Most adolescents burning the proverbial midnight lamp- preparing hard for admission to a medical school - carefully consider the pros and cons of their potential choice. Some students- and their parents- factor in the location of the medical school, the reputation of the hospital, and the heights achieved by the alumni in their choice. And some study the campus, calculate proximity to an airport and browse through India Today and Outlook before they take an informed decision. Some, decide in the twinkling of an eye. In the end, there are no rules that would say one way is right, and the other one is not.

The very thought of spending the best years of one’s life in a village-based medical school often stirs a potpourri of emotions. All medical students go through this cataclysmic upheaval, unable to figure out where they should listen to their heart or their mind. The mind is often dictated by subjective points of view of the society, and often students forget what their heart's and their own desires are. We present here top ten reasons why study Medicine at Sevagram, reasons that will help medical students understand what MGIMS is, and is not.

1. Rich Heritage

What started off as a small dispensary in a guest house in the Sevagram ashram became Kasturba hospital in 1945 thanks to the dedication and vision of Dr Sushila Nayar (Badi Behenji), an ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi. About two decades later, free India faced several challenges in health care. To address these, Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (MGIMS) was established in 1969 to provide quality education and healthcare especially keeping in mind the socioeconomic milieu of the rural masses. Since then, 45 batches of students hailing from different parts of India have undergone various rites-of-passage to become exemplary doctors serving the nation and the world. What started off as Gandhiji’s dream at the turn of the last century that there would be a holistic development and universal uplift (sarvodaya) is being advanced today by MGIMSonians.

2. Medical Education

MGIMS is a non-capitation educational institution. It does not have any NRI quota and it charges the tuition fees for its undergraduate and postgraduate medical courses at par with government medical colleges. The method of selection of candidates for the medical courses in MGIMS is through NEET. Students at MGIMS enjoys quality medical education with faculty drawn from among experts in their respective fields. In addition to the medical education that it provides, it exposes the students to real world problems that they may face in life, from very early days. The students take part in three different camps during their stay in MGIMS. The first one is at the Sevagram ashram where spent a fortnight to get an idea of Gandhiji’s vision. The second one is a few months later when every student is allotted five rural families each - a tradition that helps them understand health problems of the rural people during their five-year-long stay at MGIMS. The experience goes beyond textbooks. Waiting for dawn to perform blood tests in a village, looking down a microscope to spot a microfilaria which came out in a patient’s blood stream for its evening stroll and the raw enthusiasm to treat it, is an experience inexplicable. The third camp is the Reorientation of Medical Education (ROME) camp that is organized in the beginning of the final year. It is the application of the acquired textbook knowledge reoriented for the real world. It is a gateway from medical student to a doctor. This rich exposure to the rural India was earlier followed by a one-year-long posting in rural NGOs that allows students to acquire skills for practicing medicine in resource-limited settings. Sevagram is not about rural Medicine alone but also offers fantastic training in well-equipped laboratories, classrooms and hospital wards.

3. Plenty of Opportunities upon graduating

Today, MGIMS has a 1000-bed teaching hospital and a sprawling 450-acre campus in Sevagram. The medical college still admits only 100 students each year and has a high faculty:student ratio, ensuring individualized attention. Postgraduate courses were started in the early 1980s and are now offered in all subjects—preclinical, paraclinical and clinical. Nineteen of the twenty postgraduate courses are recognized by Medical Council of India. It also enrols PhD students across a range of disciplines. The degrees in both the medical and allied health science courses are conferred by the university to which MGIMS is affiliated—the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences. From the beginning, MGIMS was committed to excellence in education, clinical services and research. All in all, the medical education in MGIMS is structured for a better future of the doctors that it creates.

4. “Unto this last” and Sarvodaya

What John Ruskin termed as “Unto this last” and Gandhiji as “Sarvodaya”, meant universal uplift through facilities reaching the weakest sections of the society residing in the remotest areas- in India meaning its villages. MGIMSonians are touching the lives of millions through their contributions in patient-care, research and public service. Be it in the development of new technologies or making available drugs to those who cannot afford, the institute has attempted to help the deprived sections of the society. In today’s world where avarice and materialism are so commonplace, MGIMS tries to impart a rare quality of looking back and helping those who are left behind. It is us who are ready to work with the poorest of the poor. Sevagram draws students, teachers and patients from the length and width of the country. Yet, at this melting point it teaches the humility that is needed to serve those in need.

5. Humans before Healers

“Sevagram” literally means “A village for service”. In addition to being a medical school that has a significant patient care component, people associated with Sevagram have the passion to serve percolated deep into their lives. Right from the day we enter the college in the ashram to the day we sing "sau mein sattar aadmi" (representing the oppressed sections of the society); we are time and again reminded of the need for the service we need to render to the society. It underscores the need for ethical practice of medicine. Hence, from doctors working as public servants to those in the research or in clinics, we show impeccable work ethics that paint us all. The humanity instilled by the education and experiences in Sevagram have a lasting impact on its students and manifest in each and every endeavour of theirs.

