Friday, November 09, 2012

UCMS Delhi - Lecture and Workshop

I was invited to Delhi for two events early this month. The venue was the University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi. I delivered a lecture on Literature Searching at the Quarterly meeting of the Indian Association of Pathologists & Microbiologists, Delhi Chapter. There were about 50-60 members in the audience at the start and in a short while it shot up to a little more than 150! A large number were PGs and faculty from other colleges in Delhi too. It does feel good to have reached out to such a large number, even if they "took away" only the "tip of the tip of the icerberg" that I'd loved to have shared with them!

PGs of UCMS and more...after the event IAPM event    
The next day was an exciting one :). The Medical Education Unit had invited participation from PGs in the institution and later opened it to all interested. So we had a range - from 3rd Sem students to Professors! The nicest part was that they sat in mixed groups for group activities.We started at 9 am sharp and went on till 1.15 PM. 

I always enjoy every workshop I do. (Okay to be extremely honest - except for *some* of the industry sponsored ones... but let us leave that out from here).  But, there was something different here. There were UG students / Interns who knew some bits better than their seniors and were faster, but they did not have to be scared of being better. This is not always the scenario in an Indian medical college. Younger people could even tease the older people - yes faculty included and it was all part of the game. No one offended any one; every one helped the other.. and there was good learning. 

One young friend Pranab Chatterjee (First year PG) had attended my lecture about a year ago. At that time his feedback was "I just realized that I have been using PubMed the way a caveman used the hammer in the Paleolithic era". (I always loved this one and even used it in a poster I presented!) During the break I asked him "So how much of today was new learning"? And my dear friend says "Let me put it this way. Till this morning, I thought I knew all about PubMed". PC - more than your feedback, it is the way you give it to me that is so endearing! And to top it up, when you cover the workshop so well in your blog, that is like icing on the cake :)

With Pranab... QMed (and I) need you guys to promote our cause!

Other stuff that made me feel great about this event was

a) Rajat Thawani - an intern who was assigned to arranging for "break-snacks" ensured that they spent just enough to keep people from feeling hungry. It is so different from the regular "focus on food" that often happens at CMEs

b) Dr Navjeevan Singh (my colleague calls him "one of the best friends of QMed") did a great job of telling people all about QMed before the event

c) Dr Satendra Singh Phalswal who knew a lot about PubMed and has done workshops at UCMS, earlier lent support. I wish I could spend more time with him working together!

d) There were three librarians attending the workshop!

e) Many Facebook friends' email ids became faces :)

Overall - a big thanks to every individual who attended - you were all great fun!

I cannot help mention my fabulous hosts Dr Navjeevan Singh and his wife Dr  Upreet Dhaliwal - both faculty members of UCMS who hosted me in their home. If I look like I've put on a couple of kilos in the pics here, it is thanks to their awesome hospitality and care :)

Oh - and on the travel bit... I just about made it to my return flight.. thanks to the Pre-Diwali shopping crowd as well as some other rally that caused miserable traffic jams. 
And - I was about 6 days too early to miss an excitement in the "To Delhi" flight. (Six days later - the same Indigo flight had a passenger who caused security problems). Aaah - thank God for small mercies!

UCMS - I hope I get more opportunities to come out there!

Group activity
Dr Upreet with two PGs

Dr Navjeevan Singh multitasking - supervision plus clicking pics!

With Dr Upreet and Dr Satendra

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Thrissur - Kerala - teaching Principals and teachers

I was invited by the Kerala University of Health Sciences (located in Thrissur, Kerala) to do a whole day workshop on literature searching on On October 31, 2012

The Travel

Travelling to Thrissur was a reasonably long act - flight to Kochi and then a 1.5 hour drive (of course that is like driving from Mumbai airport to the city area during peak hours). This time, I had the added mini excitement of driving from the Mumbai airport terminal to the aircraft which was in the International Airport area. We went "all the way" there only for our bus driver to discover that he took us to the wrong aircraft and to get us all the way back to the domestic terminal!

Then came a positive surprise. Nothing important, but fun and a "convenient one". The flight I was booked on was a Jet Airways one, with a 4-digit flight no. I could not even do a web check in - so I assumed it was a Jet Konnect flight. But it later was mysteriously renumbered to 3-digits. The "convenient/fun" surprise was that I got free breakfast. Sounds kiddish, but I do appreciate the convenience. And somehow, most often I feel that the food charged for on most flights are actually bad.

