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MISTI Program

Feb 15, 2007

MISTI-India: Community Health Internship

Posted in: Academics & Research

[by Gilad Evrony '07]

I think it was around junior year that it occurred to me that although MIT is one of the best places in the world to learn how to solve problems, many of the world's most pressing problems were not at MIT. I backpacked through north India with a friend of mine in the summer before my junior year, and I was deeply affected when I saw how easily preventable diseases placed a tragic burden on society, particularly children. It put into perspective the cutting-edge research practiced at MIT. I struggled to understand what was the point of all the research at MIT, some of which I was involved with, if successful research from 50 years ago had still not reached most of the world's population. I realized that I had to venture far into the world, into developing countries, to seek an answer, and more importantly to do something about it.

I spoke with another close friend of mine about what I encountered after my first trip in India and he handed me Jeffrey Sachs' book The End of Poverty. (I definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in development economics and global health.) Around that time I heard about the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI)-India program - a chance to go back to India! I met with Deepti Nijhawan and Professor Tuli Banerjee who run the MISTI-India program and told them that I was looking for an internship working in community health, something that the MISTI-India program did not usually offer. They were very helpful and found an opportunity to work with the Kushal Foundation, a non-profit organization providing free primary health care for children and prenatal women living in the slums of Bangalore and surrounding villages. I was hosted by Shama Karkal, Kushal's program director in Bangalore, and I was treated like a true member of the family. Being hosted by Shama and her wonderful family was one of the main reasons why my trip to India was so enjoyable as well as an incredible learning experience. I always had someone to ask about things I was curious about and didn't understand. I was immersed in Indian culture and traveled almost every other weekend in the regions surrounding Bangalore.

At Kushal I was involved in several projects, through which I experienced personal growth and learned from individuals from diverse cultures a greater sensitivity to the different ways people view health and medicine. I programmed in MS-Access a patient information system which integrates all of Kushal's socio-economic data (from thousands of family surveys) with medical records. It allows Kushal to assess the efficacy of its health interventions, to create reports on disease incidence and many other health indicators, and to generate notices for overdue immunizations and health checkups for malnourished children. The goal was to help Kushal achieve its mission of tracking the overall health of children with preventive as well as curative services. I also helped start an HIV-AIDS community awareness program in the Neelasandra slums. We met with several other NGO's working on HIV-AIDS prevention in Bangalore and I helped train Kushal's health workers. One memorable experience was patching the flimsy Internet connection that we had in the slum to watch a video of Bill Gates and Bill Clinton's speeches at the International AIDS conference that was taking place that week. I tried to impart to Kushal's health workers, members of the communities served by our health centers, that their work was part of a global effort to save millions of lives. We also started an HIV-AIDS community survey to assess the level of knowledge and awareness about the issue among people in the community. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I contacted international aid organizations, applied for grants, and networked with other local charitable hospitals to help fund Kushal's projects.

It was wonderful to experience globalization in full-force in Bangalore, from 'dosas' (a local food) wrapped in a newspaper advertising jobs in Google, to the Kushal Foundation itself that was founded by pioneers of Bangalore's IT industry. Bangalore was a great place to learn about the potential for economic development to trickle down to benefit lower classes, although at times the tremendous disparities were overwhelming. It was difficult seeing such a vast divide between people with means and people without in such close proximity in Bangalore. I understood this disparity better by continually questioning and learning the history, conditions, and circumstances that underlie the situation, assessing and developing potential ways of addressing them in regards to primary health care for children, and finally, working hard to improve and extend the services provided by Kushal to the poor. I became close friends with everyone at Kushal, who all shared these same motivations. This experience was a tremendously satisfying and meaningful experience - a chance to do good.

If you have any questions don't hesitate to post them in the comments! I'll be happy to talk more about my experience and international opportunities at MIT. This is just the tip of the iceberg of what MIT has to offer for international experiences and public service.

[L.R. Nagar - One of the areas Kushal serves]

[Opening day - Kushal healthcare center for children at Nellurpuram]

Comments (Closed after 30 days to reduce spam)

This program sounds amazing! I love math and science, but I've always been afriad a career in them would lead to a life full of machines and calculations, lacking any human connection. It makes me so happy to hear what a direct effect you can have on this area by applying knowledge gained at MIT. I'm not sure where I'll end up going to college or what I'll do after, but I hope I can help as you have.

A question or three: What type of stydy abroad programs was this, what type of student can do this and how long were you there?

Posted by: Amanda C on February 15, 2007

Hi Amanda,
Thanks for the feedback, and I certainly agree that there is no contradiction between a career in science and working with communities and people to solve real-world problems. In my experience, science has opened many opportunities for doing so.

