How do aspiring doctors spend their summers?
For second-year medical student David Tomajan, a flight and a 3-day road trip across rugged terrain brought him to a remote, desert region in the Himalayas called Spiti Valley last July. There he provided medical care to people in local villages for 20 days with a program called Himalayan Health Exchange.
While Drexel’s College of Medicine partners with many local organizations to improve the health of Philadelphia residents, it also encourages its medical students to extend their outreach around the globe. Students can participate in Drexel-organized study abroad experiences or find opportunities through outside programs.
Tomajan said he chose to travel to the Himalayas because it is a unique location with a sparse population lacking in health care access. Its residents suffer from health issues, like parasitic infections from unclean drinking water and eye problems due to high altitudes.
Tomajan, along with a team of medical students and doctors, rotated between nine clinic sites in the Spiti Valley, treating Tibetan settlers, Buddhist monks, nuns, the Indian border army and children. With the help of attending physicians and translators, Tomajan interviewed, prescribed anti-worm medications and educated patients about preventative care.
He recounted his experience for the College of Medicine:
“Not only was my experience a great way for me to learn about medicine, but it provided an opportunity to learn about the culture and religion in the Himalayas. We visited many historical sites including monasteries and the second highest permanent settlement in the world. Part of the trip was spent camping and we also had plenty of opportunities to hike. Overall, it was one of the most rewarding and life-changing experiences of my life, and I would highly recommend this trip for students looking for adventure.”