The ride to Thrissur was green, green and more green - something I adore about Kerala and that belt.

In Thrissur, I was put up in a small hotel near the University. It felt like a cross between an uppity hostel and a cosy home. The couple in charge were almost like hosts. The lady could speak only Malayalam, but she was full of smiles and chattered away. She actually asked me when I would come back next :)

The Workshop - And a Very Personal Experience

My workshop was on the next day. Now here was something that touched a chord in my heart. One of the faculty members picked me up at 9.25 am and drove me to the venue (a five-min ride). The Dean Research received me and escorted me to the hall where I would be speaking for the first hour (and later moving to the E-library for the hands-on sessions).

As soon as I walked in to the hall (I entered first), the audience stood up!!

And no - it was not an audience of students. Majority were senior faculty and six of them were Principals of Medical Colleges! Okay - granted that age wise I may be closer to the "senior" folks. But this was something I had not expected and I was completely caught off my guard! Deep inside my heart I am a medical librarian. And Principals would have been my bosses if I worked in a Medical College. Which means I would be the one standing up if they walked into an area where I was sitting!

I must admit that for a moment I was embarrassed and then regained composure, smiled brightly and said good morning to all and shook hands with one person I knew.

Now why did I specifically mention this incident here? One of the fairly regular points of discussion amongst librarians is their "status". They are right. Our profession, in my opinion too, is very very often not given the status it deserves.

I do not wish to go into details or even encourage a debate on this. All I am saying is that the problem of status has two angles - the "system problem" and a "personal angle" . As an individual, I know that I have reached the day when I get respected by seniors / people in positions / people with far higher qualifications and more. They value what I know and the work I do, and treat me as an equal. If I had only cribbed and lamented, I obviously would be ignored, leave alone being respected.

Of course my being treated with respect or as an equal, does not solve the status problem. I would love to do lots more to solve it. But apart from the "system factors", what is needed is that we (medical) librarians need to do two more things:

a) We need to "move" towards working "with" students and health professionals to help them solve information problems. This by working with them, and also constantly upgrading our knowledge in the field
b) We need to "let them know" about our abilities. And understand that they do not know many things that we know (which is not a bad thing!)

Unless we change these communication issues, status is going to remain a problem!

The Workshop - the actual session/s

Coming back to the program, after an initial lecture on the theory of information and its retrieval, we had pretty intense hands on exercises cum problem solving sessions. The whole group was extremely enthusiastic and worked really hard at learning. That was something! And again, I need to stress that the participants accepted that I was the teacher/expert and gave their all. I am sure no one thought about status at this point!

I must add some other good things that happened here. One was that the librarian of KUHS was extremely keen to learn anything more than he already knew (which was a pretty good deal). And the faculty of the  University discussed a lot about how to take these programs ahead. Kudos to the VC and the Dean Research and their team for organizing the event and for their interest in taking things ahead!

PS - For those not from India - we have a custom of standing up when a teacher / older person walks into a class / room

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Medical literature searching - What it is and what it is NOT

Medical literature searching is NOT about locating full text articles to "plug in" a list of references at the end of anything that you wrote. It is the task of locating whatever has been published on a topic you seek information about or related to any writing or documenting you are doing. Once you get references and/or abstracts, locating full text articles is a logistical activity and NOT a search activity.
Vasumathi Sriganesh

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Long bus ride within a city after years...

Today I had a long commute in a BEST Bus (BEST is Mumbai's city transport system), - a ride of about 1-1/4hours. Thane to Andheri to be specific. I have done shorter rides like office to home, but a long ride like this has been after ages.

During my student days in Chennai, I was an authority on the bus-systems of the city. I simply loved the "freedom" of being able to go wherever I wanted to, thanks to what used to be an awesome public transport system, if you did not count the peak hours that were something like 8.30 am - 10 am and then again 5 pm  - 7 pm. (In the recent years I believe things have changed there too, and almost all hours of the day seem like peak hours!). Apart from my college trips, I would go visiting uncles / aunts / cousins / friends, and then my trips to the British Council Library, American Centre Library etc. Movies were a rarity for two reasons - a) Money (or the lack of it) and b) Permissions :>.  Yes, in the 1970s it was quite a task to get permission to go for a movie!

Back to bus rides, the best thing was that one almost had a vehicle at one's disposal, sans the task of maintaining it! And since I knew the frequencies and timings of most buses that I took, commuting was never a tough thing.

