Namaskāra! Join Cornell students from the ILR School and the Global Health Program taking part in a global service learning (GSL) program at the NGO Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM) in Mysore, Karnataka State, India. The students take courses in culture, labor, gender and public health and also engage in service projects related to their studies. This opportunity is managed by International Programs in the ILR School.
For past years, see archives.
This summer, I spent my time working
at the Vivekananda Memorial Hospital – a secondary care facility that serves
people living in and around the rural village of Sargur, India. In two months
of working, I learned more than a few invaluable lessons and now enjoy the
satisfaction of having made a contribution to the efforts of this hospital. Among
several other programs of specialization, the hospital offers the Fellowship in
HIV Medicine. This Fellowship is a yearlong course doctors take to learn
clinical and managerial aspects of an integrated, non-discriminatory approach
to care for patients with HIV. For this program, I was asked to update a
variety of curricular materials, including a list of learning resources,
flyers, a student handbook, and new promotional video.
When entering the scene of this
hospital, the staff greeted us kindly and with respect. Never was I made to
feel badly about my shortage of experience or contextual knowledge. However, one
cannot help but notice the professionalism and competence of each staff member.
Doctors, nurses, and administrators all approached their jobs with joyful
devotion. This spark of enthusiasm was contagious for our group. While the first
few weeks required that I overcome some bouts of shyness, I soon found myself
conversing easily with residents, nurses, and doctors whom I now regard as both
colleagues and friends.
Dorm room in the hospital.
So what did I learn? The
implications of HIV transmission go far beyond immediate clinical consequences.
Indeed, patients must grapple with the struggle to obtain antiretrovirals
(ARVs), adhere to these drugs, maintain confidentiality, avoid transmission of
the virus to others, and watch their overall health. Working on the Fellowship
taught me about the unique skillset that doctors must have in order to care for
people living with HIV. In response to severe societal stigma against PLHIV, doctors
at VMH use a similar protocol for all patients, such that there is no routine differentiation
between patients with and without the virus. An Integrated Counseling and Test
Center (ICTC) provides PLHIV and their family members with ongoing counseling
and guidance, support groups, yoga, and care for psychological difficulties. What
I saw in this type of care was a profound respect for the person, and an
acknowledgment that holistic, multifaceted treatments yield better prognoses
and improve quality of life. The challenge I faced was doing justice to such an
The video below gives one an
impression of the hospital and what is to be gained from the Fellowship in HIV
Medicine. To explain all that doctors get out of the course would take a much
longer video. My hope is that this film alerts doctors and other professionals
to the existence of this program and its potential to empower, educate, and
prepare doctors to make a difference in the lives of many.