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  • Bharat Ramakrishna

    Posted on 25th January 2015 by Global Health Gateway in

    Bharat Ramakrishna is a training doctor and GHG volunteer who is very passionate about global health. He talks to GHG about his involvement with the inspiring primary health care project, CBHP, in rural India.

    GHG: Tell us about yourself.
    I was born in the United States, my parents are Indian, but I grew up in Melbourne, Australia. I’m currently in my final year of medical school at The University of Melbourne. My global health experience is limited to a few student activities (through clubs and societies), attending some conferences, doing small bits of research and working with the Community Based Health Project (CBHP).

    GHG: Tell us about your work with CBHP.
    CBHP started 4 years ago when then-medical student, Dr James Wei approached a group of students to help support a doctor he met whilst overseas. Initially we planned to send Dr Moses Kharat a crate of medical supplies for starting his health service but we’ve since evolved to be much more than that.

    Dr Moses is a man trying to help the community that raised him. As an untouchable (the poorest and most disenfranchised in the Indian caste system) he has had to overcome great hardships to get to where he is. With his skills and training as a medical doctor he’s giving back to his community in the ways he knows how. The friendship we’ve created is simply to champion Dr Moses’ dream. We’re his cheer squad.

    The team in Australia now helps Moses with project planning, building local partnerships and fundraising. We’re currently transitioning from data collection and research to implementing projects to address the social determinants of health in the community. For instance in Tanda village, which suffers chronic drought, we’re working with local Anuradha Engineering College to create sustainable water solutions.

    It’s really challenging to keep abreast the situation in Buldhana without being there, the so-called ‘tyranny of distance’. But I’ve come to know Moses pretty well through emails and regular Skype conversations and that’s definitely been the most rewarding part. It’s incredibly humbling to work with such a talented group of students for a man with such a profoundly simple and selfless vision.

    That’s definitely the highlight for me: the people and the relationships you get to have. I think when you think about it, that’s what a community really is – and I think to me, that’s what health is.

    GHG: Where was the most interesting place you’ve travelled to?
    My two favourite places are The Kimberley (in Western Australia) and Dharamsala (far-north India). I go to The Kimberley every year for placements in the local health service and absolutely love it. A few years ago I travelled to Dharamsala and got to see where the Dalai Lama lives. It was an incredible privilege to see the world from the foot steps of a spiritual leader.

    I can’t say I’ve really started my global health career – but here’s to many adventures ahead of me.

    GHG: What’s the most inspiring book you’ve ever read?
    Mountains beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder is my favourite global health book.  The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay is my favourite fictional book.

    Bharat-RamakrishnaGHG: What has been the most challenging cross cultural experience you’ve had? Why?
    I think working with any community you’re not intrinsically a part of can be challenging. There are different styles of communication and different values, but I’ve found the most challenging part to be the preconceptions I bring to the encounter. Having my own Indian heritage can complicate things even more (in fact, for better or worse, I sometimes call Moses ‘uncle’ whilst Skyping).

    I think the key is to know yourself really well, be patient and be as open-minded as you can.

    GHG: What are your tips for people interested in working in global health?
    I don’t feel like I’m really entitled to give advice but here’s a maxim I follow: follow your passion and the world will reward you. I think it’s also important to never feel like anything is beyond or beneath you. One of the values of CBHP is ‘servant leadership, those who look to lead must first look to serve’ and that really resonates with me. The team embraces learning opportunities, learning new skills in foreign disciplines in order to solve complex problems. We recently had a workshop on Project Management and that was really well received by everyone.

    GHG: Please recommend any interesting global health related websites that you would like to share.
    There are heaps. The Gateway has good links. Follow a bunch of global-health people on Twitter and that will also fill up your time.  I find the best resources to be the people you keep in company. Share your ideas and the resources will find you.

    GHG: Who would you like to thank?
    First and foremost Dr Moses Kharat, his team of Village Health Workers, and his community, for their tireless work and inspiring vision. Secondly, all the staff at The Nossal Institute for Global Health who mentor and guide the work we do. Lastly, the CBHP Australia team for being such a great group of people to work with. (And of course GHG, for inviting me to share my story.)

    Follow CBHP on:
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    Bharat Ramakrishna, pictured above.
    Dr Moses, pictured at his clinic in India.