AMSA Philippines was invited to experience the first-ever AMSEP India, hosted by AMSA India – R.G. Kar Medical College located in West Bengal, in the city of smiles, Calcutta City. It was held last February 22-28, 2015. R.G. Kar Medical College and Hospital is said to be a pride of India as it is considered the first and oldest non-governmental medical college in Asia, dating from 1886, thereby making it one of the most prestigious medical colleges in India. There were three delegates from AMSA Philippines who partook on the 7-day exchange program, namely: Sam Louis G. Bautista from AMSA MSSR-IPNNW, Anja Zena F. Cruzado and Gilbertine Marie G. Embuscado, both from AMSA FEU-NRMF. Along with the invitation for AMSA Philippines, AMSA India also invited AMSA Malaysia (2 delegates) and AMSA Taiwan (15 delegates), making it the first ever AMSEP to host 3 countries at the same time, with a total of 20 delegates.
The delegates arrived in Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Aiport in Calcutta, India at exactly 12:00 midnight of February 22nd. They were introduced to their co-delegates from Malaysia and Taiwan as well as some of the AMSA India executive board. From the airport, the group was divided into two, and was brought directly to their respective inns as a place of stay in Calcutta. All the Filipino delegates stayed at Evergreen Inn together with seven Taiwanese delegates.
On the first day of the exchange program, February 22nd at 8:00 a.m., the delegates were exposed to the daily commuters’ life in Calcutta by riding a public bus going to Ekta Heights, where breakfast and interactive games were prepared for the delegates. They had their first taste of authentic Indian Bengali food, served from directly from the kitchen of one of the host’s home. They played console games and ran around playing the game named Ko-ko/Go-go, a game which the delegates truly enjoyed. They were also taught how to speak and sing in Hindi language. This served as a bonding time for the hosts and the delegates. The delegates were brought to a store for their mobile sim cards as a mode of communication during their stay at Calcutta. After a few hours, the delegates were brought back to their inns by a private bus provided for by the hosts. A generous buffet dinner was served for the delegates at the Pan Asia International Hotel for their welcome party. The welcome party get-together activities included dinner, singing, dancing, games and photo taking sessions.
On day 2, February 23rd is when the delegates and hosts had prepared for the most. The day started with a breakfast at Evergreen Inn, then they moved via a private bus and got a view for the first time of the R.G. Kar Medical College, where a very warm welcome awaited the delegates. The delegates were escorted by bodyguards from the moment of arrival at the College until the end of the program. The program was initiated by a welcoming speech given by the department heads of Community Medicine Anatomy and Histology. Next was the presentation proper, comprising of a brief introduction of the different AMSA chapters and presentation of the health care delivery system of the respective countries, from the host country India and the delegate countries Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan. A lunch break was provided during the break time for the delegates and hosts. The much awaited cultural presentation followed after. The AMSA Philippines delegates prepared a Muslim fan dance and a contemporary dance medley. AMSA Taiwan presented a modern dance and AMSA Malaysia introduced a traditional Malay interactive group game. The last to present were the hosts, medical students from First Year to Final year in R.G. Kar Medical College held a spectacular and colorful 1-hour long cultural presentation that gives a glimpse of the various Indian culture and very rich history through role playing, dance and music. Local bands were also invited to sing traditional and modern Indian music for the delegates as well. The dinner took place at a restaurant that serves a very generous amount of gastronomic chicken and mutton Biryani, which the delegates delighted upon. The delegates were then brought back to their respective inns to cap the night off.
On day 3, February 24th, the day started with the delegates having breakfast at Evergreen Inn, followed by a visit to R.G. Medical College for a lecture given by a medical professor on Indian health care delivery system. The plaque of appreciation was given to the Dean of the college of Medicine and the delegates had their tour inside the R.G. Kar Hospital - Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU and SICU). The hospital visit was followed by an introduction to the college’s Physiology Department head, they were then invited inside the physiology laboratory to witness an experiment on nerve conduction velocity and the results were discussed thereafter. College tour happened right after the experiment which led the delegates inside the school bookstore to shop. The next activities included paying respects to the Hindu gods at Dakshineswar temple and Belur Math temple, cruising and crossing the holy Ganghes river and dinner at Bigachi garden restaurant. The delegates were safely brought home via private bus provided by the hosts.
On day 4, February 25th , the delegates were taken for a city and hospital tours in R.N. Tagore and Medica. The delegates were then again subdivided into 2 groups, AMSA Philippines delegates were taken for a tour in Medica, a quarternary hospital, they tour includes a view of the different departments such as the emergency medical services (they gave an overview of their triage system and facility), ancillary services (CT scan, MRI, ECG, Ultrasonography), different departments such as Oncology (chemotherapeutic area), Surgery (especially laparoscopy), Gastroenterology, as well as hospital wards and suites. The city tour was continued with a visit to St. Paul Cathedral, SSKM hospital and in it a memorial of the laboratory of the Nobel Prize recipient Doctor Ronald Ross who made a huge contribution in the world of Medicine by discovering the malaria parasite transmission and life cycle. Dinner was served for the delegates at the inn brainstorming and orientation with regards to the health camp followed after.
On day 5, February 26th, the delegates were gathered for breakfast and were transferred to A.K. Ghosh Primary School which was close-by to the inns. The hosts provided assistance and guide to the delegates especially in cases of language barrier. The delegates performed a physical check-up for pediatrics and if a major concern was found, the child would be referred to the different doctors such as a nutritionist, dentist, ophthalmologist and a pediatrician. After the health camp, the delegates were served with lunch at the school and transferred back at the inns for wash up. Shopping time followed at South City Mall. The night ended in a pub crawl for a fun time for both hosts and delegates, more AMSA India executive board members from New Delhi were introduced to the delegates.
On day 6, February 27th, the delegates had spare time to rest in the morning; they enjoyed more views of Calcutta City, the main as the Indian Museum, the largest and oldest museum in India, followed by lunch at McDonald’s Calcutta. Queen Victoria Memorial park was the next destination; the delegates were mesmerized by the architectural beauty of the temple and the park itself. There was enough rest time for the delegates after the city tour was over, they were sent to their inns to prepare for the farewell party at dinner time. It was held at Floatel, a restaurant atop a yacht, the delegates were required to wear their traditional costumes. Photo sessions, dancing and a dinner party took place.
February 28th was the last day of the exchange program. The chief delegates per country were invited to the R.G. Kar Medical College for giving their plaques of appreciation to the Principal of the college while other delegates were brought to the market for souvenir shopping. Two hours after, the chief delegates were reunited with their co-delegates for lunch time. The delegates spent the rest of the day shopping and handing over mementos. The rest of the night was spent at the inn for the farewells and hugs. It was a moment of tears and emotions as the Filipino and Malaysian delegates were to part with the whole group and to depart back into their home countries at the 12:00 midnight of March 1st, 2015. They were transferred to Subhas Chandra Bose International Aiport, plaque of appreciation was also given to the national AMSEP Director and head of the AMSEP India by the Filipino delegates. The memories shared and friendships built will always hold a special part in the delegates’ hearts.