.
Due to the language barrier (most patients speak Hindi, Garwhali, etc.) and reliance on history for diagnosis, a large portion of my time there was spent as an active observer. It was a great opportunity to work with conditions not commonly seen in the US, and enlightening on an intellectual level to understand how healthcare is delivered in a different culture, but the greatest lessons extended much deeper than this as my character was shaped.
The structure that CFHI gave was a supportive one, just enough to guide but never overwhelming. They arranged major transportation between sites, lodging, meals, etc. but never overplanned or scheduled the experience, giving us freedom to explore a bit, and flexibility to accommodate our interests. Local coordinators were always a phone call away and approached the relationship with participants more as a friend than an administrator.
I wish every medical student this opportunity, to develop cultural awareness & competence in dealing with patients from disparate backgrounds. Additionally, to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the Western system of providing healthcare & delivering it to the masses.