Whilst most pupils spent the school holidays seeing friends and a doing some of revision, Fifth Former Rei Chin travelled to Asia to take part in a medical project for school students. The placement took him to the Wala-Walker Hospital in the rural district of Chiplun. It is a very poor area full of dilapidated slums where people live in dire poverty and where no one speaks English apart from the doctors. Along with a handful of students from other British schools, Rei spent five days there on work experience with the opportunity to shadow doctors and see the shocking side of life for those without money for medical care.
The Indian health system works on a semi private scheme whereby a patient receives their first operation free but subsequently has to pay for further treatment. Rei watched surgeries, and in one incident recalls how a patient had chewed tobacco since childhood, as many do, leading to advanced oral cancer. Unlike in the UK, locals do not visit a doctor until things reach a critical stage and Rei watched as this man had half of his jaw removed. On the wards, Rei learned a great deal of medical knowledge from the doctors attending to patients and was shocked to see that a man with leg pain could not even afford an x-ray which costs £2.50. Rei’s grandad is a doctor and he comes from a medical family so has grown up hearing interesting stories from the field, spurring his own interest. He says:
“Going on this work placement has been a really valuable experience where I learnt a lot in terms of medical knowledge and also about India. I saw how poverty is a huge problem and how fortunate we are here to have the NHS, and how privatisation would not be a solution to our problems. After my experience, I now know that I would really enjoy it if I decided to go down the medical route.”