Having qualified as a doctor 26 years ago and as a dermatologist since 2001, it has always been my desire to help the poor and needy in the country where I grew up. For many, India or Bharat which we will soon know it as, is the 5th largest economy and Chandrayaan 3 has successfully landed on the South Pole of moon just recently.
But, for those who live in and know the country know it all too well that access to healthcare is not universal and poverty in the rural areas is just as prevalent as it was when I left India a couple of decades ago. I am not a critic of any government and realise that despite the best efforts of any government of any colour, providing adequate healthcare for 1.4 billion people is not an easy task.
So apart from criticising the government and the wealthy and elite for not doing enough, what else can one do? It would be easier if we took a look at Maslow’s pyramid. I am sure that for most reading this will have no need to think about their basic needs of food and shelter and for that matter social security. Most of us are in the very fortunate position and might find ourselves sitting at the apex of the pyramid where we are seeking self-actualisation.
So, having been in such a fortunate position myself, I decided that it was time to give back a little of my time, a little of what I have learnt, l little of my earnings and in return take back a lot of happiness.
Every year, for the past few years, I have been organising a free skin camp for the very impoverished and those who are unable to access health care. Free, because the cost of medications is beyond reach of most such patients. This is made possible by the generosity of colleague dermatologists and pharmaceutical companies who provide free samples and who have on occasions also accompanied me to such camps. Sometimes, I would fund the medications to ensure that the patients do not have to purchase them as most wouldn’t be able to or ration the medications.
This year’s camp was held in Kanha National Park. A few emails and a phone call’s later the park’s field director and his associates welcomed us to the core of the park where it was possible to see and treat 225 patients in the park’s primary care clinic.
I saw tropical dermatosis and pathology which one in the West might be pardoned for thinking have become extinct. One girl had in desperation crushed paracetamol and applied to her sores to relieve her of the pain. Such is the plight of these patients.
The satisfaction from helping such people is immense, it’s like a pilgrimage and I will selfishly return every year to give a little more and get a lot back.
With gratitude to all those pictured who helped in organisation of the camp. Field rangers, drivers, park clinic doctor and assistants.