Today I had the advantage of getting into the bus at the starting point. And it was a Saturday. I had a choice of window seats to pick. The bus had reasonable crowds for part of the ride, but for most of it, it was pretty empty. Oh and the bus brought me pretty close to home too. If it were evening I would have walked back, but because it was noon, and a rickshaw driver actually agreed to come short distance, I grabbed that.

But in the end, the best part of today was - "reliving the sense of freedom". It seems almost silly. I am one of the lucky humans who has tons of freedom in my life. And I did not exactly have that during my student days, with a reasonably strict, orthodox grandmom at home :). And yet - the bus ride reminded me of the "special freedom" of those days. Fond memories :)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Trip to Shodhgram - Day 6 - last day - Part 2

After breakfast, I went to the Reseach Dept and in the next couple of hours managed a short meeting with the librarian - Ms. Rina and then spent some time with the available interns and staff in the dept. Some of them cleared doubts they had in literature searching and Mendeley. Soon it was time for goodbyes and a couple of photographs. And then I had a final meeting time with Dr Abhay Bang. Dr Yogesh, Mr Mahesh and Ms Rina joined us. Dr Bang once again asked me what I felt they should do to promote a reading culture. (I forgot to mention that in his home, I noted an array of magazines ranging from general to business titles. Later in Dr Rani's book, I figured that he was an avid reader of all topics and had introduced some to her). I deeply appreciate his passion for reading and more importantly his concern to introduce this. I suggested that since his library has books for kids, they should "start early" and have story time sessions for kids on the campus and also encourage children to tell stories - from the books they read.

For adults - I suggested that since they regularly bought books, they should circulate by email a list of "new books" and encourage a book club, where once in a month people verbally share a book review of anything they read. Since they were already doing regular journal clubs, this would be a lighter version of the same thing.

We discussed some more ideas about the library and shared some thoughts about what QMed could do for SEARCH and vice versa.

And then he said "Vasumathi, I really thank you for your visit. Very few people go anywhere 'just to explore and figure out what to do'. I appreciate your efforts. I would like you to come over anytime. And I would specially be happy if you come over to do training programs for our Nirman fellows who are doctors. Everyone here gave good feedback about your sessions. And finally I must say that you are doing excellent work as a medical librarian - it is rare to find someone like this. I wish you all the best"
It is difficult to express what I felt. To get appreciated and praised for work from someone who has made amazing social changes coupled with hard core research, was something!

A quick lunch followed. The cab to Nagpur airport was ready. Three people who had to go to Nagpur to travel further accompanied me. We reached Nagpur well in time for my flight and then it was back home.

Trip to Shodhgram - Day 6 - last day - Part 1 - Breakfast with Dr Bang and family

When I woke up on Sat (15th), I felt: "The last day of my trip is here. As it often appears to happen, it seems to have arrived before I realized it"!

I tried to catch up on emails before joining the Bang family for breakfast, but the Internet played truant again. Luckily I managed to send out one important email. At 8 am I went to Dr Bang's residence. A lovely home, with a nice balcony and a garden. Dr Rani Bang was sitting on a bamboo seat swing. We chatted for a few minutes and then went in for breakfast with Dr Bang and son Dr Anand. Amrut the younger son was out travelling on work.

Over a breakfast of "Pesarattu Dosa" (a South Indian delicay that I love and never make) and some awesome sweet sour hot mango jam to go with it, Dr Bang asked me which medical colleges in Mumbai, I felt were more open to or encouraged interest in research amongst students. Now that was tough for me to answer! So I told him that my answer would be pretty biased because I simply had lots more interactions at KEM and some at Nair. But I told him that I would try to find out slowly and steadily with interactions.

Then he made a special mention about Medicon - as he had attended Medicon 2012 (hear this INFORMER members..) - saying "I was very impressed by the conference, the interest amongst students, Dr Deo starting such an initiative and ICMR supporting it". (Earlier on the first day he asked me how I was invovled with Medicon and I told him about QMed's association with INFORMER). He then told me "I am really happy that you are so involved with the student community and doing all you can to help and guide them.

