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Lexington and UK Medical Group Making Waves in India

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 14, 2014) − Dr. Thomas Young, a University of Kentucky College of Medicine professor of pediatrics, had dreams from a young age of emulating Albert Schweitzer, an early 1900s medical missionary.

Thanks to a group comprised of UK employees and students and Lexington-area medical professionals, Young is closer to those dreams, while making life better for kids with disabilities in India.

In 2002, Young started Shoulder to Shoulder Global (STSG), which sent UK faculty and students to a clinic in Ecuador. Now, the organization is expanding its reach into Mayasandra, a rural Indian village.

Young and UK pediatric pulmonologist Dr. Mike Anstead were instrumental in establishing a Mayasandra clinic that is dedicated to kids with disabilities. The clinic, which the STSG group hopes to travel to annually after its first exploratory trip there in 2009, is staffed year-round, even when the Lexington professionals aren’t there.

Thirteen medical professionals and students traveled to Mayasandra during spring break as part of a multidisciplinary approach to diagnosing and treating Indian children with special healthcare needs. Physical therapists, special educators, a speech and language therapist and pediatric residents were all involved this year.

A “local champion” is necessary for these types of projects, Young said, and the STSG group found that person in Dr. M.N. Subramanya, a retired surgeon originally from Mayasandra, whose son-in-law, Dr. Harohalli Shashidhar, used to be a UK physician. Among help from Young, Anstead, Subramanya and Shashidhar, along with other STSG donations, the Mayasandra clinic was able to establish itself and purchase a van used to provide transportation to the clinic for children from 16 surrounding villages.

Although kids with disabilities were not the Mayasandra project’s original focus, Young realized during the 2009 exploratory trip, where his group saw 500 children, that the village had unfulfilled needs.

“After we saw all those kids, we all noticed the same thing,” Young said. “We saw all these kids with disabilities getting no service. I didn’t envision all this when I first started. You learn and make mistakes, and try to get better next time.”

Now, a multidisciplinary approach is being taken into Mayasandra. The Lexington community can pull from a variety of professions, and bring those talents to the village.

That approach, which allows physical therapists to work with special educators or speech therapists with medical school students in unprecedented ways, allows for an educational component for students, too.

“You’re never going to be operating on an island,” said UK medical student Justin Penticuff, who traveled to Mayasandra this year. “You’re always going to need to work with the whole team.”

Working with an entire interdisciplinary team is one part of the equation; getting real-world experience in an environment very different from what they’re used to is something else students can take away from the STSG program in India.

“We have to be able to come up with ideas for people who don’t have access to specialty things,” said Erin Sieberkrob, a UK physical therapy student on the trip. “It’s our job as healthcare providers to accommodate them and give them ideas of what they can do. That’s something important we learned just being in India.”

The program still has room to grow. Those involved want to build a new clinic in Mayasandra, which would require about $75,000. They want to hire a certified teacher at the clinic year-round. And building vocational programs at the clinic to help teach kids necessary skills is also a dream of STSG’s.

If interested in donating to STSG and its efforts in India, contact Dr. Thomas Young at tyoung@uky.edu

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