Networking with students and recent graduates (Yes – Social Networking being a predominant part) sometimes “takes me places”. I recently got introduced to Anita Kumar who is a III MBBS Student at the Dr DY Patil Medical College, Navi Mumbai. She invited me for an event that she and her colleagues organized today at the college.
The team – “The Student Scientific Committee” in collaboration with the Dept of Community Medicine, presented a program “Public Health Challenges: Young Minds at Work” I had no clue what it was about, and Anita had not given me details. And it happened to be a very interesting morning. Five pairs of students were asked to present ideas on what Public Health project they would do as doctors, if they go a $1 million grant from the WHO.. Each pair presented on behalf of one country.
The first pair talked about tackling Road Traffic Accidents in Thailand, the 2nd about Malaria in Kenya, the 3rd – Protein Energy Malnutrition in India, the 4th about tuberculosis in Afghanistan and the last – about Child violence in Somalia. The Chief guests and judges for the event were Dr. Ravindra Banpel, Regional Team Leader – West for the WHO Country Office, India and Prof. Dr. James Thomas, Consultant Cardiac Surgeon at DY Patil.
The India team got the 1st prize and the Thailand team got the 2nd prize. Events and competitions are part of students’ lives and most often they do them well. What impressed me about this initiative was that it was conceived and implemented by MBBS students, and the Faculty supported and encouraged this. Again, while students are creative, it is not too often in the domain of Community Medicine / Public Health, which more often than not, is talked about with an expression of boredom! This initiative was especially with the idea of getting students interested in this area.
Each team presented for just 10 minutes, and managed to cover a background of the problem and country, what they would do and took care to include a budget element. Personally I was very happy to note that one team (the one that represented India & PEM) mentioned that they would set 15% of the budget for research! Other worthy mentions were the choice of names for the NGOs they would set up – the names were chosen based on the country and local culture.
Before the results were announced the dignitaries addressed the students with a few words each. Dr Banpel said that he was often asked for career guidance in the field of Public Health. His advice was “Decide what you will not do, and then deciding what you will do becomes easier”. He also said that while everyone is interested in what we do and how we do things, it is the “Why” that touches people most! Dr Badhwar, the former Dean of the college added that even when we know “Why” we work on any project, it is important for other implementors and beneficiaries to also know this. Dr James Thomas and the Dean of the Collge Dr. Shirish Patil added their words of encouragement and inputs to the students. The Faculty from the Dept of Community Medicine were with the participating teams and organizers and made a special mention of the group that conceived the program!
A personal moment of delight was when I interacted with Dr Banpel and told him that I was a librarian by training. He said that his maximum expenditure is on books (he has a huge collection). He was happy to hear about QMed’s initiatives. It was great to be invited to a program organized by medical students and supported by the faculty and college authorities. That someone like Dr Ravindra Banpel attended this was a feather in the organizers caps (Dr Banpel travels for an average of 25 days per month!) And finally, it was great to witness an initiative where MBBS students made an effort to promote interest in the field of Public Health!