And then he and Dr.Anand needed to leave to start work. Dr Rani and I chatted for some time more and then she gifted me her book "Putting Women First" - one that she had written with two other co-authors. While we chatted we found an interesting common factor - she and I were much more "people oriented" while our respective spouses were awesome with numbers. My visit ended with an invitation from her to bring my family and visit again. (I did not tell her that I had innumerable adopted kids, lest she changed her mind) :D

Friday, September 14, 2012

Trip to Shodhgram - Day 5 - Part 1

Rose a little later today. Maybe I feel settled in :)  Talking of feeling settled, before I left Mumbai for this trip, my husband asked me with a glint of humour in his eyes - So are you planning to settle there"? And I said something like "If you come along I will".

Yesterday Kalindi, the statistician intern asked me "How do you like it here". I said  I'm loving it. But I really don't know how I would feel if I had to live here for a long time".  I then said "I know that if I had to, I would settle in and be happy, because it is my basic nature to adapt and settle anywhere". As I think about it, (even after a night's sleep), I guess today's answer is "My knowledge and expertise is about searching / referencing and some areas of research and writing. And I have family in the city. I would do my best to contribute to the section of society that needs me, by living with my family, in the city and travelling where I need to. BUT, if for some reasons of destiny I had to (or maybe choose to) live in Gadchiroli or any similar place, I would look at doing all I can to contribute in that surrounding and make a choice to be happy there".

As I said, that is today's answer. Life may bring changes in me that may change my answer someday. I dont know. Why worry about that anyway? :)

But I would like to add - I think all youngsters especially medicos, (those in the field of Community Medicine field - definitely, but all medicos for sure), should consider doing a stint here. Rural postings that you normally do, as I have understood seem like a farce (I maybe saying it wrongly; forgive me if I do) to many of you. Here you will see a planned and research cum service oriented program and get to work with as much professionalism as anywhere else. And the variety of people here in the SEARCH campus makes for stimulating discussions and interactions. Yes even IIT engineers and others are doing stuff here. I would even suggest - enrol in a NIRMAN program. It would be one of the best events in your life.

Trip to Shodhgram - Day 4

Again an early day. Up at 4.30 AM and did Yoga, Kriya and Meditation. And also a half hour walk. Felt wonderful. The place has been cool throughout. Soon after breakfast of yummy Sabudana Khichdi, did my first "Introduction to Literature Search" session for about nearly 20 people. And then today till the evening session at 4.30, I had the day to myself. So managed to catch up on emails (and the blog of course) and also spent some time planning specific examples and exercises for the evenign session. The 4.30 pm session had a slightly smaller attendance, as some people had work and could not get back. But the participants were supremely active and followed things with complete attention. During the day Kalindi, a statistician checked out some more stuff with me  and learned about some statistics tutorial site as well as critical appraisal sites. At the end she asked me "when are you coming back here?" That felt good :)

The evening prayer session had a relatively larger crowd. Several villagers were in for some residential training  so the campus was buzzing with people. It was also the birthday of one of the physiotherapists and was celebrated with an Aarti. Very beautiful!

I also got to hear that Dr Bang had written a book in Marathi (recently translated to Hindi too) about his reflections after his heart attack and angioplasty. One of the interns told me about it. It really seemed incredible that someone who lives in a surrounding like this with no pollution and with all the right habits should have had this. It finally boiled down to the stress that he went thru in setting up Shodhgram. The campus and the work may seem awesome to the visitor or anyone who works. But if one reflects on the absolute awesome responsibility that it carries it is no joke. I do hope that he and Dr Rani Bang have excellent health for several more years. Gadchiroli needs their leadership. And India needs the examples.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Trip to Shodhgram - Day 3 - Part 2

The afternoon, I had to myself. Most of it without an internet connection. I took some time off to show Mr Mahesh (Head of Research) the reference management tool Mendeley - He loved it and asked me if I would also show it to the rest of the team and I agreed. At about 5 PM I had a discussion with Dr Anand Bang, Dr Yogesh and all involved in any kind of research work. We had a discussion about what their information needs were and where they hit roadblocks. This was a prelude to my doing some sessions for them. We decided that we'd have at least three one hour sessions in the next two days and then do anything more as required. I then had a chat with the two young doctors over a cup of tea. Both of them having trained in the US were able to understand QMed's plans and problems and expressed great delight in our work.

The evening prayer session had its regular features. And then there was a small discussion on prayers. Dr Rani Bang shared that some time back Dr Abhay needed an angioplasty. And there were people who asked her how she believed in prayers when she should have a more scientific approach. She answered that it was because of group prayers everyday that SEARCH continued to function inspite of their absence. Food for thought!

