Two ETSU doctors return from medical outreach trip to India


JOHNSON CITY (October 31, 2014) – Two East Tennessee State University physicians with the Quillen College of Medicine recently returned from an outreach program in India. While there, Drs. Joseph Florence and Beth Fox taught physicians in the south central part of the country valuable lessons in how to treat and respond to emergencies related to the heart.

“We’re teaching the physicians there, when you’ve got a heart condition or stroke, how to get help, how to access an emergency medical system, how to set up a code team in a hospital that is a routine part of the facility and can respond in these situations,” said Florence, who has made at least eight trips to India since 1999 to teach Basic and Advanced Cardiac Life Support. “We’re training the people that can make the changes in the hospital, and they are very receptive to us.”

Florence first went to India after meeting Dr. Ravinder Reddy Surakanti, a doctor practicing in the United States whose family lives in rural India. Surakanti began his journey in the late 90s to bring Basic and Advanced Cardiac Life Support to the region after both his father and brother died suddenly from heart issues.

“They just died. They didn’t have defibrillators there to shock them. They didn’t have an ambulance to call,” said Florence, professor and director of rural programs for Quillen’s Department of Family Medicine. “Here, you just expect those things to be available. When you went over there, it wasn’t there. They had never really gotten into the concept of emergency medical care. They didn’t have ambulances running routinely.”

Over the past 15 years, Florence has seen that change some in certain regions.

“They have carts set up and ready at hospitals now, Basic Life Support training is required in hospitals there now and they have set up an EMS station with ambulances more readily available,” he said. “It’s really rewarding to see that all actually happening now.”

In addition to the advancement in health care, Florence said it is amazing to see the level of appreciation shown to him and his colleagues from those they are teaching.

“I don’t know how to describe it. As a teacher, sometimes you’re not sure of what good you are doing. You don’t really see it,” he said. “There, you can see it. What we’re doing over there is such a standard level of care here, but they get so excited to be able to do it. When you are able to talk to them – after that first patient they were able to save because they have a defibrillator they can use to shock the individual – that is just amazing.”

For Fox, professor and director of graduate medical education for Quillen’s Department of Family Medicine, the September trip to India marked her first time ever traveling abroad. She joined Florence on the journey to offer her expertise in the realm of simulation training.

“It was a wonderful opportunity for me to talk about something I am passionate about and to do it in a place where it might be even more appreciated,” she said. “It’s an everyday thing here, but it’s all brand new over there.”

The experience left Fox with a new appreciation for the level of health care available here in the United States.

“We don’t think about it here because it is always seemingly available,” she said. “I don’t think we truly realize there’s so many people out there that do not have these things that we have here.”

Fox and Florence have been asked to return to India early next year to continue their efforts there.

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