Lashika Yogendran, MD and Sadie Mitten, MD are senior residents on the Global Health Pathway in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. They traveled together in April 2019 to Kodaikanal, a town in the hills of Tamil Nadu in southern India.
In the mornings they worked at two hospitals: KHMS hospital, which is a quiet, private hospital open 24 hours a day every day, and though small, has all the essentials (even a small critical care wing); and a busy government hospital with free healthcare and patients lined up before the clinic opened every morning. This allowed them to learn more about the most common cases seen within the community, the resources available, and the forms of evaluation and treatment utilized based on those resources. For example, neither a blood bank nor cardiac cath lab is available in Kodaikanal, so the physicians there optimize whatever medical management they can do to stabilize patients. They were impressed to see just how resourceful Kodaikanal clinicians could be.
In the afternoons, they would go to a crèche (daycare center for children ages 3-5) to perform physical exams, make sure the children are getting appropriate medications for various ailments, and give them vitamins. They completed an education session on the topic of depression, something quite taboo within the community despite very frequent suicide attempts by both children and parents. They discussed this information with the crèche teachers who then went on to create a performance sharing that same information with the crèche parents.
They also spent two afternoons at a school for children with different physical and/or mental abilities (e.g. cerebral palsy, autism, deafness, blindness, limb deformities, Down syndrome). They provided education on menstrual hygiene and general hygiene in addition to helping with a school project creating a diorama for a city contest.
They ended their days from 4-6 PM working at the local clinic next to their guesthouse examining patients either with the doctor or midwife. There was quite a variety of patients with different complaints, and trying to get a history when all medical documentation was listed in a little notebook each patient brought (or didn’t bring) with them to the appointment was challenging.
They were even able to help build a chimney – this is an area of focus for this community to reduce indoor air pollution and lung disease.
Over the weekends, Sadie and Lashika were able to make short trips to experience other parts of India. They took a sleeper bus to beautiful Pondicherry and got to see the unique independent city of Auroville. They also made a weekend trip to Kerala where they experience wildlife in a tiger preserve as well as went to a tea plantation.
Overall this was a rewarding and humbling experience for the both of them. They felt truly fortunate to have worked in such a warm and welcoming community with wonderful people, and took away many lessons. Living in an area with limited resources certainly has its challenges, but the two of them were inspired by what they saw in Kodaikanal.
Published: August 2019