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Putting passion into practice

Philanthropic support helps Gynecology and Obstetrics resident Meghana Desale make an unforgettable voyage to treat patients in need in rural India
Posted August 14, 2016
Meghana Desale, MD (Med '13), right, with a patient at the Hemalkasa Medical Clinic in India. (photo courtesy Meghana Desale) Meghana Desale, MD (Med '13), right, with a patient at the Hemalkasa Medical Clinic in India. (photo courtesy Meghana Desale)

The Hemalkasa Medical Clinic (Lok Biradari Prakalp) has a special place in the heart of Meghana Desale, MD (Med '13), a resident in the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics who has volunteered in the hospital on multiple occasions. She cares so deeply for the facility, located in a jungle in the extreme eastern part of India’s Maharasthra state, that in lieu of gifts for their wedding, she and her husband asked guests to make donations to clinic; the approximately $20,000 they raised established its first community health worker program. It was a natural choice, then, for Desale to channel her 2015 John G. Griffith International Training Award in support of the clinic and its patients. Here, she describes her experience — and what it meant to her, professionally and personally.

As a Gyn-Ob resident, almost all of our rotations are set in stone — except for one, your elective. I wanted to go to the clinic, because I knew I wanted to do work in global health. Rather than just go as a "medical tourist," I wanted to go somewhere I could build a relationship and help create something sustainable. Although our resident salary is sufficient for day-to-day life, it wasn't enough to cover an expensive plane ticket to India. The Griffith Fund cleared up that financial worry and others once I got to India.

I spent six weeks from January to mid-February there. For the first week, I worked in a surgery camp that brings doctors from bigger cities around India to do surgeries for the area's tribal communities. For the last couple of weeks, I traveled to nearby villages with the hospital staff to interview women about reproductive health and, specifically, about eclampsia in pregnancy. In between, my husband, an internal medicine and pediatrics resident, and I saw patients together in the clinic.

Because this was my first trip to the clinic as a resident, I had a lot more responsibility. One day before the clinic had opened, there was a woman in labor who was being managed by one of the midwives. There was a problem, so she sent someone to get me. I went in to find that the woman had a cord prolapse — the umbilical cord came out first, which is a surgical emergency that requires an immediate C-section. As I did my best to push the baby's head off the cord, my husband grabbed the two local physicians and the four of us mobilized quickly for the C-section. While one of the doctors gave anesthesia, I performed the surgery and my husband intubated the baby.

In that moment, I realized how much I'd learned in my residency. I was able to implement a positive solution in a low-resource setting. If the woman had delivered the baby at home — which is very common in these villages — there would be no way for the baby to have survived. But because we were able to help, the woman went home with the baby in her arms about a week later. The grandmother was so happy; every time we saw her after that, she was ecstatic. That’s a patient I'm probably going to remember forever.