Drs. Eugene Cone (left), Gopal Badlani (center), & Dima Raskolnikov (right)

Thanks to the generous support of the Western Section of the American Urological Association, Dr. Dima Raskolnikov had an outstanding experience in Bhopal, India, where he worked with Jeev Sewa Sansthan (JSS) from December 8-14, 2018.

Dr. Raskolnikov shares his experience:

“With the support of the IVUmed Traveling Resident Scholar Program, this December I was fortunate to volunteer in Bhopal, India under the mentorship of Dr. Gopal Badlani. To say that I was excited for this opportunity is an understatement. For months before the trip, I read everything that I could about the organization with which we would work, prior residents’ experiences through IVUmed, and Bhopal itself. Even then, I was unprepared. Our work quickly reinforced what I had already grown to believe: the best approach to international medical volunteer work – and only approach, really – is to be flexible, open-minded, and willing to help in whatever way is needed.

“Founded in 1994, Jeev Sewa Sansthan (JSS) is a philanthropic organization based in Bhopal that works to improve education, reduce poverty, and expand access to healthcare. As part of its mission, JSS sponsors urology “camps” at the Sewa Sedan Eye Hospital. These week-long events bring surgical teams from across India and abroad to provide free urological care to anyone who requests it. Patients are evaluated, treated, and directed to follow-up with local urologists. In a typical camp workday, 20-30 patients would undergo surgery in our 3 ORs. Even more impressively, this was the 93rd such urology camp sponsored by JSS. It is truly a massive logistical undertaking.

“On my first OR day, I was greeted by a familiar sight: a list of patients scheduled for TURPs, PCNLs, and a mix of open general urology cases. Perfect, I thought. I have some comfort with these cases, and while the list looked long, I was eager to get to work. What followed were days of surgery that were fulfilling, inspiring, and humbling. These first two reactions are easiest to explain: everyone at the camp – ranging from urologists, to technicians, to support staff behind the scenes – was excited to be there. The patients we were helping truly had nowhere else to turn. Even with a language barrier limiting our interactions, the gratitude in the expressions of patients and their families was obvious. I felt truly fortunate to be a part of the surgical team. At the same time, the cases themselves proved humbling; the surgical techniques I had developed in the U.S. just weren’t entirely translatable. When talking through a PCNL, for example, how do you explain your plan for “clean-up ureteroscopy” in a place that can’t afford even one such instrument, let alone one for every case? The thought that some of these tools are considered disposable back home was even more difficult to reconcile.

“Ultimately, these and other limitations proved to be obstacles to overcome rather than true barriers to providing excellent care. I learned a tremendous amount from my time in Bhopal and am immensely grateful to IVUmed, Dr. Badlani, and the local staff for helping to make this possible.”