6. Beyond academia

MGIMS alumni include a Rhodes Scholar, A professor of Cardiology at Harvard, a doctor who loves working among tribals, a Padma Shri awardee and a dermatologist who gets her book launched by Amitabh Bachchan. Sevagram does have prodigies who know Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine from cover-to-cover. But, MGIMS appreciates that there is a life beyond it. MGIMSonians have a heritage of excelling in extracurricular and co-curricular activities ranging from debates, sports and quizzes to research and development. The research culture here is nurtured from early days with encouragement to apply for scholarships like the ICMR-STS for undergraduates. Sevagram stands out in a number of other activities. The students and teachers have developed a culture for all-round development in spite of limited resources and a rural setting. MGIMS students get single- room in hostels, enjoy high speed Wi-Fi internet spread over a 400 acre campus, can exercise in a well-equipped gymnasium and can learn from teachers who simply love teaching. Right from Anatomy in the first year to Medicine in the final, teachers are more concerned about your classes than you. You can actually expect the head of the Department of Gynecology coming to your hostel to drag you to class. Nowhere else will you find a bigger passion to teach. A library with over 20,000 books and 220 garden-fresh journals, lush green gardens, and affordable eateries provide enough facilities to develop one’s personality. An electronic Hospital Information System (HIS) - networked by 400 desktops - has created a near paperless environment and has attracted the attention of medical schools, countrywide. In addition, residents in ICU now use iPads to access electronic health records at the point of care. MGIMS also gave the courage to “shake the world in a gentle way” by activists challenging laws related to rape, questioning unnecessary autopsies and revamping medical education.

7. Innovation meets necessity

Come to Sevagram to see for how India innovates- the art of “jugaad” (Hindi for an innovative fix; an improvised solution born out of ingenuity and cleverness). Here, innovation is born out of the necessity to provide healthcare to the poor and inaccessible regions of the country. From the use of a cut saline bottle as a vomit bowl to the use of innovative approaches like the Jawar Health Assurance Scheme, we innovate every day. MGIMS has contributed in such unique initiatives like the Community led Initiatives for Child Survival (CLICS) and international research studies like INTERSTROKE. At the same time, the institute maintains the highest levels of ethics in the conduct of research. The institute takes special care of the rights of the patients and subjects in the studies and schemes. Besides, the “jugaad” culture makes the Sevagram doctor multi-talented. They learn how to blend tradition (history and physical examination) with technology (modern high-end costly diagnostics). In short, MGIMS strives to add conversations between the doctor and the patient that are fast fading away into electronic prescriptions and test reports.

8. Family away from Home

Many students join medical school in their adolescence and most of them are out of their homes for the first time. MGIMS provides a loving and caring environment to all its students. Midway in the first year, MGIMS adopts a village and each of the students in the incoming batch is assigned a few families who they have to look after in an adopted village. These families are like extended families and many memories are created in them with the breakfasts that students have in their adopted families to the sheer enthusiasm they show when they provide medical care to the members of these families. Beyond these families, the faculty is very close to the students because of the limited number. Hence, often do MGIMSonians get the luxury of having a dessert in one of their professors’ home. It is not uncommon seeing professors commenting on a student’s blog or being their Facebook friend. It is a family that a student finds in Sevagram, far away from their own families but nevertheless equally enjoyable.

9. Relations forever

MGIMS is the melting pot of many regions and cultures. In the hectic coursework, everyday stresses and a busy lifestyle, Sevagram knows how to steal time for friendships and love. Students grow up as seniors and juniors or just batch-mates and continue into lifelong friends. Friends, who help each other through thick and thin, both medically and otherwise. These friendships exist all through the world wherever MGIMSonians have set foot. The place is not just about khadi, prayer and shramdaan. Here, you truly bond with you batch mates and seniors. You team up with them; you dance, sing and work with them. They help you study and they help you cope. Here they become your family. On a lighter note, on an average, beginning 1969, every batch has had at least one marriage among batch-mates. MGIMS builds relationships for life and helps people come together for the worst of tragedies to the best of parties.

10. Sevagram knows

Sevagram is a place where thoughts are transmitted faster than they are produced. It is a place where many of our secrets come out and you discover that everyone from your professor to your barber has an opinion about it. It is a place where people know you, not just your Facebook page with all the good stuff in it. Friends know exactly what can irritate you, professors know exactly which chapter you must have missed and even Anna from the Indian Coffee House knows what your order for the evening would be. Deep within, every person associated with Sevagram still believes that Sevagram is the only place that “knows me”. It exactly knew how to catch me when I gave a proxy attendance, it saw me smile when someone smiled at me, it saw me cry for having failed an exam and it knew how we celebrated when we defeated a rival college. Sevagram has witnessed innumerable memories as girls and boys grew up to be ladies and gentlemen; from khadi-clad freshers to stethoscope- donned specialists. Sevagram makes space for itself in every heart that it touches.

Last Modified: Friday 07 June 2024.

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