Providing Holistic Care in India: A Summer Internship Experience

By Young Joo Choi '20, Chemistry
Saturday, Sep. 1, 2018

Over the summer, I was fortunate to be awarded an internship opportunity through Princeton University‚Äôs International Internship Program (IIP) to work in New Delhi, India, with CanSupport.  CanSupport is an NGO that focuses on palliative care, the field of medicine that combines attention to the mind, body, and spirit in order to promote healing. For physical pain, the organization provides painkillers and supplements directly to patients, or for their caregivers to administer, at no cost in order to lessen any financial burdens. For the emotional and spiritual facets, individual counseling and meditation sessions are readily available. Services are provided primarily to low-income families afflicted by cancer. CanSupport cares for patients of all ages, from infants to the elderly, with the aid of compassionate doctors, nurses, counselors, and social workers.

A big smile after a successful arts and crafts session

During my 8 week experience, I explored all of the diverse aspects CanSupport has to offer. Separate daycare sessions were held once a week for children, teenagers, and adults in order to meet the different needs of each age group. Activities ranged from playful crafts, educational English, and vocational lessons to meditation and health education classes. Especially for the youth, it was the only time during the week that they could escape the hospital setting to experience a few hours resembling a normal childhood. Meals and supplementary nutritious foods were provided to support and replenish their bodies in order to combat disease and strengthen them to endure their medical treatments.

A home care visitation by Nurse Marykutty

The other major service the organization provides is home care visitation. For patients and families who cannot travel to the daycare site, a medical team consisting of a doctor, nurse, and counselor makes personal calls to their homes. Accompanying them allowed me to have a deeper insight into a new culture and into the emotional turmoil faced by both the patients and their families when illness strikes.

A traditional Rajasthani thali in Jaipur

Overall, I was grateful to see this side of medicine where disease isn't the only focus of treatment. CanSupport's palliative care attends to the whole person as well as their family members because the impact of cancer isn't restricted to just one body. Though I haven't decided whether I will pursue admission to medical school or further my education in chemistry, I hope that my efforts will be of aid to those in need, just as CanSupport provides for its community. Last but not least, the rich cultural aspects that India has to offer were just as rewarding as the work itself!

 

CanSupport website: https://cansupport.org

Blog of internship experience: https://summeratcansupport.wixsite.com/home