Internships have always given college-goers that muchneeded edge in this dog-eat-dog world, before they dive into their chosen profession. And when it comes to students of medicine, the right internship can turn out to be the lesson of a lifetime, giving them an invaluable glimpse of how lifesaving operations play out in the real world. Campus caught up with a few such doctors-to-be and got the low-down on their varied interning experiences.

Donning the medic’s hat

The quintessential Indian dream of wearing the white coat with the stethoscope is turning out to be quite real for these youngsters, but they each have their own driving force behind their choice of career. When you’re learning how to save lives, even five-six years of relentless training and practice seem to fall short, and it is upon these budding doctors to absorb as much knowledge as they can during every waking hour of their student lives.

A month-long internship under a general practitioner (GP) was just the golden opportunity thirdyear MBBS student Shreenivas Mankar had been waiting for. “I’d heard about the importance of early clinical exposure and had firmly set my mind upon learning everything I possibly could in those 30 days. Our job was to assist the GP in minor procedures such as giving injections, suturing, debridement of wounds, checking blood pressure and so on. While all this seems like a piece of cake, I soon realised that reading about techniques and actually pulling them off are two different ballgames altogether,” confessed the 21-year-old, who studies at Bharati Vidyapeeth.

For Eeshani Bendale — a fourth-year Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (BAMS) student at Tilak Ayurved Mahavidyalaya — her parents have always been a source of inspiration, with both of them being stalwarts in the field of Ayurveda. “Since Ayurvedic medicine is not usually the first choice of treatment for most people, they tend to come to my parents only when they’ve tried every other option and failed to get relief. Having grown up watching the rarest of rare cases being cured through this science, I’ve developed an unwavering belief in the oldest field in medicine and a desire to explore its nuances even more thoroughly. I feel Ayurveda has a lot to offer to the world, only if people can appreciate the rationality and logic that underline its principles, and avoid getting blinded by quacks and malpractices,” stressed the 21-year-old.

Abhijit Marathe, a final year MBBS student at MIMER Medical College, had never dreamed of becoming one of the apron-clad, stethoscopewielding saviours of the world, contrary to popular notion. “Being a doctor was never my childhood desire, unlike so many of my peers. It was only when I ended up scoring well in my CET exams and actually considered the scope of the field that I could imagine the prefix ‘Dr’ before my name. With some doctors being beaten up for doing their job, and other resorting to unethical means for financial gain, I’ve always known how hard it will be to find the right balance between passion and security in this timeless profession. But I decided to take a leap of faith, and it’s been more than rewarding so far,” smiled the 23-year-old.

Fighting the fears

Learning how to heal other human beings was never cut out to be easy. But the lows are what make the highs all the more rewarding, they say. Vrutti Joshi, a second-year Masters student of psychology from Fergusson College, described the biggest challenge she faced during her month-long internship at KEM Hospital under a renowned psychiatrist. “Setting foot into a hospital was the most daunting task for me,” admitted the 22 year-old Fergusson College-goer, adding, “Even though our routine mostly involved observing sessions and taking case histories, the mere thought of working in a clinical setting was downright intimidating. So when I had to counsel a patient for the very first time, it was like the seven years of my education had boiled down to this. The truth of what our sir always used to say, how textbooks can never teach you how human minds work, dawned on me at that moment. Empathy and calmness was the key, though. After our session was over, when the patient thanked me and told me that she felt much better, I felt a different kind of joy altogether. Simply being there for a person was so much more crucial than analysing the roots of their behaviour and applying the countless theories I’d read about. The magnitude of mental health issues hit me and strengthened my resolve to spread awareness and make a change.”

Shreenivas shared, “When the time came for me to give an injection to one of the patients, I was terrified, even more so because of my own childhood memories of sharp needles and ominous syringes. Thankfully, I was on the other end of the injection this time and, with the reassuring guidance of our GP, I successfully gave an almost painless injection to my patient. In the span of a few seconds, my anxiety had metamorphosed into ecstasy and, of course, pure relief. I gave quite a few injections during that month, and with infinitely more confidence.”

The silver linings

One of the first things you learn at med school is the irrevocable value and sanctity of human life. ‘Do no harm’ has long been passed down as the golden rule for doctors everywhere. Radhika Hatolkar, a third-year physiotherapy student at Brijlal Jindal College of Physiotherapy, echoed the sentiment, saying, “Standing next to a patient’s bed and knowing just how fragile their life is, leads to multiple epiphanies each day. The fact that we, in the white coats, have the ability to reduce their pain and help them lead better, healthier lives is equal parts humbling and inspiring.”

As a part of their curriculum from second-year onwards, students are sent on clinical rotations at various hospitals every day, which culminates in a sixmonth- long internship at the end of their course. “Each speciality has its own set of lessons to teach,” offered the 19-year-old, adding, “Whether it is orthopedics, neurology or cardiology, we get to learn the relevance and need of physiotherapy in each field. The burn unit, however, proved to be the most unforgettable. With my resolve, strength and stamina being tested to the absolute limit, all I could do was grit my teeth and find peace in the knowledge that I’ve decided to dedicate my life to helping these people get theirs back.”

The smiles on their patients’ faces seem to be the most potent source of motivation for these hardworking souls. “A medical internship is a tricky place to be in,” shared Abhijit. “As interns, we are like the tiny cogs in a well-oiled machine that no one talks about, but without which the machine would cease to function. After studying for almost seven years, when you’re expected to serve as an errand boy while simultaneously juggling your medical duties, it’s frustrating to say the least. But when you get to assist in a miraculous surgery the very next day, or hear the cry of a newborn you helped deliver, or even something as trivial as the faint ‘pop’ of a dislocated shoulder going back to its right place, that is what keeps you going back for more.”

Lessons in healing

The future is an exciting place for a young medical student, and there is no end to their hopes and aspirations for the lifelong journey of healing. Shreenivas intends to delve into the science of hearts, aiming to specialise in cardiology after his graduation. “Medicine can seem impossible, sometimes, as you spend numerous sleepless nights with nothing but your huge piles of books and even huger coffee mugs. Take care of yourselves, though, and trust me when I say that your health matters most, and nothing should compromise your alertness and vitality,” he urged.

For Vrutti, the horizon holds a small break from psychology and a six-month teaching job in France. “Don’t hesitate at any chance to get out there and put your knowledge to use, no matter how overwhelming it seems. The real battle lies outside the four walls of the classroom.” Higher studies in the US lie in the cards for Abhijit, with his preferred field being orthopedics or sports medicine. “If you’re going to be a doctor, first accept the fact that you’re going to be studying for the rest of your life. As an intern, be a sponge. No knowledge is unimportant, absorb as much as you can.”

Eeshani is all set for a month of interning at Stanford Medicine. “I think the ultimate goal for us doctors is to create a world where people won’t need to come to us in the first place. As Ayurveda suggests, making changes in your lifestyle and maintaining your mental health as well can go a long way in preventing diseases.” With almost three years to go before she can officially call herself a doctor, Radhika is interested in sports physiotherapy for the future. “Treating patients with dignity is indispensable. When someone who is hurt and vulnerable places their care in your hands, it is crucial that you fully grasp your responsibility and give it everything you have.”

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