Ask any old student about their training at MGIMS, and the Anji camp will certainly top the list of their most memorable moments. So where is Anji, what happens there and what makes it so special for MGIMS alumni?
Anji is a small village located 22 km north-west of Sevagram. Since 1981, each winter, an entire batch of medical students stays at Anji for a fortnight to experience a unique education activity: the Reorientation of Medical Education (ROME) camp. Three decades ago, in 1984, the Department of Community Medicine established the Kasturba Rural Health Training Centre (KRHTC) there.
Interns and medical officers posted at KRHTC provide curative, preventive and promotive health services to almost 35000 people living in 20 villages at the primary health centre. To do so, the centre has developed a strong partnership with the community, runs an Integrated Child Development Services Scheme and has joined hands with the local primary health centre. Under the Department of Community Medicine, this centre has evolved its own system of community-owned primary health care clinics called Kiran clinics. In 2014, close to 15000 patients were treated in nine Kiran clinics for both communicable and non-communicable ailments. In addition, 600 patients were able to access specialist care provided by consultants from Kasturba Hospital, Sevagram. Staff at KRHTC also screened 2500 students in school health surveys. A referral clinic to complement the Kiran clinics, clinics for the elderly and an adolescent-friendly health clinic are being planned in the offing. The residents and faculty of the Department of Community Medicine have published twenty papers based on the community-based research that they conducted at the Anji centre.
Recognizing the importance of community participation, the centre has formed 55 Women’s Self-Help groups, 20 Kishori Panchayats, 12 Kisan Vikas Manch and nine Kiran Clinics. It also partnered with the village health nutrition and sanitation committee of the villages. In 2015, close to 26000 people from the field practice area were linked with the health insurance scheme of Kasturba Hospital—a proxy indicator of the partnership with the community and the extent of community mobilization. Village Health and Nutrition Day are celebrated to highlight the importance of immunization, antenatal and postnatal care.
The ROME camp conducted at KRHTC Anji allows students an opportunity to interact with villagers, learn what makes them sick, and how they deal with sickness. Living in the same milieu as their patients makes students understand the social and economic factors that influence health and disease. Most of all, these camps sharpen clinical and communication skills of medical trainees that stand them in good stead when they practice medicine in resource-limited settings later in life. Besides undergraduate students from MGIMS, international exchange students also stay at Anji to have a grasp of India’s health care system at the grass root level.
Needless to add, staying together in a remote village has its memorable moments for most undergraduates, and they have carried back vivid stories of their travel, travails and training along with their bags and backpacks. Student groups often discovered novel ways of leisure and sport and bonded well during the camp fortnight. However, as student numbers rose, it became increasingly difficult to house the trainees in the spartan accommodation. To resolve the space crunch, the institute has now added a dormitory complex at KRHTC Anji which can comfortably house 25 girls and boys each.
On April 7, 2015, Dr BS Garg, Secretary, KHS and Dr AM Mehendale, Head of Community Medicine, invited Mr Dhirubhai Mehta (President, Kasturba Health Society) to inaugurate the new dormitory complex. When the entourage arrived in Anji along with Dean MGIMS, Dr KR Patond; Dr LV Zode (medical officer of the PHC) and Mr Jagdish Sancharia (Sarpanch of Anji) - Mr Dhirubhai Mehta surprised everyone by asking Niriti Choudhary, a young intern posted at the centre, to do the honours and cut the ribbon. She was the right choice - for only a fortnight ago she had been awarded the first Dr Sushila Nayar Memorial award for undergraduate research for her community-based research at MGIMS.
With the roomier accommodation at KRHTC, we have no doubt that the undergraduates of MGIMS will have a more comfortable stay and carry back more enduring memories and anecdotes from their Anji camps.