Welcome back! This month, we have two themes – “Work and Community Service” and “Winter Adventures.” Ambassadors will be sharing with us what they did over the winter break and also about jobs or volunteer positions on campus that they love. Junior Nitya starts the month off by telling us about her warm winter break shadowing in Kerala, India.
By Nitya Deshmukh ’19, Biology and Society major
When the fall 2017 semester finished, I was ready to escape the cold of Ithaca and travel somewhere warmer. Two weeks after my last final, I got on a plane to India.
Around 16 hours later, I was in Kerala, a state in South India. I showered, ate dinner, and went to sleep, full of excitement for the next two weeks I would spend shadowing at a local rural hospital.The Government Tribal Specialty Hospital in Kottathara, Kerala, had four floors, was open air, and packed everyday with patients coming in with issues ranging from diabetes or blood pressure, to snake bites and scabies. I was lucky enough to be allowed to watch so many physician-patient interactions, and even was able to sit in on several surgeries, something I had never done. The first surgery I observed was a cesarean (or C-section). The doctors were kind enough to explain some of the things they were doing, such as using spinal anesthesia instead of local, and how horizontal cuts were preferred over the old-school lateral cuts.
As they began to cut, I got nervous. What if I can’t handle the blood? What if I faint, or vomit? What if I really don’t have what it takes to become a doctor after all?
Luckily, none of this happened. I watched that C-section, and was rewarded by seeing a baby born. When the baby didn’t cry at first, I and the other nurses became nervous, but soon, the baby did and the whole operating room sighed collectively.
I sat in the OP ward, or the walk-in primary care, for around 4 days, and within that time, I saw what I believe to be around 400 patients. This is not an exaggeration – the doctors were so efficient and cut right to it, and I couldn’t get my head around how they didn’t get tired or worn out. In fact, I was always struck with how all of the employees were so calm all the time. When a code blue (signaling a heart attack) would sound, they wouldn’t rush. The patient would be saved, obviously, but the important goal was to make sure that everyone kept their head.
I was also interested by how the hospital was run, as a rural government hospital. I took a population health class last semester at Cornell in which we spent a lot of time discussing rural healthcare, and it was intriguing to see how many of the same issues and actions were present in an American rural hospital and an Indian one.
Eventually, I left Kerala, spent a few days in Mumbai, flew home, and drove back to Ithaca. I couldn’t bring the weather, but I definitely brought the experience with me.