Later at dinner I had some "question - answer" sessions (they asked; I answered :>) with a young doctor qualified from Sion hospital who now works here, couple of interns from TISS and later another young doctor who qualifed from Grant Medical College. I had a fairly intense discussion about libraries in Mumbai and India with the latter. It was great to see so much interest. Incidentally both young doctors seem to love being here in Shodhgram, working in the villages and doing research. This seemed to be exactly what Dr Bang mentioned during the panel discussion at Medicon 2012 earlier this year -when he said "Rural service should be properly channelised into a learning experience for medical students and young doctors"

As I finish writing this (offline, to be copy / pasted into the blog when the Internet is available tomorrow), I realize it is 10.20 PM. I did not nod off at 9.30. I feel wide awake and energized. Is it due to Anjanabai? Is it due to the discussions today? Or am I filled with the regular excitement of training sessions for tomorrow? I really don't know :)

Trip to Shodhgram - Day 3 - Part 1

Got up at 5 am all fresh. Well, considering that I had nearly 8 hours of sleep, I'd better have done that :) Managed a full hour of Yoga, Kriya and Meditation, something that I wish I could discipline myself to do everyday, but do not manage it :(. Am hoping that two more days here gets me into it.

Immediately after breakfast I set off with a team of four people from Save the Children Foundation for a village site visit - to a village called Bodhli - 5 km from here. We were taken by Dr Paranjpe - not a medical doctor, but an expert in IPR. What does he do here? He works in the area of scaling up various areas of SEARCH's activities. How did he land up here? A few years back he visited the place. And in a year's time came to work with Dr Bang - in his own words "doing anything he can for SEARCH".

We reached the village and went to the home of an Arogyadoot (translated - it means messenger of health and wellness) - Anjanabai. She has been trained by SEARCH to handle several health problems of the residents of the village and then specially for the Home Based New Born and Child Care program. She told us how she was selected. SEARCH being sensitive to local needs, first takes a consent from the village leaders and then the families concerned. This lady's mother in law registered her for the first level training, where they are assessed for suitability of the program. She later went through more rigorous training. She demonstrated with absolute confidence, using a doll, as to how she cleaned a baby within 30 seconds of birth and if there were birth asphyxia problems, how she did suctioning and used an ambu bag to help it breathe. She also showed us various records she kept. What was her education level? She had studied upto the 7th Std!

She then took us to the home of family where a young girl had delivered a baby a few days back. She gave us a brief demonstration of how she checked on the mother by asking her about her diet, sleep etc and also about the baby. Then she showed us how she weighed the baby and did an overall checking. All this is done on several days during the 28 day neonatal period when there is a maximum chance of infection and illness mainly due to the surroundings and overall low socioeconomic background.

There is lots more information about this in the SEARCH website about the models and successes. My feelings at the end of this visit can be summarised as:

a) The young mothers and neonates in Gadchiroli get far better care than their counterparts in urban areas (especially the urban poor) thanks to numerous visits by a trained healthcare worker.

b) And if only the people in the rural areas got the right kind of education and training, there are enormous capabilities all hidden in there. Anjanabai's poise and confidence and her obvious efficiency in the healthcare she provided was a clear indication of this.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Trip to Shodhgram - Day 2 - Evening

Trip to Shodhgram - Day 2 - Evening

Today's evening prayer session's focus (after the regular sessions) was on Acharya Vinoba Bhave as it happened to be his birth anniversary. Dr Bang spoke a little about his philosophies and specially about the last week of his life. Acharya Vinobaji apparently knew he was dying and he refused interventions because he had indications from the Lord above that he had done all that he was meant to do in this life. He explained that all of us tend to hold on to our bodies at any cost, but however we need to find the balance between doing what we should (medical care and more) and accepting that our lives do come to an end and we need to learn to let go. Something that is not too easy

After dinner at 8.15, I once again hit the sack at 9.30.

Trip to Shodhgram - Day 2

I expected to be up at 4 AM thanks to crashing at 9.30 PM. Surprisingly though I did wake up, I went back to sleep right away and managed a couple of snoozes of the alarm that I set for later. The sound of the rains had some magic lullaby that made me have some glorious sleep. The main sounds that one hears in the campus are the chirping of the birds. Occasionally a car or a bike vrooms around, but that is really rare.

Breakfast at 7.45 and then I was in the research dept by 8.30. The good news is that the Internet lines are back, and am finally connected back with the world :)
I guess I get a real time lesson on gratitude, after experiencing how the Internet connectivity keeps vanishing and reappearing with amazing regularity. How much we take for granted in a city like Mumbai!