Regarding your question - this was part of the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI - http://web.mit.edu/misti/ ), which is an international internship program rather than a study-abroad program. There are other programs for study-abroad (such as the Cambridge-MIT exchange program).

Any student at MIT can participate in MISTI, though upper-classmen participate more frequently. For some of the MISTI countries there is also a language requirement. I was in India for two months, but MISTI internships have lasted as long as six months for some graduate students.

Posted by: Gilad Evrony on February 15, 2007

It is great when the lives of people are touched. Isn't it great to be at MIT.

Posted by: Solomon on February 15, 2007

hi amanda,
i so so have the same viewpoints as you have and thx gilad for answering my qn too(indirectly)

Posted by: reddy on February 15, 2007

hi Gilad,

This is amazing. I am from Bangalore and have applied for MIT this year. Your entry caught my eyes as i found "Bangalroe" in your blog.I felt so good going through your page. I had the same ideas as yours, reducing the scientific divide. Its true....that india is a developing country and things are under progress every where. Right from the Democracy to the Science and Technology.
We are in pursuit of achieving the success. And during this pursuit, when i look at a few African Countries, i really feel bad. Most of them are not even in position to recognise themselves as a part of Human race, forget about the science and technology reaching them. As you said...we, the students from leading organisations, have to initiative....putting aside all the racist, religious and geographical ill feelings. If i can make it to MIT, i dont if any others universities have the programs like MISTi, i would take part in it and live to my potential.

Tell me something....I applied for Electrical Engineering.For you...working/intership in a health department is relavent to your area of studey. But for me it is not....would MIT still be interested in allowing me to participate in this sought of programs? And the another thing...do you volunteer for these programs in vacations or during the school days??

Gilad,....please keep updating your activities. It really inspires people like me around the world who might or might not make it to MIT.

Thanks once again for your priceless entry.

-Pradeep.

Posted by: Pradeep on February 17, 2007

Hi Gilad,
You experiences attract me even more towards MIT. I am myself from Nepal and would like to spend each of my summer vacation except in my Junior year when I plan to go to Cambridge Univ to help the people of my nation overcome their troubles. i definitely have many proposals and some inspirations from people like you and of course the Banker to the poor. Whether I end up being at MIT or somewhere else, i hope to continue my services everywhere I go.

Posted by: Vishal Upadhayay on February 17, 2007

yea... it feels really good to be making a difference somewhere... there are loads and loads of places where people need help...!!! its a really satisfying work to do... and i thoroughly understand the challenges involved since i am from India... great effort Gilad...!!!

Posted by: Ashwani Gupta on February 20, 2007

Hi!
To answer Pradeep's question regarding opportunities to work overseas in electrical engineering, or other engineering related projects. Yes! Actually, many of MISTI's international internships are in engineering type projects, rather than community health projects similar to what I worked on. I would say that a MISTI internship or one of the many other international programs (D-lab for example: http://web.mit.edu/d-lab/) can benefit from the skills of students from any major at MIT.

Regarding the periods in which I worked with MISTI. It was during a summer vacation, but I have been contributing to Kushal's efforts during the school year via the Internet since returning from India. Most students pursue these international opportunities during summer vacations, but I think there is flexibility with MISTI for longer stays that extend into the school year as well. Each international program differs regarding this.

Good luck everyone with the admissions process!
Gilad

Posted by: Gilad Evrony on February 21, 2007

Hi!
I am an Electrical/Electronics Engineering student from Turkey and i have chance to choose some places for my internship at abroad. I was offered Greece and India(Bangalore) at Manipal Inst.of Tech., but i couldnt make up my mind yet so i am researching. I heard some complaints from my friends about the life in India is really hard as an intern and i wonder about that issue since i will be going on my own for my internship.

I want to ask you would you recommend me to go to Bangalore as an intern on my own? Did you have any serious difficulties to adapt the life there ? Can you recommend me something thx a lot

Posted by: Eyup Cinar on February 27, 2007

A non-profit organization providing free primary health care for children and prenatal women living in the slums of Bangalore and surrounding village.Providing similar pagesHealth & Safety Day 2007

Posted by: john on March 7, 2007

"I backpacked through north India with a friend of mine"
Gilad, do you mean you hitchhiked? How was it? Can you tell a little about your experience before MISTI? I know it's somewhat irrelevant...

Posted by: gy on March 16, 2007

By the way, Gilad, your experience sounds just like something I'd love to do at college! Congrats on creating such a good opportunity for yourself and making a difference with your skills.

Posted by: f< on March 16, 2007

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