My India Experience by Steven A. Elrod, Touro College of Pharmacy

During December 2012, our team from Touro College of Pharmacy from New York City took their clinic skills to the streets in underserved settlements in two Indian cities – Delhi and Agra. We were fortunate to work with Urban Health Resource Centre (UHRC) and be part of their clinics for the good people of New Mustafabad and Chand Bagh-two poorly served large neighborhoods of North East district of Delhi. While they were waiting to see the doctor, we were able to take their blood pressure. Getting one’s blood pressure checked at least once a month is a great way to stay on top of your health. Blood pressure can tell you a lot about one’s health – it may be high due to a heart problem, high cholesterol, diabetes or even from smoking and an unhealthy diet. Getting it checked frequently will lead to early detection of illness, timely care, a healthier life and you taking more control over your health!
Not only did we help out at one of their clinics, but we held 4 other clinics within New Mustafabad and Chandbagh, each lasting at least 2 days. These clinics were comprised of a patient interview, blood sugar and blood pressure check, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung function and looking at patients’ Body Mass Index (BMI). The role we played, as student pharmacists, was to give the citizens in this area of Delhi, India, a chance to get a free check up on selected important health parameters. These indicators can give anyone an idea of their overall health quality. Taking a look at your fasting blood sugar can tell you if you are at risk for having diabetes. This may then lead to: changing your diet, increasing physical exercise, seeking medical attention or to continue monitoring your blood sugar levels periodically. Testing your lung function with the Peak Flow meter was another test done to see if any patient may be at risk for COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). COPD can be caused from years of smoking cigarettes or Bidis (an Indian low cost version of a tobacco stick used commonly for smoking among lower income families) from severe exposure to polluted air. A large number of the people of New Mustafabad complained of difficulty in breathing at night time (which their scores from the Peak Flow meter test reflected that they were less than their desired lung capacity). This may be attributed to the amount of garbage that is being burnt during the night hours.

Many of our patients jumped at the opportunity to have some free health care check-ups come their way. We were delighted to help and even more delighted to have met and experienced the generous hospitality of New Mustafabad and Chand Bagh residents. We hope they continue to monitor their health while taking a more serious approach to reaching out for medical assistance when needed. The sooner we take that step to get screened for diseases, the sooner we can start treatment and prevent them from getting serious or threat to optimal health.

The Touro team also provided their clinical skills to slum dwellers in Agra, where we had the opportunity to understand that how the UHRC team has through soft enabling skills lent confidence and power to women’s groups in the informal settlements and slums. These trained women’s group members organized the collaborative Touro-UHRC health clinics and we observed the amazing dedication of the
women’s group members and the UHRC team. We had awesome clinics with adequate space and it was quite well managed by the women’s groups and therefore not crazy busy. Several pregnant women were visiting the same campus for a Maternal and Child Health clinic being conducted by a lady doctor of Agra at the same time when the Touro team was conducting our blood glucose testing and hypertension screening clinic. One of the women’s federation members was holding a pregnancy seminar, if you will, with vitamin D, Calcium, and Iron tablets available – very advanced for an informal settlement women’s group to be providing such health education with the medicines. After our clinic, we were honored to be invited to a ceremony of one of the women’s federations. We got there and they used a dab of vermillion paint and gave us a ceremonial dot on our foreheads, followed by a soft shower of flower petals. We then watched them perform a dance and sing for us one of their impressive, pregnancy care education songs. It was very intuitive and interesting.
This experience in India has reinforced my belief that giving to those who have less than us is our
responsibility, and something I hope to always do, not only in my professional career, but my whole life.

Steven Elrod
Doctor of Pharmacy Candidate, Class of 2014
Touro College of Pharmacy
New York, NY