Sunday, March 20, 2011

India; whirlwind tour

For the past decade I have travelled to India at this time of the year to meet colleagues and friends at the annual international conference of the Indian Association for Palliative Care. It is such an encouragement to see former students now
Ancient Imam Bara
confidently leading services and presenting their work, to see young nurses nervously, yet proudly, standing by their first research posters, to see a new
Elephant statues in a new municipal park
state raise the profile of palliative care with politicians and the community as they host the conference and to enjoy the welcome and colour and spice of India. This year the conference was in the city of Lucknow, an ancient, richly historical city I have been visiting for a couple of years. The theme was 'networking' and we were able to share some of our work here in Uganda as well as hear reports from across India. Dr Jo Dunn joined me from Kampala as well as Nicholas Mellor from the UK and my friend Geoff Andrews from Congo. The paper I presented focussed on how palliative care training can challenge students and teachers at a deep level; challenging values and so changing practice. The paper can be downloaded from the Cairdeas website if you want to read more. It is at the heart of all we do in Cairdeas and can be illustrated by a quote from a recent student in Kampala; “It changed my practice. When I see a patient very sick I don’t give up, I know there is still something I can do for that patient, it was not like that before”
Long awaited news was also announced that the medical council of India has recognised palliative care for its MD (Specialist) training programme. A great step forward but still so much to do to ensure that there are trained leaders for palliative care and services that mean patients and families have the care they need.
Rickshaw drivers and friends 

Nicholas and a cycle rickshaw driver
As I mentioned earlier, these events allow for local initiatives to raise the profile for palliative care. How about having stickers with the slogan 'Freedom from pain: say 'yes' to palliative care' on thousands of auto-rickshaws across the city? This idea germinated on a previous visit in a discussion between Nicholas and Bilu, a local leader of the auto-rickshaw driver's trade union, followed by blood sweat and tears and the partnership of Cancer Aid Society and Help Age India to make it happen which led to the pictures below. Community empowerment in action!!

Drs Biji and Chitra
 This trip also allowed us to support training in several other centres. Dr Biji Sughosh, a former Diploma student, is now Associate Professor at the Malabar Cancer Centre in Northern Kerala and led a great 2 day Toolkit training programme with 3 of her former teachers: myself, Prof Rajagopal and Dr Chitra Venkiteshweren. I loved being back in the hot, humid, air of Kerala with some of my closest Indian colleagues. Well done Biji and to the young Director of the cancer centre for all you are doing to integrate palliative care and support patients and families.
CMC Ludhiana delegates
We then travelled to the far north to the Punjab where we gathered for the first 3 day Toolkit training at the renowned Ludhiana Christian Medical College. My thanks to Dr Pamela Jiraj from CMC and Dr Ed Dubland from Canada for their 
 organisation. It was great to see the enthusiasm and vision of a wide group of staff and there is a desire for more. As a young doctor keen to have further training shared with us; 'I need to study with someone who can supervise and train me; distance learning is not  enough’
Dr Shakeel and family
Faculty at Aligarh

 Thanks to a cancelled flight the next visit was preceded by a hair raising and exhausting overnight drive through the Punjab, on through Delhi  to the city of Aligarh. I arrived with only 5 minutes to spare before the inauguration of a one day palliative care training organised by Dr Hammad Usmani; a delegate at last year's Toolkit training in Lucknow. Dr Usmani is leading the new palliative care service at Aligarh Muslim University; a prestigious institution which is India's oldest Muslim university and has a a strong sense of service
. It was great to see so many attend on a Sunday and to be joined by Dr Jo as well as colleagues Drs Shakeel and Sanjay from Lucknow and even Sr Shakila from Vellore. I think I managed to stay awake and give some useful teaching despite the lack of sleep! Remember these friends as they seek to develop palliative care in this setting.
Have you followed the whirlwind trip round 4 Indian states, traveling by car, rickshaw, plane and train, meeting with friends and colleagues new and old and seeing palliative care established and grow? It was a huge privilege but also tiring so a brief trip to the beautiful Taj Mahal and a few days relaxing by the beach in Kerala was the perfect ending.

1 comment:

Rukmani Lobo said...

Dear Dr.Mhoira,
I wish you could have included Nagpur in your itenary, we would have benefited a lot from it! Congrats!on your whirlwind tour!