Anyway - my day got kind of scheduled. A very brief visit to the library. Then an orientation session in the afternoon along with some others who are going through it too. And a preliminary sesson on searching in the early evening. In between I get to do what I want :)

At around 10.30 we were all invited to the main entrance of Shodhgram where there is the "Ma Danteshwari temple". SEARCH just got a new vehicle - Tavera - with support from the State Bank of India. Dr Abhay Bang performed a small pooja and broke a coconut. Dr Rani Bang thanked the SBI for their support and said that this would be mainly used for transport of patients with back pain. I was told that every event is celebrated with maximum participation from all here. Every birthday is celebrated with a mix of tradition and modern customs. The birthday girl or boy is made to sit and Dr Rani performs an Arti with a Pooja thali. And then people sing Happy Birthday. One more example of a small action feeding the passion?

At around 11 am I got to visit the library . The lady in charge was on leave and another gentleman received me. Again I was pleasantly surprised to see a computerized catalog and Issue-Return system, all created in house - by Mr Mahesh of the Research Dept. The collection in this library caters to an audience right from the children in the campus to all professionals. I discussed certain possibilities for further improvement he was happy to hear them. We decided to take these points up again when the librarian was back.  The library obviously warmed the heart of the librarian in me, but more importantly the fact that the people who looked after it, and the people responsible for SEARCH are constantly giving their minds to how a library should serve them!

Post lunch I got to listen to presentations on the Home Based Neonatal and Childcare model, along with a team of abuot 12 from another NGO - "Save the Children. The presentations were par excellence - one by Mr Tushar Khorgade and the second by Dr Anand Bang.

Tomorrow will be a field visit. I would be going with four members of the Save the Children Foundation and there will be two more groups. Waiting to experience this!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Part 2 - In Shodhgram - Day 1 - the evening hours

Ever since I reached here the mobile and Internet networks were down. The mobile got restored after a while, but apparently Airtel does not work here so I get a first hand experience of "not being wired" :). For the rest of my stay here - there will be no mobile connectivity for me

So I got some time to do all this blog catching up. (I did it all in Note pad and am copy pasting it now as I post)

At 6.45 PM there is a daily prayer-meditation-general-update session. People gather in the prayer room and first chant a few Marathi Shlokas from the Gitai and this is followed by one Bhajan. Then visitors / interns / fellows are introduced. Dr Bang told everyone about me and about medical librarianship. One person who visited Nagpur for some work was asked to share his experiences with all. An interesting thing that happened was that Dr Rani Bang mentioned that this was the second time in her life that she heard the name Vasumathi, the first being her mother's! Two other interns - Indian students from the US were also asked to speak about themselves.

Dinner was at and I actually crashed by 9.30 PM.

Day 1 Observations:
I strongly sensed the passion and purpose amongst all in the campus. The evening prayer session felt like the family of the olden times when there was prayer, meditation, music and bonding and sharing. I cannot help relate the two - I feel that the prayer session keeps feeding the sharing of passion and purpose.

Part 2 - In Shodhgram - Day 1 - next two plus hours

From about 2 pm, I had about some time with Mr Mahesh - head of research. He has a Masters in Statistics and showed me some presentations about the work. SEARCH has been doing for the last so many years. It was incredible seeing how they had data about infant mortality which was far higher than that projected by the government. Not just that - they maintain a census of a population of about 1 lakh people in the Gadchiroli villages, so that they have proper background data about all their health related issues. Mr Mahesh has also created an E-library of several paper documents and articles all by himself. He came across as someone who seemed as passionate about SEARCH as Dr Bang (and family). It is rare to have people like this in any set up, and I simply loved going through his presentations with him!

Then came the first of the moments that I was looking forward to. Some time with Dr Abhay Bang himself. I went to his room and the true host in him asked me if all arrangements were comfortable. I assured him I was fine. And then he asked me for my background and I quickly filled him in. We also discussed Medicon and his question was "Do those students really go ahead with research"? And I said "Well many seem definitely interested. But unless we and the system does something to nurture it, I am not sure how many would go ahead". He listened.

Now came his main question (I almost felt like it were a job interview :>). He asked  "Tell me Vasumathi, what made you come all the way here". I told him that in the last few years, I was constantly on the look out for the answer to the question "How do I make an impact with my skills and the collective skills in QMed". And that when I got to know about his work in the deeper parts of India where people needed healthcare, and where he actually managed awesome research outputs too, I felt the need to explore. I told him that I had come with an open agenda - to see what I could contribute and to see if I could learn to make an additional impact through QMed in more such areas.

