Christian Medical College, Vellore (India)


Impressions of Vellore

Alice Grey – medical student from Sydney Medical School, undertook an elective at the Christian Medical College, Vellore in India in 2010–11

"My 4 weeks at RUHSA were just fantastic. First, the setting; it was so peaceful in the village and on the RUHSA campus itself - a real change from the hustle and bustle of Indian city life.

We very quickly fell into a routine. After making breakfast in our apartment we would go to rounds with Dr Rita, who would always take the time to teach us about management of the main diseases that confronted patients at RUHSA. For the inpatients, these tended to fall into two categories: febrile illnesses such as scrub typhus, enteric fever, TB and occasionally malaria; and chronic diseases such as diabetes and COPD. Heart failure was also relatively common, often the result of rheumatic fever, and often very advanced. After rounds, we would split up based on the timetable prepared by Dr Annie or Dr Prashanth. Usually we would attend outpatient clinics - either the general OPD or one of the specialty clinics, such as ENT, O&G or psychiatry. Occasionally we would attend theatre to observe a caesarean or tubectomies, or travel out to the villages for one of the mobile clinics.

Lunch was cooked by one of the women's self-help groups and was absolutely incredible. Even now I still miss the curries, chapattis and dosa that they prepared. The afternoon would involve clinic again - often antenatal or immunisation clinics which were unforgettable experiences. Being surrounded by literally hundreds of pregnant Indian women in their beautiful, brightly coloured saris made me revisit my opinion that public hospital clinics in Sydney are crowded!

We would finish by about 4:30pm, and often take a walk up to the village. After studying and resting for a few hours, we would enjoy dinner at the mess. After dinner, the 4 of us (Jessica, Aylin, Kruthi and myself) we would talk for hours about our experiences, musing on the differences between the two healthcare systems, and discussing what we could apply in Australia. We were particularly impressed by the attitude of the staff - busy clinics are a way of life for the doctors at CMC and RUHSA, so despite the fact that the outpatients department was often full to bursting, no one ever seemed to get overly stressed, or to lose their sense of humour. It made a huge difference to the working environment.

On the weekends, we had the chance to travel around and see a bit of India - we visited Vellore itself, and made a few trips to Bangalore and Chennai. This was always fantastic and it was lovely to return to RUHSA after a weekend's sightseeing and, as we turned into the driveway, feel like we were returning home!

In terms of the overall medical experience, all of us commented on the fact that despite the obvious differences in setting and facilities, when it came to the actual practice of medicine, there were many more similarities than differences. We learnt many lessons about rural community medicine that could easily be applied here in Australia, and were inspired by some of the programs that we felt would also be successful here, such as having combined day care centres for the elderly and children.
All in all, words don't really do justice to the quality of the experience. It was a life-changing experience, both professionally and personally. When I applied for medicine, it was probably the elective that I was looking forward to the most and thanks to you and the staff at the OGH, it exceeded my already high expectations! It changed my perspective both on the practice of medicine, and on life, and I will remember it as an absolutely formative educational experience.

I would be very happy to speak to anyone who is thinking about going to RUHSA."