Paramount to the design of this rotation is exposure to diverse healthcare settings in both rural and urban areas. Hence, day to day activities varied based on location. However, generally our days were divided into morning & evening hospital/clinic sessions of about 3 hrs each, with lunch and afternoon tea allotted in between. This afternoon gap left time to explore the local areas. For example, in the Himalayan foothills we might go out for a hike or spend time journaling, and in the cities you can shop, stake out at an internet cafe or bookstore, or even take a Bollywood dance class!
One of my favorite facets of Indian culture is the inherent hospitality, and the networking provided through CFHI's local coordinators immediately connected us with locals. "Friends of friends" upon meeting our group for the first time would shower us with tea, snacks, and their excellent company almost universally wherever we went. When we left each town it was heartwarming to remember the shopkeeper, cab driver, chemist... all the local pillars who I had formed personal friendships with. Without the immediate networking provided by CFHI, this would not be possible to the same extent.
It was a great opportunity to work with conditions not commonly seen in the US (i.e. TB, rheumatic heart disease..) and enlightening on an intellectual level to understand how healthcare is delivered in a different culture, but the greatest lessons extended much deeper than this as my character was refined by being challenged through an unfamiliar environment & ideas.
The structure that CFHI gave was a supportive one, just enough to guide but never overwhelming. They arranged major transportation between sites, lodging, meals, etc. but never overplanned or scheduled the experience, giving us freedom to explore a bit, and flexibility to accommodate our interests. Local coordinators were always a phone call away and approached the relationship with participants more as a friend than an administrator.
I wish every medical student this opportunity, to develop cultural awareness & competence in dealing with patients from disparate backgrounds. Additionally, to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the Western system of providing healthcare & delivering it to the masses.
I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...
extending medical care and providing supplies for residents of North India, as well as strengthening local economies and work forces. All of these functions along with orchestrating an international medical experience for students are accomplished with only 7% overhead.
Ways to make it better...
If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...
make things a bit more organized and efficiently run abroad. However, I much rather think this is a function of the way things are done in these particular areas of India than a reflection on CFHI.