Institutional distinctiveness

To Reach The Unreached, To Serve The Unserved: A Rural Focus And Thrust

St. John’s Medical College seeks to serve those most in need, with a preferential option for the poor and the disadvantaged, especially focusing on rural areas. This is manifested in the policies of the College which reserve medical seats for Catholic religious sisters who serve often in remote locations for the rest of their lives and is expressed in the 30 seats that St. John’s currently reserves for tribal and non-tribal students coming from health-poor areas of north and north-east India.

The seeds are sown through special training that students receive as part of their medical education. St. John’s initiated a two-week rural orientation programme (ROP) for first year medical students, forty years ago and later developed other rural residential training programmes such as the Community Health Action Programme (CHAP) for third year medical students. Long-term follow-up research shows that these programs have been instrumental in students’ decision to serve in rural areas.

While rural outreach was part of Department of Community Health activities since the inception of St. Johns in 1963, the setting up of the Rural Community Health Training Centre at Mugalur village in 1993, escalated rural outreach efforts to include focused attention on maternal and child health, community-based rehabilitation, care of the elderly, mental and noncommunicable disease care. These include collaborative rural outreach clinics and camps with departments of ENT, Ophthalmology, Psychiatry, Gynaecology-Oncology, SurgicalOncology, Orthopaedics, Chest Medicine, Dermatology, Physiotherapy and “Unit of Hope” a multidisciplinary initiative for children with disabilities. This brings quality health care closer to communities who have little or no access to specialty care. St. John’s has unique ways of reaching the unreached through its responses to every major national disaster through the Disaster Response Unit; the initiation of care of the elderly through “grama hiriyara kendras” – village centres for the elderly and health services for plantation workers, among others.

St. John’s Medical College has been the recipient of several prestigious grants for rural-based service and research, from National Institute of Health (USA) to CBM Germany to TATA Trusts. Such grants have resulted in many research papers being published in peer-reviewed, indexed journals.

St. John’s was one of the few institutes which mandated rural service for its MBBS graduates, long before it became a government policy. Since the last 40 years, hundreds of St. John’s medical graduates have served their two-year Rural Social Obligation Service. Of these, over 600 alumni belonging to the Sister-Doctor Forum of India have each continued to serve for decades in remote rural areas of the country.

Special awards to students and alumni are given on Graduation Day which go beyond the medical curriculum, awards for participation in disaster relief efforts, in social consciousness, in reflective medical writing and a lifetime award for service to the rural marginalized.

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