What I Learned The Last Summer Of My Life…

Feels kind of odd to think about the last summer of your life. You never think the last will ever be your last. However, as a first year medical student, the 3 summer months before your second year are truly the last months of sweet freedom. After that, all you have to look forward to is Step 1 (yikes!) and two glorious years of core clerkships and electives before you start residency.

So, I put a lot of thought into my summer plans, which ended up being more of a dilemma really. “Should I be the classic gunner and do research all three months or should I take a nice vacation?” In the end, I made the clichéd middle of the road choice of doing a little bit of research and taking a trip down memory lane to India.

After wrapping up my research work, I took a flight out on August 1st and landed straight in Ahmedabad, the hopping city in the quaint, peninsular state of Gujarat. A lot had changed since the last time I was there, but the one thing that truly blew me away was health care. Yes, I know what you’re thinking – I probably went there to shadow. However, I didn’t need to. The sources that informed me about the state of medicine in India were composed of an eclectic cohort consisting of current medical students, residents, and attending physicians. I was fortunate enough to see Indian health care from a unique perspective, looking at it from the frame of reference of the providers and how they met their challenges. Rather than delving into the many aspects of health care in India, I will pick one particular feature that distinguishes the experience of providers there from those here in the United States.

Experiential Learning vs. Due Care

In the United States, every medical student and resident that is trained in the American infrastructure goes through countless years of training, working with expert physicians as well as cutting-edge technologies. The training is rigorous and the patient experience is varied. However, according to some reports, residents in some specialties (like surgery) still feel unprepared at the end of a grueling five years, hesitant to cut someone open confidently enough and save their life. With an advanced and regimented training model that caters to the overall experience of students comes the inherent drawback of depriving them of a flexible experience, which would require putting in more hours and working beyond what we would call normal physical and mental boundaries.

In India, however, I was able to witness a different tradeoff. While an ER physician may see 20 patients in a 12-hour shift here, first year residents in an Indian ER might see nearly 60 patients during that same time. In the setting of limited resources, they have to prioritize and delegate on their feet, working within the system in an effort to ensure proper care. An advantage of this vast patient population is of course the sheer volume of experience. However, a lack of standardization, deficit of resources, and greater scope for mistakes is an unfortunate inevitability.

As I drove to the airport in Ahmedabad the day of my return flight back to the United States, I wondered how a young country like India might change by my next trip. Will the exponential rate of intellectual and technological growth outpace that of the United States? Or will it be pulled down by an expanding population and lack of adequate resources?

Related Link: What is Healthcare Like in India? Featured Image Source: Wikimedia

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Yash Pandya

Yash Pandya is a science writer at The "Almost" Doctor's Channel. He is a rising third-year student at the University of Pittsburgh, majoring in Emergency Medicine with minors in Neuroscience and Chemistry. Yash plans on attending the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in Fall 2016 with guaranteed admission. In addition to the usual humdrum of academic involvement, Yash loves to play Ping Pong, catch up on the latest "Big Bang Theory," and travel. Having lived in India for half his lifetime, Yash aspires to expand his horizons into international healthcare by practicing medicine globally.