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Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014

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World of learning: Ankit Bhatia, Sandeep Raj and Tony Trenga

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Princeton students Ankit Bhatia, Sandeep Raj and Tony Trenga, who are all interested in medical careers, are pursuing internships focused on health care in India. Some aspects of their work overlap; other responsibilities are shaped by their individual interests and different field work sites. The internships were secured through the International Internship Program and are these students' first study abroad experience.

Writing from India

Ankit Bhatia
Class of 2010

  • Academic concentration: chemistry, certificate in global health and health policy
  • Hometown: Syracuse, N.Y.
  • Summer locations: Hyderabad and coastal villages, India
  • Activity: internship with the Byrraju Foundation and the Andhra Pradesh Health Ministry Research Institute
  • Length of stay: nine weeks


Main objective:
My main objective is to learn about the efficacy of various rural health care delivery models. As we are currently living in an era that will see massive reform to health care systems, we can actually learn about cost-effective health care models from developing countries. In places such as India, health care has been forced to develop despite limited resources, giving rise to innovative practices that can be adopted by America and other Western nations.

The project that I have chosen deals primarily with how the Byrraju Foundation can allocate its resources to best complement the free primary health care services offered by the Indian government. This would allow for a greater segment of the population to be served, including those situated in more rural areas.

New insights:
As a medical school applicant, seeing first hand the health care needs that exist globally has been refreshing. However, it is the medical innovation I am seeing here, even in the most remote villages, that is having the greatest impact on me. Seeing how people here can make do with what is available has shown me that the quality of medical care is about so much more than just the sheer number of dollars invested.

The most memorable experience so far was when we were working at the Khalla Primary Health Care Center. A baby that had just been delivered could not breathe because he had swallowed amniotic fluid. For two minutes, I watched as a doctor and nurses tried to suck the fluid out of the baby’s lungs. Finally, the baby began to cry. It was the longest two minutes of my life.

Interns in India

On their summer internship in India, Tony Trenga, Sandeep Raj and Ankit Bhatia (from left in ambulance, with an emergency medical technician) are working on various health care projects in rural communities. The three Princeton students are interested in issues of health care delivery in different countries and anticipate pursuing medical careers. (Photo: Courtesy of the interns in India)

Sandeep Raj
Class of 2011


Main objectives:
My first goal is to establish a program in Bhimavaram to train local first aid squads in each neighboring village. There is a government- funded ambulance service here that typically takes around half an hour to respond to a scene. This is okay for many of the accidents here, but obviously, it is not sufficient for a large number of emergencies including cardiac arrests and anaphylactic reactions, which need response times measured on a timescale of a few minutes.

To address this, I am trying to organize a training program in which about five villagers in each village are trained in basic first aid techniques such as CPR. In addition to providing training, I'm also organizing the infrastructure of the program. My goal is to have the program become self-sustaining and a permanent addition to the Byrraju Foundation’s health delivery module.

My second objective has to do with improving awareness regarding infectious diseases within the villages.

Key responsibilities:
I'm currently working in a primary health center in the village of Kalla. I've been interacting with patients under the supervision of the medical officer, who is also the head administrator and is serving the community as part of a government initiative to promote health care in rural areas. I interact with the patients, sometimes taking blood pressure and noting symptoms, which the doctor checks as well. I observe a variety of interesting cases and surgeries. The doctor explains each case to me, describing how to diagnose the illness and possible treatments.

Long-term goal:
I am very interested in helping out in both my own community and the international community. At home, I volunteer as an EMT and I have aspirations to join the Peace Corps after graduation, and if I so choose to pursue a career in medicine, Doctors Without Borders. I am interested in continuing my education through medical school or graduate school in computational biology.

Tony Trenga
Class of 2011

  • Academic concentration: ecology and evolutionary biology
  • Hometown: Alexandria, Va.
  • Summer locations: Hyderabad and Bhimavaram, India
  • Activity: internship with the Byrraju Foundation
  • Length of stay: 12 weeks


Main objectives:
Academically, I want to gain insight into the practice of medicine in India and other developing countries in order to see how various methods can be used to improve the delivery of health care in India. Conversely, I will take the successful aspects of the Indian medical system and look at how they can be used to improve our own health care system in America.

Personally, I want to independently experience a new country in which I do not speak the language and am unfamiliar with the culture. While it's impossible to see everything in such a big country, I hope to see a large sampling of all the various regions, dialects and religious influences. Hopefully, I can take all these experiences with me while still giving something back to the country through my project.

Key responsibilities:
I am evaluating the health care delivery modules of both the Byrraju Foundation and the state government to determine how Byrraju can provide better medical services while also operating more cost-effectively. I'm specifically researching the treatment and awareness of hypertension and diabetes. These, as well as other non-communicable diseases, are among the largest health problems facing India today, but are often overlooked in favor of the more publicized infectious diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS. But as the influence of the West creeps in, especially in terms of dietary changes, cardiovascular disease has become a very prominent and effective killer in both urban and rural India.

Long-term goal:
I hope to become a doctor and I believe that my experience here will help me practice medicine with a greater perspective of suffering and healing. It has also helped to inspire me to serve those who do not have access to proper health care, whether it be in the United States or abroad.

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