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13 February 2019

Reflections of my internship at the Tata Medical Center, India

Robert Smith went on an internship to Tata Medical Center in India as part of his Global Health and Social Medicine undergraduate course.

Mohini (3rd from left) and Robert (last from left) at the Tata Medical Centre.
Mohini (3rd from left) and Robert (last from left) at the Tata Medical Centre.

Undergraduate student, Robert Smith from the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine undertook an internship in Tata Medical Centre in India as part of his course. He writes about his experiences here:

"Over the course of nine weeks, my fellow student, Mohini Samani, and I had the opportunity to work at Tata Medical Center, a specialised cancer center in Kolkata, India.

During this internship, we performed a cost analysis of acute myeloid leukemia. The aim of this project was to better understand the direct and indirect costs to patients in accessing cancer care. By understanding these costs, our findings now allow physicians to more accurately inform patients of the cost of treatment, inform insurance providers on the cost of treatments and help hospital administration better allocate treatment subsidies. This experience gave us valuable skills that we wouldn't have been able to gain otherwise, including a clinical understanding of disease, quantitative skills in financial analysis and an understanding of working within hospital environments.

Working at a cancer center in India was a valuable contribution towards our degree in Global Health and Social Medicine. India is undergoing a demographic transition resulting in a double burden of infectious and chronic diseases. Within this context, it is challenging for governments and private care providers to accommodate new, yet increasingly prevalent, disease burdens, such as cancer.

Working within this context allowed us to gain an understanding of how actors are responding to these types of emerging global health concerns. This also gave us an understanding of the challenges that governments face when responding to this burden. Specifically, with a population of over 1.3 billion people, India struggles with a rural-urban divide in health care resources, resulting in poor cancer prevention and integration of cancer diagnostic services at a primary care level. Most cancer treatment and diagnosis is available in urban areas and/or in tertiary centres. Within this type of health care infrastructure, it creates a large amount of late diagnosis and poor care outcomes. Ultimately, working in this context provided a unique space to build upon the existing knowledge learnt within our course and to see how our understandings can be applied in the real world.

As well as enhancing our degree experience, the internship also served as a valuable opportunity to travel and learn more about India. During the internship, we had the opportunity to take a boat tour in the ‘Sunderbans’, one of the last remaining locations with Bengal Tigers. We also visited the infamous Darjeeling Tea fields in the North East of West Bengal, travelled to Chennai and even spent a weekend in Singapore.

For students looking to gain real-world experience working in healthcare development contexts, this internship will serve as an extremely valuable opportunity. Not only will it broaden your perspective on global health in practice, but the work experience, regardless of the social Internship selected, will allow you to build a wider skill set that can be utilised in your career – making you more marketable as a job candidate. Further to this, for those undergoing dissertations, this can be a valuable opportunity to perform dissertation research in topics relevant to the selected internships or other health issues in India.