I was rewarded with a big smile and Dr Abhay Bang said "It is rare that people get curious and then follow that curiosity. I am really happy that you did and that you have come here. Can we have some sessions for our interns with you? (I of course said an instant yes). And he said he would organize a field visit for me too! Wondering if I would get to meet Kajubai!

Part 2 - In Shodhgram - Day 1 - first two hours

Nagpur to Shodhgram turned out to be a nearly 3.5 hour cab ride. The cab turned into the main gate and reached a "Chowk" (where several small roads of Shodhgram campus converged). I got off the cab and found a helpful soul who directed me to my cottage. Since it was lunch time, I was escorted to the dining hall, where we had a simple and wholesome meal. I was introduced to Mr Venky who was going to be my guide for the rest of the day. He in turn introduced me to several youngsters who were doing an internship here. Some had a medical background, some were students of hospital adminstration. I gave them my background and sure enough within minutes we were chatting about literature searching and referencing. And to my delight they asked for sessions. I promised to do anything that I could in the next four days that I was going to be here.

Venky then took me on a tour of Shodhgram - a 45 acre campus. Tons of greenery and an artificial lake included. Aside from healthcare research they actually manage some organic farming and rain water harvesting. Talk of diversity! The campus overall is spick and span. The residents do a group cleaning activity twice a week.

I briefly got to meet Dr Bang who gave me a very warm welcome, and his younger son Amrit Bang who is a Computer engineer. Both were planning the next Nirman agenda. Then got to see the OPD and one of the in patient cottages (Read more ). Also briefly met two more doctors - Dr Atul Bang (older son of Dr Abhay & Dr Rani Bang) and Dr Yogesh who has returned to India after 10 years in the US. Both of them promised more time with me later to see how we could work together.

Trip to Shodhgram - Day 1

Part 1 - Mumbai to Shodhgram

(You are welcome to skip this and go straight on to "In Shodhgram". This post is simply a description of my travel to Shodhgram)

The alarm buzzed at 4.45 AM. The subconscious mind works wonders. Unlike many days when my hand automatically goes to the Snooze button on the mobile, today I was instantly awake. Will less than 4 hours sleep. Got to the airport thanks to my better half who not just doesn't complain, but actually loves dropping me and picking me up at unearthly hours :)

The flight was on time. I normally tend to doze off the moment the aircraft doors close. In fact I often wonder how people cannot sleep on flights. The subconscious mind worked again. I was wide awake throughout the flight. Landed in time, had a cab waiting for me thanks to the coordination efforts of Mr Tushar Khorgade of SEARCH. Rahul, the cab driver got me all comfortable and we hit the road and pretty soon the highway - a two lane one. The weather was decent and thanks to rains it was green, green and more green.

Talking of rains, the last week had news flashes about Nagpur Gadchiroli roads being cut off due to heavy rains. I had  checked with Tusharji last Friday and he assured me that I would not need to cancel my trip. We agreed that I'd recheck on Sun (yesterday) and once again it was an all clear signal. The roads were fine for the first hour apart from small stretches of wear and tear. After an hour we actually had some sunshine too. Somewhere the physical body dominated the subconscious mind. I managed some sleep in a bouncy cab. And finally reached Shodhgram at about 12 noon

Sunday, September 09, 2012


I started blogging years ago, but I guess I have averaged less than 0.5 blogs a year so far. Somehow while I enjoyed reading many, I never got down to maintaining my own.

I guess I need to make a pledge to start today. In the past week I have been egged by many students to blog. More so because I am off to Gadchiroli for a week tomorrow. I will be spending this week at Search, Shodhgram with Dr Abhay Bang, Dr Rani Bang and their team.I have been requested to blog my experiences there. So I thought - it is high time I shed my procrastinationand resurrect my blogging activity.

I also wanted to rename it. I could honestly never find creative names like Scepticemia and I did not want to use my name. Then I decided - since my posts would be mainly targeting my "student community" I would call it by the name they've given me - "Vasu Mam" :)

So - here is

Dear Student Friends - I hope you folks help me keep this alive. Thanks for being there for me! And yes, I promise to write every day from Gadchiroli. Maybe I should add - If my Photon USB Modem picks up signals there...