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SELECT Medical School Journey Takes Three Future Doctors to India on Volunteer Mission

Kyle Correll, Aresh Ramin and Aleksandra Yakhkind, all members of what will soon be the first class to graduate from the SELECT medical school partnership with the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN), are spending February fulfilling one of their last course assignments on the other side of the world.

The three students – all fourth-year medical school students practicing within LVHN – currently are volunteering at the Institute for Indian Mother & Child in Kolkata, India. There, they work, observe and study with other medical students from around the globe as part of a learning experience that takes healing to another level.

“In a very real sense, it’s a hands-on encounter with what our SELECT program is all about,” says LVHN family medicine physician and SELECT faculty member Sweety Jain, MD, with Lehigh Valley Family Health Center. “It combines the practicing of social and community medicine with a close look at India’s health system. It’s also an examination of the daily challenges women and children face in India and how this institute is taking steps to help them meet those challenges.”

The India volunteer mission is one of several month-long elective options away from LVHN that are available to fourth-year SELECT students as a graduation requirement. This was the only international option, coming about through a three-year grant from Anderson Trust.

SELECT – which stands for Scholarly Excellence, Leadership Experiences and Collaborative Training – is a medical school partnership that began in 2011. The program includes two years of study at USF Health’s Tampa. Fla., campus, followed by two years of practical experience at LVHN, with additional training in leadership skills, the fundamentals of health care systems and values-centered patient care.

The mission trip challenges all the proficiencies sought in SELECT students – the intellectual perspective, empathy, creativity and passion to change patient care, the health of communities and the medical profession. “They get to work around outpatient clinics as well as inpatient settings,” Jain says. “They’ll also travel out to remote villages to help with care. But their experience in India goes far beyond medicine.”

The Institute for Indian Mother & Child was founded in 1989 by Sujit Kumar Barhmochary, who once served as medical director for Mother Teresa. It is dedicated to the empowerment of women in a society. All volunteers get involved in instilling improved living and working skills for women. They also help with instructing children on ways to attain better health and nutrition.

“It’s certainly a dramatic change in culture for our students,” Jain says. “We had many training sessions here for what they could expect, but it’s quite another thing to actually be there living it. They’ll carry the benefits of this experience with them throughout their careers.”

Formal graduation ceremonies for the first SELECT class are scheduled for April 17 in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Above, see a photo gallery from the medical students’ mission trip. Also watch a video about volunteering at the institute.