An Experiential Journey Towards Health for all- A Travel Fellowship in Primary Health Care

The current medical education system in India has its deficiencies and this further worsens a profession that has already lost it’s sheen in recent years. Medical students, and doctors are increasingly looking to break away from the erstwhile hallowed grind of M.B,B.S, M.S./M.D., followed by a D.M/M.Ch. Medicine, as we know it, doesn’t seem to help the newer generation of doctors find their purpose and influence change in society.

The doctor patient ration in India was reported as 1.33 as per the WHO in 2017, however there is more to the statistic than meets the eye. 80% of allopathic healthcare professionals live in urban areas, where only 22% of the population resides. The urban doctor-population ratio in India is 2.02 and the rural equivalent is 0.7! (Using census data and MCI records) To put it in context, the UK is not too far off at 2.8 and the USA is at at 2.5. If urban India is right up there with the so-called developing countries, why is rural India treated in a step sisterly fashion? That’s a blog for another day, but what can you do today, that is the question!

The Rural Healthcare Fellowship

To address this gap, a group of dedicated rural practitioners started a 3-day rural sensitisation programme (RSP) for medical students and junior doctors to give young medical professionals an alternative view of the medical ecosystem outside their medical colleges. The overwhelming response led to the creation of a more robust program where interested doctors could embark on a 12-month journey of exploration. The semi-structured approach aims to provide what a conventional medical education never could. An ‘uncollege approach’, as they describe it!

The program is ideally designed for those between internship and P.G. but is open to any doctor dedicated to improving health access in the country. The program allows participants to explore alternative pathways in the pursuit of “Health For All” with a special focus on the marginalised and the poor.

For the participants, the focus is on the individual and aims to facilitate their career journey through a hands on approach through an experiential immersive experience. The programme involves:

  • 2- 6 months stints in Rural Hospitals, Primary Health Care programs and Social Development Initiatives
  • Interactions with Mentors and Practitioners in the field
  • Networking and Cross-Learning with fellow-travellers
  • Sessions for Stimulation, Reflection, Reading and Discussion

The Structure of programme involves three parts or three postings (10 months [6 + 2+ 2]). One posting of 6 months will be in an organisation which has significant clinical components including primary and secondary care.

One, of the two shorter postings (2 months each), is a Bridge Period which includes introductions, inter-session meetings with fellow travellers, interactions with mentors and networking, The second is to be spent at an organisation which offer significant exposure to social development initiatives.

Each participant is assigned a mentor and a local supervisor who oversee and track their progress as they delve through the program that covers various themes including people-centred Primary health Care, discovering the range of medical skills and competencies, understanding communities and their needs, poverty and socioeconomic challenges, managerial skills and healthcare system models.

Centres for clinical exposure

  • Tribal health Initiative, Sittilingi
  • Gudalur Adivasi Hospital, Gudalur
  • Basic HealthCare services Trust, Rajasthan
  • Christian Hospital, Bissam Cuttack
  • KCPatty Primary Health Center, Kodaikanal Taluk, Tamil Nadu
  • Swaraj Comprehensive Community Health Program, Kalahandi district, Odisha

As much as we harp about progress in India, about 70% of the population still struggles with access to quality healthcare. It’s initiatives and, more importantly, driven doctors like this that will achieve the long coveted goal of ‘Health for All’!

Want to know more about the program?

Click on the link below to download the brochure.

I know nothing about Rural Medicine but if you’d like to talk to someone who does and discuss it reach out to:

Read about Dr Sangeetha’s experience as a rural health practitioner: Blog

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