International Elective Placement: KMC Manipal, India

By Arvind Kamath

During January 2023, Kasturba Medical College (KMC) Manipal gave me the opportunity to undertake my medical elective at Kasturba Hospital in the fields of orthopaedics, ophthalmology and general surgery. I have been going back to India, my country of birth since I was a child. This trip was a new experience for me, being able to see the Indian medical system and learning from my fellow medical professionals in India. While most patients spoke English and Kannada, some also spoke my mother-tongue, Konkani. This meant I was able to clerk some patients in my first language, being a valuable addition to the team.

Overall, my experiences were very positive, especially due to the quality of medical staff whom I was shadowing. Compared to Australia, the Indian system has much higher patient volumes, with a quite varied level of resources and insurance cover for patients. Yet, the Indian system flourishes and effectively provides care to people from all walks of life. Seeing almost fifty patients in outpatient clinics within a short space of time was a normal experience for Indian doctors, yet daunting for someone so used to the Australian system. What struck me though was the affection of the doctors while taking care of their patients. Even if there were so many to see, patients felt listened to and were satisfied when their treating doctor was finished with them. It reflected the broader nature of the Indian people that I witnessed outside the hospital too. People were very warm, friendly and always willing to help.

To me - India is fast medicine and Australia is slow medicine. Both are effective in their own ways. However, if you tried to swap the two systems, the Australian system would not work in India and the Indian system would not work in Australia! It left me with an appreciation for the Australian system that I return to practice in, but also made me recognise the strengths of India’s system. Simple things like understanding the power of observation, the importance of good clinical examination and the value in really listening to your patients were instilled in me during my elective. At the end of my trip to Manipal, I left with a tinge of sadness that my time had come to an end. It was a great trip both academically and socially, leaving me with some great memories.