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Managing a Medical Clinic in Rural India

Jul 07, 2011

Nikhitha Murali was born in India but grew up in Wisconsin. When it came time for her to work on her Gold Award, she looked to her native country for opportunities to give back to the community.

“Over the past few years I’ve become interested in careers in the medical field. I’ve been volunteering at therapy and rehabilitation centers and shadowing doctors,” she said.

Nikhitha holding a flower given to her by a young villager during the clinic.

Nikhitha decided that she would host a clinic to provide basic medical services and education to a rural village in India. By working with non-profits, and drawing upon her family’s experiences in the area, she was able to evaluate possible locations from her home in the United States.

“When I was selecting the village, I specifically looked for an area that had preventative illnesses in large numbers. I thought if you educate the villagers about good habits and good hygiene, then that could last,” said Nikhitha.

Her goals included creating long term change in the health of the villagers, so she began by taking a survey of the population and accounting for all of the medical conditions of the roughly 200 people she would be serving with her clinic. Those results will be useful in the future, when she will be able to have a follow up survey done to compare the results over time.

Coordinating medical staff, supplies and surveys from the opposite side of the world was not an easy task. But Nikhitha said it was all a matter of staying organized and taking it one step at a time.

“When you look at the project as a whole, it looks big. But when you’re taking it on you just need to break it up and go step by step,” she said. “If you can finish one step and make it to the next, you’ll be able to finish the project.”

After a year of planning and preparation, the time came for Nikhitha to go to India and run the clinic. Over the course of three days she worked along side doctors and nurses to provide basic medical services and instruction to the villagers. In return, she was rewarded beyond her own expectations.

“A woman told me that her son had died of an undiagnosed illness, and through tears she said that not since his death had anyone shown her the kindness that she was shown by the nurses at the clinic,” she said. “Hearing her story was really rewarding. It made me understand that providing healthcare is more than just addressing someone’s physiological needs.”

She added that, “it’s a humbling sense to realize that you can reach out to other people and in some small way you’re changing their life. It makes you feel both accomplished and small. It is something you really have to experience first hand.”

You can read more about Nikhitha’s work, and see additional pictures, at her blog here.