Onwards and upwards for the next steps by Dr Helen Watson, Director of Allied Health Professionals, Cambridge University Hospitals

Munish.Datta's picture

A week’s visit to the beautiful Rishikesh in North eastern India at the foothills of the Himalayas was so much more of an enlightening experience than I expected. What in incredible week, I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to visit the area and experience the culture. So many of the people in this region have so little yet are still smiling and grateful.

The trip was first discussed in 2019. When I joined Addenbrookes I was really keen to become involved with the Rama Foundation. The aims of the Rama Foundation to try to improve the quality of life for those living in disadvantaged communities in rural India really resonated with me and I was excited to see how I could play a part. I really hoped we could expand the great work of the Dietitians to other health professionals. Covid meant it wasn’t until nearly 3 years later that I was able to visit Rishikesh, the Ganga Prem Hospice and start to develop a relationship with the Himalayan Institute of Medical Sciences. The visit was busy, humid and monsoon drenched and so full of warmth and welcome from all our hosts. The welcome we received really helped to cement the value of developing the relationships further. The food wow! Was so varied and incredibly tasty – vegetarian – I loved all of it – and had the opportunity to try so many different dishes. I wasn’t so keen on the very sweet desserts!!
I hoped to see a slice of the AHP world in India and we did. The harsh reality of minimal AHP input in the hospital and the hospice. Low numbers of AHPs almost paralysed by the volume of patients – often unable to know where to start to make an impact and support the medical and nursing teams. The Indian people had so little yet were grateful for every aspect of help and support the medical teams were able to provide.

My desire to inform the medical and nursing teams of the potential value and impact of more AHPs to support and of AHP leadership was intense. There is so much more we can do – but where is the best place to start? I am especially grateful for the meticulous planning, organisation, Hindi language skills and constant support of Artika, Munish and Yush. We developed such a strong bond between us and I was so impressed by Lucy, Paula and Rachel’s attitude and willingness to be fully immersed and take part in all the opportunities we were offered. We all worked well together, we had great fun and we made some fantastic memories!

I look forward to our plans for the next steps and for further broadening of the partnerships and exploring how we can further support both the Hospice and the Institute of Medical Sciences.There is huge potential for us to continue to expand this education partnership I am so excited to plan the next stage and our visit in the summer of 2024. I hope we can recruit more AHPs from different professions to join the fabulous learning and sharing experience. Onwards and upwards for the next steps in this great venture.

Watch Helen volunteering in India: https://youtu.be/bWPeeBOLauE