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1305 Patients, 21 Physicians, 5 1/2 Hours. A Memorable Day in Treating Rural India

The group of 21 physicians at the end of the medical camp after receiving their certificates of appreciation

The group of 21 physicians at the end of the medical camp after receiving their certificates of appreciation

By Dr. Randeep Suneja

SURAT: Thirty-four years ago after I finished my Junior Residency at Maulana Azad Medical College in New Delhi in 1984, I had my very first experience of seeing patients in India. And what an incredibly memorable day it was!

My mentor for this trip was Dr. Nitin Shah, an anesthesiologist from Los Angeles who has been doing these free medical camps at least yearly for 25 years. With only a couple of hours of sleep the night before, I was at the New Delhi Airport at 4am to board the first flight to Surat, Gujarat. I was excited beyond words as this was my first overseas Medical Mission trip ever. Soon after my arrival at Surat Airport, I was greeted by a US based physician couple, Dr. Suvas Desai, a urologist, and his wife Dr. Nirmala Desai, a neonatologist from Louisville, Kentucky who had also come to participate in this camp.

The two and a half hour journey to the northeast guided by Google Maps literally seemed very short as we were so busy engaged in conversations about our lives in US that we didn’t even realize we had arrived at the Medical Camp set up at the Rajpipla Sugar Cane factory in rural Gujarat. Rajpipla is a small town of 60,000 people located on the northern edge of the Shoolpaneshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, about 2 hours southeast of Baroda.

Dr. Randeep Suneja (right) with the medical camp organizer Dr. Nitin Shah, anesthesiologist from Los Angeles

Dr. Randeep Suneja (right) with the medical camp organizer Dr. Nitin Shah, anesthesiologist from Los Angeles

The camp was very well organized as we all 21 Physicians worked 5 1/2 hours nonstop and provided care to a record 1305 patients. In addition to examining patients we did diagnostic testing including EKGs, hemoglobin, echo cardiograms and provided recommendations along with free medications. I can certainly state that on this day, I diagnosed and treated the most varied spectrum of illnesses I have ever seen in my entire medical career in a single day. What a professionally fulfilling and rewarding day it was!!

We saw a wide variety of patients, some of whom who had never ever seen a physician in their entire life and had significant illnesses. After we concluded the day, Dr. Nitin Shah thanked all the participants by awarding certificates of Appreciation. We then drove back 2 1/2 hours to arrive in Surat and were greeted at the Victorian style guest house at the Adventist Hospital. We all felt we had barely scratched the surface with so much more to do, yet hoping we at least made a little difference in all the lives we had touched. We could simply feel the gratitude of the patients expressed in their eyes and kind gestures of tremendous respect towards us.

The day ended when I invited the two US medical residents volunteering in this camp to join me for dinner at the elegant Taj Hotel where we thoroughly enjoyed the best vegetable soup we ever had tasted in our lives and an extremely delicious dessert that I had never ever tried called Walnut Halwa. After retiring to bed late at night completely exhausted after such a long day, I arrived at the airport the next morning at 6:30am to fly back to New Delhi.

As I penned my thoughts during my return flight to New Delhi, an indescribable peace blossomed within me. I am confident I will definitely return one day again but until then the faces of all the patients I saw will be permanently etched in my memory forever.

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One Response to 1305 Patients, 21 Physicians, 5 1/2 Hours. A Memorable Day in Treating Rural India

  1. Sujata Roashan January 12, 2018 at 4:43 pm

    Commendable! What an unforgettable experience it must have been. Glad you were able to participate and make a difference in the lives of so many patients. Keep up the wonderful work Dr. Suneja, Dr. Shah and all the medical professionals who continue to willingly go the extra mile and offer their services where it’s needed the most.

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