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During the summer, I spent three weeks as a part of an international team of medical students, doctors, nurses and PAs with Himalaya Health Exchange (HHE). We provided urgent care clinics over nine days in nine separate villages in the Pangi Valley of Himachal Pradesh, India, treating over 1,000 patients.
The adventure started with a three-day drive out of the 110-degree heat of southern India and into the Himalayan mountains. We traveled over the famous Rohtang Pass (13,050 feet) through 10-foot snow drifts to reach the Pangi valley. The pass had only opened one week before we had arrived and finally allowed all of the villages in the valley to access supplies. The pass is only open roughly four months out of the year, and the remainder of the time medical care and emergency supplies arrive via helicopter to get over the mountains.
Once we arrived in the valley, we were at work every day in a different village running a different clinic. Every night we camped and lived only on the basics, no electricity, cell service, running water or showers! Each night after dinner and some chai tea, we also had educational talks presented by members of the team on topics ranging from water purification to the basics of ayurvedic medicine.
During our clinic days, we provided free care to patients in the villages. We all rotated through different medical units including medicine, gyn, peds, pharmacy and triage unit. Each day was different, as were the pathologies. I was able to see cases of tuberculosis, parasitic infections and an undescended testicle, along with cases of sciatica, gallstones and lots of GERD. We had translators to communicate with the villagers, but often times details got lost in translation, so many of the physical exam techniques taught during first year came in handy when narrowing down a diagnosis. The best part was that every clinic came with a view of the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas. Overall, being a part of HHE was an amazing global health experience.