By now, I’ve completed a full week of classes here at Manipal University and what an exciting and packed week it was! The classes I’m taking are as follows: Ayurveda (theory and practical, and only for my program), Global Health Problems, Maternal and Child Health, Contemporary Indian Society, Indian Cinema, and Field Visit and Practicum.
Mondays I begin with the Ayurveda Practical from 8:00-9:30am. Just as a brief and very consolidated explanation, Ayurveda roughly means ‘knowledge of life’ in Sanskrit and is traditional Indian healing methods. We discussed many definitions of Ayurveda in our theory class so I’ll just name a few: “the pious science which gives guidelines as to what would be beneficial for the present as well as future life” and “the science which describes the span of life and tells about useful and harmful and also gives guidelines for what is beneficial and harmful to life.” Back to the practical. Every week we discuss and actually experience a different Ayurvedic treatment. Though this past Monday was our first practical, I think it will be a bit tough to follow as we all got a full body warm oil massage called Abhyangam! We had no idea what we were in for when we arrived but it turned out to be a magnificent morning (I’ll explain after but we had also just come from our 6:30am yoga class to top it all off). The lone guy in our group, Grantis, volunteered to go first. He was given a johnny to put on and then a male practitioner (not really sure what his title is) began with an oil massage on his head and then the rest of his body. They had him lay on a special teak table, first on his back then his stomach. The final process of the treatment involved using steam to begin to remove some of the oil, followed by an herbal rub and a hot water bucket bath. After he finished, they offered the rest of us the change to experience it and we jumped on that opportunity. At this point thankfully, all of the men in the room had to leave as we were only had on underwear and the johnny and a woman practitioner, supposedly the best at the clinic, came to give our massages. Although I ended up spending an extra hour or so there, it was completely worth it and I think I was quite lucky for that to be my first real massage!
That afternoon from 2-3 we had our theory class.
Tuesdays are pretty low key except for the fact that I begin again at 8am with Global Health Problems until 9am. Because the classes we are enrolled in are courses through the Master in Public Health program here, the scheduling and class structure is a little different from what I’m used to at UVM. In fact, most of our classes are team-taught so we’ll have two or so professors for some classes. Thus far we’ve discussed disease prevention and control, outbreak investigation, cold chain (system of storage and transport of vaccines from the manufacturer to the actual vaccination site), and measles. Then in the afternoon from 3:30-5:00 I have Contemporary Indian Society which is just for the six people in the program and is taught by our director, Ginny. Our first really class discussion was today and we began with the caste system which is extremely intricate.
I begin Wednesdays again with Global Health Problems, taught by Dr. Sanjay, from 8-9am and then 9:30-11:30. It’s really nice to have that half hour break so that we can go grab some breakfast at the mess across the street. And again I have Contemporary Indian Society in the afternoon.
Thursday is much busier and really exciting! I have Maternal and Child Health from 8am-12:30pm with Dr. Sanjay. We spend the first hour in the classroom with a lecture and then we go out into the field for the remainder of class. Last week we went to a rural maternal and child health clinic about 45 minutes from campus. Every Thursday there is vaccination day, so mothers and other family members come with their babies to get immunized. The babies we saw I would say ranged in age from 1 week to 1yr and they were all adorable! The main vaccinations they were getting were measles, polio, and vitamin A drops. The biggest difference I noticed between this clinic and the doctors offices back in the US was that here, there’s really no concept of privacy. In one room was the waiting area and where the babies were checked by the couple of doctors. In the room next door, there was just a bench for the mothers to sit and hold their children while they were given the vaccines. Also, the nursing students who were administering the vaccines were not wearing gloves and they didn’t even wash their hands or anything between patients. It was really an eye-opening experience and I can’t wait to see what else we will be doing!
After that field visit we have another Ayurveda lecture from 2-3 and then my Indian Cinema class from 5-6 through the Manipal Insitute of Communiation. There are only 3 of us taking this class from our program so we have a very intimate class in the professors office on Thursdays and class with other Indian students Fridays.
I end each week with another field visit every Friday. This past week, we went to a primary health center about 25 minutes from Manipal. There, we met with the Medical Officer and our professor gave us a lengthy tour of the facility. I knew that the need for health care in rural areas is the greatest but I think I had to see it to truly believe it. In short, primary health centers (PHCs) serve a population of 30,000 in the plains. At this PHC and very common at other PHCs, there is an acute shortage of Medical Officers (MO). At this PHC, they are extremely understaffed and thus face many constraints. For instance, the MO at this clinic has to perform his job (seeing patients, oversee other staff, attend monthly meetings in the city) as well as the rest of the work that needs to be done (everything is written manually, no computers) because there is simply no one else to do it. And not only does he oversee the PHC we visited, but one or two others as well. However, there is a pharmacy (just a very small room) and pharmacist, but only a couple nurses if that. Friday also happened to be the day that students from the Manipal Dental College came to give cleanings and check-ups to people in the community and schoolchildren. On this visit, I became the official photographer so I’ve included a link to the album (our professor insisted that I document everything, which now I’m glad that I did even though we all felt a little awkward in the first picture)
To finish off the long and exhausting day, I have another session of Indian Cinema!
Sorry, I didn’t plan for this post to be so long but I hope you get a little insight into all that I’m experiencing!