Volunteering at a Cancer Hospital

This month we cover Dolly from Saint Peter’s University in New Jersey, United States and her experience volunteering at a cancer hospital in India with Leave UR Mark. Dolly shares her experiences of day to day life in India, challenges and reasons that she felt her experience was life changing. She also has some excellent advice for future volunteers who are planning to travel to India.

What was a typical day for you like at the hospital?

In general, a day at the hospital was very challenging and intense, but overall it gave me the experience I was aiming for from my medical internship. My first week consisted of me being in an office along with other workers and our primary goal was to raise funds for those patients who unfortunately came from a low-economic background. Through this experience at the hospital, I had the opportunity to write case studies about each patient that needed some financial aid. From writing the case studies, I became more aware of the illness and proper medication and treatment each individual needed. This also prepared me in getting to know some patients since later on I had the chance to meet them in person. My second week at the hospital consisted of shadowing pediatric oncologist. A lot is learned throughout the day from just following the doctor and his staff since they explain to you the condition of the patient and the proper treatment they are giving him or her. Throughout this shadowing experience I was also able to communicate with patients. Although the language was the only barrier for some patients, it made me realize that there are other forms of showing the patient that you care just as much about their well-being. I became friends with a lot of the young patients and this was honestly a very full-filling experience. During the third and fourth week at the hospital is where I interacted with most of the patients. Since I am a double major in Biology and Psychology, I began to work in the area of psychology with patients that were under 18 years of age. At first I felt very nervous because I believed that the language was going to be a factor, but once I began to interact with them I realized that they genuinely appreciate the fact that I was trying my best to communicate with them and spend as much time a possible with them. In addition to this experience, I taught the patients English, while some would teach me how to say words in Hindi or Kanada.

What is your opinion on India and it’s attitudes towards medical treatments and public health?

Although India is a developing country, I feel that they are advanced when it comes to the medical field. I worked at the HCG Oncology Hospital in Bangalore, but I was surprised to find out that the HCG Hospital has spread throughout Asia and has twenty-seven more locations. Their mission is to give as many individuals aid for their treatment and once I started working towards this aim, I developed a passion to be as helpful as possible and impact as many live’s as I could during my stay in India. During my first week I also got a tour of the hospital and came across their medical technology such as “CyberKnife”, which is designed to treat tumors that are usually located in the brain, spine, lung, liver and pancreas. This system was practically a pain-free treatment with little to no side effects on patients. I was very appalled for such discovery and invention. This technology is just one of the many they have in the hospital. In my trip to India I learned that social economic backgrounds tend to be what classifies a group of people. This sort of economic separation by level is seen throughout many developing countries, but what I admired is that even though this is a factor to some, when it comes to public health, the aim is the same for all in receiving the best treatment possible. The hospital staff, including myself tried to raise as many funds and how they did it was through art galleries. When I heard that this is how they raised funds, I was very eager and impressed at how it was a unique form in doing such task. Many of the artist showed their talent on the art exhibition and when someone wanted to buy the art work, the money would go for the patients treatment.

Is there any way to better prepare yourself for the internship that Leave UR Mark didn’t mention to you?
To be honest, during the pre-departure guide everything that I had to know when dealing with the internship, was mentioned. The only thing I had to do was listen to the recommended advice given and follow the rules. Aside from my internship, I also had the opportunity to travel to some parts of India. When this occurred I honestly didn’t want it to end because there is so much to view and experience. If there is one thing LUM should have mentioned is to plan out all the possible places you would like to visit and stay an extra week after you are done with the internship to have more time for an extra amazing experience.

What are the top 3 lessons you have learned from doing an internship in India?
Firstly, I definitely learned a lot about the oncology field. I now think of it as a possibility to continue when I focus on my career. I now know what it takes to interact with patients and making them feel cared for. I believe this will help me throughout the medical field. Secondly, diversity is a HUGE lesson I got to experience. This showed me the importance of communicating as well as understanding those in need. Thirdly, time management and the intense it brings on a daily routine. If you’ve ever been in New York like I have, you are aware of how crowded places get. That is a typical day in India. Although at first it may feel hectic, eventually all it takes is adaptation.

Do you think this is an important internship for those interested in the medical field to participate in?
I think this internship will give anyone a better perspective on life. I can honestly say that my trip to India made me grow as a person. It made me realize that there is so much more out there to experience. It also me aware of the many conditions people may experience, but they appreciate life just as much. Being in India made me become friends with people I will always have in my heart because they made that big of an impact and showed me their culture. Even if you’re not in the medical field, I would still recommend anyone to go with LUM.

What advice can you give to future interns who want to do the Medical program in India?
The advice I can give everyone that interns is to honestly make the most out of your stay. At times, it may feel difficult to get out of your comfort zone due to the language or the different perspectives people may have, but by interacting with patients or doctors you honestly get to learn the most. You become a very open-minded person by seeing many views that come across. In addition to all of this, although it is heart breaking when you leave, I would recommend everyone to form friendships. These friendships will last forever and will always be a part of you wherever you go. I made friends with children I may never see again, but it was so worth it because just to know that I made someone happy during my stay fills my desire to become a doctor each and every day.

To apply for this internship, please visit our Medical Volunteering Section.


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