A Medical Volunteer in India Helps a Community | Project HOPE
Jovin Panthapattu discusses his time helping with the pharmacy needs of a community outreach clinic while volunteering with Project HOPE at the ASRAM hospital in Vijayawada, India.
Jovin Panthapattu is a final year Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) candidate from the University at Buffalo, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. As a Project HOPE volunteer, he is completing his advanced pharmacy practice experience rotation at the Alluri Seetharama Raju Academy of Medical Sciences (ASRAM) Hospital in Vijayawada, India.
The Department of Community Medicine at ASRAM wants to teach its students to practice the three principles of community medicine: the prevention of disease, the promotion of health and the prolongation of life.
One such initiative is pop-up clinics (medical camps) in underserved areas with a volunteer workforce of health care professionals and students from ASRAM. Located primarily in schools, these clinics serve to prevent, detect and treat diseases through public health awareness and education. “We focus primarily on mothers and children, specifically school-going children and adolescent groups.” said Dr. P.G. Deotale, Professor and Head of the Department of Community Medicine at ASRAM. “These clinics are possible through the collaborative efforts of departments like pediatrics, orthopedics, general medicine, ophthalmology, ENT, and pharmacy, which he affectionately calls his ‘ASRAM Family.’”
A medical camp offers free services and allows patients access to health care which they might not have been able to afford. “Many of the patients we encounter live in extreme poverty, and community medical camps are often well received because they allow doctors to catch undiagnosed cases of common non-communicable diseases like diabetes and hypertension.” said Dr. U. Vijay Kumar, Professor of Community Medicine. Services offered include ECG readings, eye checkups, blood pressure and blood glucose screenings. Through funding from the medical college, the pharmacy is able to provide medications free of charge to the patients. Patients also may be referred to ASRAM’s Urban Health Center, which provides free consultations, laboratory investigations and free medicines from a limited formulary. The camp I participated in last weekend saw roughly 200-300 patients during a three-hour period.
As a volunteer at these medical camps, I had the opportunity to work with the pharmacy team. From sorting and organizing medicines to filling and dispensing prescriptions, I was involved in various aspects of the pharmacy workflow and operations. The biggest challenge during my time here has been the language barrier. I love counseling patients about their medications. However, since I don’t speak the language, it makes the conversation difficult, especially when there are additional regional dialects involved. Thankfully, a nurse was on our team and did an excellent job counseling patients about the medication.
I am thankful for the plethora of opportunities afforded to me by ASRAM during my stay thus far. It has been a great learning opportunity, whether I was working with staff in the intensive care units or providing assistance with health care outreach initiatives in the community!