Our group's trip to the outer Himalayas, directed by the organization known as Himalayan Health Exchange (HHE) took place in February of 2020 and has undoubtedly been amongst my most cherished memories of my medical school career.
Our group consisted of 11 medical students ranging from allopathic and osteopathic backgrounds, from 24 to 44 years of age and hailing from as far as Australia and India itself. We were accompanied by two attending physicians and several guides who served as cooks, translators, and drivers.
We traveled to Delhi, and then to the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. An attempt to represent the beauty of our surroundings is captured by the provided pictures, but they cannot hope to do it justice; it is simply something that must be witnessed in person in order to truly experience the raw beauty of the Himalayan ranges and its surrounding cities and villages.
We stayed in several villages, each day bringing with it a new clinical site, be they Buddhist monasteries and nunneries, primary schools, or more often than not, a field in the middle of a village. Although there were only a limited number of providers, we were able to see a full range of pathologies and disease presentations we would not likely see in the United States. We saw a significant volume of patients; by the end of the trip, 19 clinical days, our small team had seen exactly 2,250 patients with complaints ranging from GERD and hypertension to acute appendicitis and advanced wounds. Our time was put to overwhelmingly good use and we were left feeling as if we had made a difference whilst being mindful of local customs, medical practices, and treatment plans, being sure not to override patients.
From a logistical standpoint everything on the trip — from daily lodging to meals, snacks and, most importantly, chai tea — are provided throughout the day and are prepared by staff attached to the group. It was planned meticulously with every day scheduled to the hour, and every contingency accounted for. Adequate leeway was given to allow for days off to explore local attractions at one's own pace, be it with the group or others.
I would wholeheartedly recommend this trip to anyone who, if you were like me, has not yet studied abroad, or if you're like several members of the group, have had decades of international experience. I was met with open arms throughout and made to feel like I truly belonged by both group members and those we encountered along the way. There is an incredible amount to learn from the experiences that will be had on any of Himalayan Health Exchange's trips, and I look forward to future collaboration in residency and beyond.
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