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Off to train in trauma care

Dr. Vivek Subbiah is the first Indian to be selected for the Stanford Emergency Medicine International Visiting Scholar Programme

BLUE POLO shirt tucked neatly into grey trousers, hair perfectly combed back, Vivek Subbiah looks every bit the earnest young scholar and doctor he is supposed to be. He's just won a grant to be part of a six-month Stanford Emergency Medicine International Visiting Scholar Programme.

The three-year-old programme chooses one young doctor every six months from different parts of the world to spend time at Stanford University's medical school, observing emergency medical procedures and training in lifesaving techniques. Vivek is the first scholar from India; the others have been from Indonesia, Uzbekistan and Australia.

"I presented a paper at the International Medical Conference at Hyderabad last October and one of the participants told me about this programme. I thought it sounded like a wonderful opportunity to learn about a speciality that is rather rare in India," says Vivek. He applied for the scholarship earlier this year, and after flooding Stanford with recommendation letters, statements of purpose and other documents that proved he was capable of handling the programme, was selected for the course that starts on September 1.

Once in the U.S., he will observe techniques and medical practices at the Stanford University Medical Centre Emergency Department. The idea is to train young people from all over the world in emergency medicine as it is practised in the U.S. Visiting scholars learn about trauma care life support for children as well as adults. "Indian hospitals do not have proper procedures to follow in case of emergencies. Emergency trauma care is practically absent in India," says Vivek, who finished medicine at the Sri Ramachandra Medical College last year.

Scholars also get to fly with Stanford's Life Flight Medical Transport Programme, which transfers critically ill patients, and ride with fire fighters and paramedics to observe and understand the functioning of emergency medical care programmes and pre-hospital care. "Every person, whether he lives in rural Connecticut or hi-tech New York, has access to the best medical care in the U.S. It should be the same in India."

The doctor has grand plans for India after he returns. He says that most emergency rooms in the city are not well-equipped to handle emergencies or accidents. Apart from training medical and paramedical staff in trauma care, he plans to set up training programmes on disaster management. "I did some volunteer work in Gujarat during the earthquake. There is lots of relief material, it's just that the distribution systems are not in place."

He adds that airlifting facilities are required to save lives not only during natural calamities but also for heart attack and stroke victims. That a single airlift costs around Rs. 80,000 and that hospitals usually cannot have helipads in the middle of the city, without posing safety hazards, doesn't seem to bother him.

"What is money when one life can be saved?" he asks. "We need to have a suitable protocol in place for emergency care," he repeats. "And there should be greater awareness among the people about the need for emergency services."


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