In these days of crass commercialisation of healthcare, it may be hard to believe that a band of dedicated young doctors is giving up lucrative assignments and even risking their lives to serve in rural areas on a voluntary basis.
You may have never heard of a group called 'Doctors for You' (DFY), but this group created ripples in international medical circles this past week by winning the best 'Medical team in a crisis zone' award leaving behind strong contenders such as Medecins Sans Frontieres and Save the Children. The group got the award for medical relief it offered during the 2008 Kosi floods in Bihar. The award, instituted by publishers of the British Medical Journal celebrates an individual or team that has had an exceptional impact on a crisis situation.
The group deployed 110 of its members who treated 130,000 patients over six months through 300 mobile clinics, district hospitals and camps.
Interestingly, this group of mostly young doctors and medical students from government hospitals and medical colleges was born out of a necessity in August 2007.
It is not a typical NGO looking for opportunities for social work. During the monsoon season, government hospitals face shortage of blood and platelets when they are flooded with cases of malaria and dengue. In order to deal with such shortages, some medicos in Mumbai formed a group to promote voluntary donation of blood and platelets.
When Bihar faced the flood situation, Dr Ravikant Singh - who hails from the state and had founded the voluntary blood donation group - decided to take a small medical team there in August 2008. This slowly grew into a larger engagement over the next six months with several teams providing medical relief in flood- affected villages in rotation.
One young member of the team, Chandrakant Patil, lost his life when he was struck by lightning while sleeping in the open in a medical camp. Because of his pre-occupation in Bihar, Singh had to lose one full term of his post graduate training and an attractive offer to work for the WHO. DFY continues to prepare itself for future emergencies through constant training and by forging alliances with organisations all over the globe.
'A snakebite and a heart attack are both medical emergencies but you need different skill sets to handle them', pointed out Dr Vivek Chhabra, an active member. The group has set up maternal and child health centres - one in Biratpur in Saharsa district and another one in a Mumbai slum. Since March 2009, the Biratpur centre has treated over 50,000 patients and conducted over 100 hospital deliveries without charging any fee. The centre, manned by two doctors and nurses each, has six beds and provides round- theclock emergency services to pregnant women. The plan is to replicate this model in other districts of Bihar and other states like Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand.
It is the dream and determination of groups like DFY which offers some hope for the health system in India.
If this isn't world class then what is?
For the likes of Jairam Ramesh who think that IIT faculty does not do any ' world class' research, here is a piece of information - a scientist at IIT Kanpur has solved the mystery behind dynamic processes in the earth's inner core. This is a fundamental discovery which was announced in Nature last week. Researchers from the University of Leeds collaborated with the IIT scientist for this research.
It is a different matter that instead of celebrating such successes, our policy makers take pleasure in running our researchers down.
It was so far believed that the inner core is freezing everywhere and is growing out gradually. But Binod Sreenivasan has found that it is melting and freezing simultaneously due to circulation of heat in the overlaying mantle being transferred to it. Over billions of years, the earth has cooled from the inside out causing the molten iron core to partly freeze and solidify. The inner core has been growing as iron crystals freeze and solidify. The heat generated is transferred to the mantle and the crust through convection.
The computer model developed by researchers simulates the outer core, using data from seismic measurements. This showed that variations in heat flow at the coremantle boundary can be transferred to the inner core boundary.
Sreenivasan, a mechanical engineering graduate from NIT Calicut and MS from IIT Madras, initially joined ISRO. But he decided to pursue research and went on to do a PhD at Cambridge. He then moved on to Exeter and Leeds for postdoctoral work on magneto hydro dynamics. In between, he had one year stint at CNRS in France. Finally he joined IIT Kanpur. If faculty like Sreenivasan are not world class, then what is, Mr Ramesh?
Box to save newborns
India has one of the highest rates of neonatal deaths in the world. Many babies die because rural hospitals do not have incubators ( or electricity supply to use them, if they have one) to keep new born babies sufficiently warm soon after birth. Since a large number of deliveries still take place in homes, the incubator is not a solution for rural India. There are instances of babies getting burnt due to faulty incubators or when crude heaters are used to keep them warm.
To overcome such problems, a Mumbai doctor, Subhash Chandra Daga, has developed a simple low cost device - a styrofoam box with four breathing holes - which can be used as a home incubator and a transporting device to keep babies warm. The box is inexpensive, reusable and washable.
It prevents bacterial growth, being a non- vegetative material. Oxygen can also be administered to a baby in the box at a predictable concentration. Over the years, a number of studies have proved that the box performs well in home and hospital settings as well as a transportation device for high risk newborns who require continuing special care while being shifted from one hospital or another. Dr Daga's innovation has been recognised in the category of ' innovation in healthcare' in the BMJ awards. The device, he says, holds hope of survival for thousands of low birth weight babies that are born at home, in harsh weather conditions, and in poor and remote areas of the world. Hopefully the award will lead to greater use of this innovative technology.
Link: Original Article
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