Thursday, December 02, 2010

An Emerging Voice tours Europe

Graduate life at Syracuse does not really give one much time to breathe or blog so the last month was a welcome change. I was selected to be an 'Emerging Voices' through an essay competition organized by the Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITM) and got to spend two weeks with them in Antwerp, Belgium attending a workshop on building our research publication and presentation capacities and presenting my essay at the ITM Colloquium. My topic was on language barriers in healthcare settings in India, something I had started writing about on this blog quite a while ago. ITM also organised for us to go to the First Global Symposium on Health Systems Research in Montreux, Switzerland. I was selected to be one of the three Emerging Voices to present our views of the symposium at the closing plenary. We spent hours trying to collate feedback, develop a critique and fit it all into a six minute Pecha Kucha style presentation. The effort paid off when we received the only standing ovation of the symposium the next day, a moment now immortalized on YouTube.

As usual my camera travelled with me although I did not use it much during the actual workshop and symposium days. Most of the shots are from our walks around Antwerp and Sunday trips to Amsterdam and Rochers de Naye.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

More Health For All blogs

It is heartening to see that there are now a few more blogs written by people from the Health For All movement in India. Their blogs are slowly beginning to collectively represent the different issues and arenas that health activists work in, from the challenging ground reality of providing health care in rural India to the often esoteric world of health policy.

fieldnotes by Dr. Ramani Atkuri talks about the realities of practicing medicine and doing community health work at Jan Swasthya Sahyog, a unique hospital and community health project in Chhattisgarh.

Stories on Poverty and Rural Health in India documents an attempt by Dr. Johnathan Fine, an American physician and human rights activist to probe into the structural issues that surround poverty and ill-health during his visit to Jan Swasthya Sahyog, Chhattisgarh.

dip tinking is a personal blog by Dr. Dhruv Mankad, a doctor and health activist who has done a lot of work on training community health workers.

Right To Health Care is a blog by Dr. Ravi Duggal, who has worked extensively in the area of health financing in India.

However, conspicuous by their absence are blogs by younger Indian health activists, a group who you would assume would be more comfortable with online media.  It is difficult to hypothesize why this is so. Is it that the younger generation has nothing to say or is it that they are still struggling to find the language and context within which they can express themselves?

Friday, February 12, 2010

The New Anthropologist and Johnny Lever's Hospital

On February 1st, I joined a UCL-BALM research unit in Chennai as a research assistant studying stigma and mental health. This transition is an exciting one for me, since it marks the beginning of my work as an anthropologist. In the introduction of his book Global Health, Mark Nichter, a public health anthropologist who has worked extensively in Tamil Nadu writes about the problems of translating his profession into Tamil and solves this difficultly by calling his discipline 'anubhav shashtra', the 'science of experience'. This is very close to my own idea of what an anthropologist does. I aim to transition from a clinician who is an expert at experiencing patients to a hospital ethnographer who is an expert in experiencing clinicians and clinical care. I hope to look critically at how knowledge and understanding is created in the clinic by different members who inhabit it. I especially hope to explore how non-English speaking patients construct an understanding of 'English Medicine'. All this will involve me look at intimately familiar environments with a fresh eye and I start this endeavor with a reference to someone else who seems to have wonderfully fresh take on the Indian hospital. Presenting the comic genius of Johnny Lever.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

MFC meet at Sevagram

Thanks to my recently accquired Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XSi I have been a happy shutterbug this month. Check out my debut photos from the annual meet of the Medico Friend Circle in Sevagram.

The Medico Friend Circle (MFC) is a group started in the 1970s that has functioned as a sort of 'intellectual critique central' of the health movement in India. Meetings are held twice a year with all members sitting on the floor in a community circle. The content can be frustratingly impractical to the new comer at times, with hardly any actionable points coming out of two days of deliberations. However old-timers will point out that this is exactly what gives MFC its appeal. It is a place where activists and health professionals who spend the rest of the year working with the practical realities of health in India can indulge in two days of networking and free for all intellectual debate on their projects and ideas. Everyone goes home the richer.