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The Holy Family Hospital in Koderma, India. (Photo Credit: Molly Braun '12)
The Holy Family Hospital in Koderma, India. (Photo Credit: Molly Braun '12)

Practicing Medicine in India

While most aspiring doctors have to wait until medical school to gain clinical field experience, Olivia Coburn-Flynn ’13 and Nicole Lantz ’12 (both biology majors) are getting started early. The two women are spending their summer shadowing doctors at The Holy Family Hospital in Koderma, India. In addition to witnessing the birth of twins, Coburn-Flynn and Lantz have also seen a number of different medical procedures including a hysterectomy and a Caesarean section.

Located in the Northwest corner of India, Koderma is an old mining community that suffers from intense poverty and inequality. According to national statistics, illiteracy in Koderma is well above the Indian national average; 66% of the women in the community cannot read and write, compared to 46% in India as a whole. The city often loses power for extended periods of time. For the last 50 years, a group of Franciscan Clarist nuns have worked to address the needs of the community through a number of non-governmental organizations including The Holy Family Hospital and Saint Clare’s School. The hospital normally delivers about 12 babies and performs approximately 10 C-sections a day. The Sisters also work to promote AIDS/HIV awareness, increase female literacy and provide shelter for the destitute.

Coburn-Flynn and Lantz, who are two of more than 60 students working around the world this summer under the auspices of the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, are spending most of their time in Koderma shadowing the doctors, but they are also learning Hindi and teaching English at the local schools. Both hope to be proficient in Hindi by the time they return to America.

“I just teach songs and numbers and body parts, but it’s so much fun,” says Lantz, who has really been enjoying the experience of teaching. “The classrooms are packed with so many kids, especially in the lower levels, and they are so respectful.”

Both Fords have been taking full advantage of their time at the hospital. “We've been given pretty much free range within the hospital and we're able to follow the doctors and nurses around everywhere,” says Coburn-Flynn. “This [experience] has been incredibly eye-opening and informative.”

Lantz has been inspired by the nuns with whom she works, especially by Rani, a doctor who is on-call 24 hours a day. “She rarely sleeps through the night and she does most of the C-sections and tends to all of the normal deliveries,” says Lantz. “There are two other male doctors who volunteer, but there are just too many patients to deal with and it really wears on Rani. I have really bonded with a few of the sisters and feel so lucky to get to live with them. They are truly selfless, and I am constantly humbled by the life they lead.”

--Jacob Lowy ‘14

The Climbing Stone, by Peter Rockwell '58, is located outside Magill Library.

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