Medical Internship in India-the beginning

Ours was the first batch of doctors (1953-58) who underwent compulsory rotating internship for 6 months after graduation. It was unpaid, and 2 months had to be in a village setting. The Primary Health Center at Village Bhadson, District Nabha, Punjab, India, was chosen as the destination for us, the graduates of Patiala Medical College. Incidentally, we were also the first batch of Patiala Medical College. We put on our finest clothes to proceed for our assignment as doctors. The journey was to be completed in a 2-stage bus ride. This was in sharp contrast to our expectations, a dampener..We boarded the bursting-beyond-capacity bucket of weathered tyres and rusty skeleton which was a bus . Our co-passengers carried their live stock like goats and pets like dogs with them on board. The stink of stale human sweat combined with animal smells was nauseating. We kept our spirits up and ignored our new shoes being trampled on. When we reached our destination, it was a relief and the welcome to the first doctors who would live in the village was a pleasant surprise. 

This part of the training was supervised by the Department of Community Medicine, headed by Prof. Dhillon who visited the health center every week. He informed us that India had been declared ‘Malaria free’ and challenged us to diagnose and report any case of Malaria, which had to be confirmed by demonstrating the Malarial Parasite in the patient’s circulatory system. I was lucky to find a case in the week following that. The patient was started on treatment and responded well. The slide of the Malarial Parasite was shown to the Professor who was visibly impressed and astonished, In a lighter vein, he asked, “Have you stolen this slide from the laboratory?”. I responded with a tongue-in-cheek rejoinder, “Sir, the mosquito does not recognize international borders and we are not far off from the border, our neighboring nation is not Malaria-free”. He laughed and I was given the reward of a 7 day leave and  the privilege of travelling in style with him to Patiala and back in his jeep!! Our patient recovered completely and I silently thanked the mosquito for this windfall. 

Dr A.S. Rathee

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