Wednesday, 15 August 2018

An Honest Reflection

All my life I've been in the path of Conventional Education System. I excel in that, undoubtedly. Was given the title "Best in class" in primary school classes (due to marks, not exactly best otherwise. Because I can recall a lot of smart friends from school) Best is always relative to what we're referring to.
Then I switched to CBSE syllabus for high school which I was given freedom to choose. So that's the first effort I remember being put where I learnt by myself before the classes of high school started just to be at par with the students who were in CBSE in their primary school too (because state syllabus hadn't actually taught me to think critically). Anyway, high school passed and PU went studying as well as dreaming about what I wanted to be. The desire to be an excellent Math Teacher changed into being a doctor as differentiation and integration started making less and less sense to me in real life (but I understand the potential of these topics now). Also those were the times I started being sensitive towards the issues in the society, inequality, the times I was scientifically curious.

In my second year of MBBS when the clinical postings started, I was posted to surgery department first and I remember the day I was posted to the dressing room discretely. We saw so many feet that were gangrenous, some with a few toes missing, making their lives miserable. And the indirect cause being uncontrolled blood sugar levels. It was unsettling. On further probing, I learnt that most of them became aware that they were having diabetes only after a wound in their foot refused to heel. That's when I respected the value of preventive Medicine. I wanted to screen all elderly for Diabetes and keep their sugars under control, educate them and prevent amputations. That was a dream. Was the screening idea feasible? Cost effective? Well, I didn't and still don't know. But that's when I started loving community medicine and public health. I really wanted to do make a difference to the community. I believe health care to be a basic modality of life and that being said, it not being available to all is unacceptable.

Those days, I used to take walks with my father, and I asked him a lot of questions. One such morning, I asked him who makes changes in the system? He said Government, but IAS officers are the ones who are brainy and who are change makers, who execute necessary actions. That's when I thought I should become an IAS officer. (Later some other day, the family had a chat, which made me realise that's not the only way to make a difference.)

I worked clinically well during my internship and tried to keep my options open just to see if I fell in love with any particular department or specialty. Although I loved treating and taking care of patients I couldn't imagine myself just doing that in future. So by the end of internship, when friends had a good plan of preparing for the entrance exams to become clinical specialists, I was searching for an organisation to work and learn more about public health. That's when I joined SVYM and HIV fellowship as mentioned in my previous post.

But what has all this got to do with what I'm currently doing? Now, I've come out of the conventional path. And it's not easy in multiple ways. Leaving all the new city part aside, I'm working with really smart people around. The work culture is so rich that I'm both excited and scared at the same time. It's very different from the kind of work or learning I'm used to. People are collaborating, doing great things at a great speed. They have such multiple sets of skills in the places I'm working both at NCBS and at PCMH. So I've to speed up and learn a lot of things.

Under this Indo-African Initiative, I can actually learn by doing a lot of things with these people. Expectations from me are as stated here  .
But to sum it up, I've to take a lead in collecting, analysing data, (epidemiological), learn up sequencing and other molecular biology techniques required for independently running tests at the field level. In the process I'll be meeting and learning from some amazing people from the fields of Fundamental Science, Molecular Biologists, Clinicians, Epidemiologist in India and Africa. I'd learn epidemiology in it's practical sense both in the field and in the lab!

For this, I should be ready to start learning all the skills that I always wanted to learn. Because if I want to make any kind of difference in health care like I've been wanting to since years, I need a bundle of skills. Now that I have the right mentors and people around me, I should fear less and get to it!

Who cares if I fall in the bus or break my laptop? Or get nervous looking at a bunch of smart people around a conference hall during presentation? It doesn't matter if one's not perfect to start with but one must not lose the ability to learn. Because, "if it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you."
So, I've signed up to a few online courses on coursera like - Epidemiology, Maps and geospacial revolution, R programming, Metagenomics etc. And will be immersing myself in growing. 

Friday, 10 August 2018

The Beginnings

So, it's been a week since I started work and life in Bangalore.
I just finished my exams of fellowship in HIV medicine and people ask me, what next? It's everyone's favourite question, including myself.
The very reason I joined that fellowship was because it was offered at a great organisation, "Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement" which mainly works for the tribal health, education and socio-economic empowerment. I chose to work at Vivekananda Memorial Hospital because I could learn both clinical medicine and community health as the hospital integrates community health, preventive medicine in day to day patient care. Also as a step towards a career in public health I felt and was told by one of my mentors Dr Sumanth MM, it would be a good place to learn from, to build better attitude and contacts of course.
I'm proud of making the decision as it gave me a different perspective of public health. It taught me that public health is not a different domain in health but is an integral part of praticing medicine even if it's done at a clinic. It gave me an opportunity to learn the social, cultural aspects of illness, and how to spontaineously think about them while caring for your patient even during a busy OPD like Dr Seetharam, the orthopedician and President of SVYM does.

During the fellowship, we had many case presentations and a few journal presentations. On one such days we were introduced to Dr Ramakrishna Prasad and his team about which my friend Dr Akshay has written with much clarity here. I should again be grateful to SVYM because it attracts such wonderful people to the organisation. He has now become my mentor.

So with his mentorship, I've joined as a Clinical Research Fellow at NCBS, Bangalore under an Indo-African Initiative. So RK thought I would be a right choice for this work as I had showed up to a "Health Researchers' meet" at NCBS which was conducted as a step towards working in collaboration and not silos in research field. Like they say "80% of success comes by just showing up". I could learn about this meet only because of another mentor who I value Dr Ananth Kumar who was attending this as well.

I've also joined his team - PCMH-Restore Health as a clinician/HIV consultant where I'll be able to care for patients too.

So what's the kind of work I do everyday? Why did I choose it?