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Sasha McEwan in India


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Benjamin N. Duke Scholar Sasha McEwan poster presentation describing her International Summer of Service in India

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Sasha McEwan in India

  1. 1. 2012 BN Duke International Summer of Service: Madurai, India Sasha McEwan, Class of 2013The Internship: A Typical Day The Saratha Family Traveling around South IndiaAt around 9:00am every weekday, I would leave my accommodation and I stayed with Mrs. Saratha, a retired sports education teacher, and her husband Mr. Panner Week 1: The Backwaters of Keralawalk two miles to my placement at Nithila Nursing Home, a private hospital. Selvam, a retired transportation officer. Mrs. Saratha and Mr. Selvam insisted that I call them We traveled by overnight train and arrived early Saturday morning on theI say 9:00am very loosely, as Indian culture adopts an entirely different “Amma” and “Abba,” (the colloquial phrase for “mother” and “father”), respectively. Amma western coast of the Indian peninsula. We went on a 24-hour houseboat ride,concept of time – if I was an hour late, it would have been of absolutely no and Abba had two grown daughters that were both married and working in the nearby city of during which time we took canoes through the tropical backwater canals,concern to my doctor (in fact, there were a few days where he failed to show Chennai, and the elder daughter was expecting her first child at the beginning of August (right watched local villagers make twine from coconut flax, and sampled traditionalup at all). On days where I did not feel like making the walk, I would take Keralan food. after I left). Amma and Abba employed a cook to help cook for the slew of volunteers thatthe over-crowded, six rupee bus, which in itself is an essential Indianexperience. came in and out of their home, and I would be remiss if I failed to mention her here as part of the family. Week 2: Pondicherry This time we took an overnight bus to the town of Pondicherry, an area that hasOnce I arrived at the hospital, myself and the other intern, Andrew from retained much of its culture from a time when it was colonized by the French.Germany, would sit in Dr. Gopalakrishnan’s office and await his arrival. Dr. At any point in time I was staying in the house with at least two other female volunteers. We visited the rocky beaches and stayed in a youth hostel run by a localC. Gopala Krishnan, M.B.B.S., M.S., Dr. Gopal to us for ease of Amma and Abba rented a separate neighboring house for the male volunteers. Each volunteer Frenchman.pronunciation, is a general physician and a general surgeon who concentrates served at a different placement, so it was always interesting to hear about their experiences inin urology. He started the hospital jointly with his wife’s father, and his wife, teaching, journalism, veterinary hospitals, etc. Week 3: KumilyDr. Jeya Chitra, M.B.B.S., M.S., specializes in obstetrics and gynecology andis his partner at the hospital. So, in general, when I shadowed Dr. Gopal, I We went back to Kerala and spent a rather outdoorsy weekend hiking through thesaw male patients, while I saw only female patients when I worked with his Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, touring tea and spice plantations and ridingwife. This separation is highly reflective of the Indian culture, and it was elephants. On the full day trek through the sanctuary, we rode on a bamboo raftillustrated not only in the hospital, but throughout all aspects of day to day down a river and saw Asian elephants, Indian bison, and other large animals uplife. close.When Dr. Gopal arrived, he would immediately begin seeing patients. Week 4: KanyakumariConsultations were almost always in Tamil, the local language, however Dr. Located at the southernmost tip of the Indian peninsula, this town is known forGopal would frequently translate for Andrew and I so that we were always its forts, temples and statues. We watched the sun rise over the famousaware of what the patient’s condition or complaint was. We saw many Thiruvalluvar Statue, crossed a bridge made famous by its many Bollywoodexaminations (I was allowed to witness the male exams, but Andrew was appearances, and visited a Gandhi memorial.forbidden from being in the room with a female patient) each day, and heencouraged us to actually lay hands on the patient to feel exactly what he wasfeeling. We would also get up periodically and shadow him on rounds in theemergency area. After about four hours of consultations and rounds, we got abreak to go home for lunch. The Saratha family and Visiting the local fire station inWe returned in the afternoon to watch surgeries, often up to three in an volunteers. Pondicherry.afternoon. Because Dr. Gopal specialized in urology, I saw quite a few herniarepairs. However, I was also able to witness orthopedic, obstetrical,respiratory and ENT procedures. We stood right beside Dr. Gopal (or theperforming surgeon) in the operating theater, and watched as they performed A Quick Guide to Madurai The “Monkey Temple” in Madurai. On the shore in Kanyakumari.the procedure. Healthcare in India runs on what was to me, an ideologicallyforeign system, and I thoroughly appreciated the opportunity to witness it State: Tamil Nadufirsthand. Official language: Tamil Special Acknowledgements Religion: Primarily Hinduism, although Christians and Muslims are also present in strong numbers Economy: Traditionally an agrarian society with paddy, cotton, and flowers as primary crops. In I would first like to express my extreme gratitude to the Benjamin N. Duke the past few decades, rubber-based industries have become unique to this area. program and The Duke Endowment for allowing me to experience this Attractions: wonderful opportunity. I would also like to thank Minda Brooks, Sarah Stacke A patient awaits amputation •Meenakshi Amman Temple: a historic Hindu temple located on the river Vaigai and Jenny Wood Crowley for their guidance and support as I planned this at the leprosy clinic. •Gandhi Memorial Museum project. Finally, I wish to thank the Projects Abroad team in India and the •Thirumalai Nayak Palace: a 17th century national landmark with Islamic architectural influences Saratha family for giving me a home, a great workplace, and help traveling around the country during my time in India.