In December 2012, I chose to do a four week Orthopedic Surgery elective in Madurai, India. Native to South Asia and raised in a similar culture, I was anticipating a conservative and traditional environment, and that is indeed what I experienced. Most hospitals are privately owned, and a physician is treated next to God, in the cities and villages. During my rotation, I scrubbed into numerous knee replacements, hip replacements, skin grafts, and even brain surgeries. It was the most amazing experience of my medical career to see a patient who had a brain tumor removed at 9 p.m. the night prior, drink coffee and eat breakfast the next morning.
I also had the privilege of volunteering at a Leprosy Clinic nearby in an isolated village. I was astonished to see these patients in real life. They are characteristic of what you would see described in a textbook. A lot of these patients did not have visitations by family and friends, but the clinic provided them housing, food, and even free education and paid employment for those who were interested. It was really a whole new world in isolation.
I also volunteered at an integrative medicine resort, which provided herbal medicine and yoga classes to visitors and members. The resort houses a unit that grows their own plants and produces their own medicines. I learned that physicians in India believe that integrative medicine in conjunction with scientific medicine is the ideal treatment for any patient.
Upon my return, I have become conscious of the need in global education for a medical student, or for any individual in general. Not only did I immerse myself in a totally different culture than America, but now I am able to appreciate customs, beliefs and standards of care in another part of the world. I highly suggest that if you have a chance in your medical school career to travel, or do an abroad rotation, jump on the chance. You will not regret it!