My Medical Elective Placement in India – Alvin Katumba
In July I travelled to India to carry out my month long medical elective in Trivandrum, Kerala. During my stay, I was based in the Global Medical Projects house and worked in various hospitals around the district.
The house was nice and comfortable and accommodated up to 12 other students. It was located away from the busy main roads which provided the house with a relaxed, quiet atmosphere to return home to after a long day of placement. In the house there were two main housekeepers that cooked and cleaned for us every day and the elective director, Babu, who was always around to help with any queries or questions I would have. They were all really friendly and helped the house feel like a home very quickly. The front courtyard was secured by a large gate which made the house feel extra safe. Each bedroom was spacious and most importantly had a fan which helped us keep cool in the sweltering Indian heat. The house also had wifi which helped us keep in contact with friends and family.
During the weekdays I spent most of my time in one of three medical institutions; St Joseph’s Hospital, Sree Gokulam Medical College and Shneha hospital and during the weekends I would have free time to travel and experience other parts of India.
During my elective I rotated through a number of specialities as the staff were very flexible and accommodating. I spent time in many specialities including orthopaedics, cardiology, haematology, gastroenterology, neurology, ophthalmology, obstetrics and gynaecology, paediatrics, geriatrics and palliative care. This gave me the opportunity to experience as many specialties as possible and therefore work with, speak to and learn from as many doctors and nurses as possible. There were also many Indian medical students around who were friendly and easy to talk to.
In addition to the common conditions seen worldwide, I saw many interesting cases that I would not normally have had the opportunity of seeing in England. I saw patients with leprosy, tuberculosis and HIV and learned how these patients are diagnosed, investigated and managed in India. When seeing these patients, I also gained a better understanding of the stigma and social factors surrounding HIV and leprosy in India which was interesting to compare with what I had seen and experienced during my previous four years as a medical student in the UK.
My time on placement was a once in a lifetime experience as I saw and learnt a lot. Each of the hospitals I worked in offered a different unique learning experience. The Sneha hospital was a primary health care clinic so dealt with patients with minor illnesses and injuries. Here the most common things I saw were patients who had been in road traffic accidents or had non-specific coughs, aches or pains, similar to what is seen in a normal GP practice in England. Sometimes these patients would need to be referred to a bigger, more equipped hospital for more specific investigations and treatment options. Gokulam Medical College and St Joseph’s Hospital were larger hospitals that took care of these patients and it was in these hospitals where I spent most of my time in surgery, inpatients departments or outpatient’s clinics.
During the weekends, I travelled with the other students and volunteers to various cities and towns around southern India. The weekend trips were a chance to relax and enjoy as much of India as possible with my new friends. These trips involved sightseeing, guided tours, boat rides, elephant riding, relaxing on the beaches, watching the sun set, exploring the market stalls and eating the amazing traditional dishes from around the area.
Overall, I gained everything I hoped to achieve by going to India. I gained hands on clinical experience in a developing country that I had never been to before, I saw conditions that would not normally see in the UK and learnt a lot by living in a different culture for a month and meeting so many new people. The doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals, as well as all the organisers, housekeepers and other students made it an enjoyable experience that I would recommend to anyone hoping to do their elective in India.
Follow in Alvin’s footsteps – join our medical elective in India