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Dr. Vivek Gharpure: Sharing Surgical Lessons between India and Cambodia

When Dr. Vivek Gharpure signed up to volunteer at AHC, he was a little nervous, but as soon as he arrived in December of last year, “I arrived on a Monday, was asked to see some patients, scrubbed up for two procedures, and I just got into the flow of things. It was very easy.”

A paediatric surgeon from Pravara Institute of Medical Sciences in Loni, India, Dr. Gharpure has over three decades of experience performing everything from simple to very complex procedures. Some common surgeries include reconstructive work on intestines, kidneys, and the chest, such as removing part of the lung. He says his work in India is similar to his work at AHC, but sometimes more complicated because his hospital is much bigger, has a large number of deliveries and wide referral.

“AHC is constrained by a lack of space, which means we can operate on fewer patients. But the environment is excellent and I am happy to be here.”

Some other challenges at AHC, for him, were adjusting to a new environment, working in a different operating theatre and with different anesthesia, and overcoming the language barrier when communicating with nurses. But the patients, he says, are the same everywhere, whether you’re in India, Cambodia, or the USA.

He also says that India is very similar to Cambodia, “We speak a different language, but Cambodian people are like Indian people. They are very simple. They are friendly. They are very cooperative. We eat the same food, like rice noodles, soup, and vegetables. And there are lots of motos in India, and tuk-tuks too. it feels like home.”

He learned a lot from the AHC team that he plans to take back to his hospital in Loni. “I’ve learned new anesthesia techniques, which will be useful. I’ve also seen the friendliness of the staff, how they are always smiling. I’ve learned about play therapy, how they make toys for the patients from paper and string, and how they sit and draw with them. This is something that all children’s hospitals can do and I am going to talk to my hospital and say that this is something we can implement. It doesn’t cost much money, but it can completely change a patient’s and parens’ attitude and bring them happiness.”

Dr. Gharpure’s involvement with AHC didn’t end at the hospital. He and a group of friends ran the Angkor Half Marathon and raised funds for the hospital. He also donated suture materials and operating instruments, and he plans to ask more people to donate. And he’s planning to invite some of the AHC staff to train at his hospital in India and wants to bring more people to run the marathon next year. “It is for a good cause, after all,” he says.

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