Tayo Alabi is a consultant orthopedic surgeon at Nigeria’s Lagos University Teaching Hospital, but he feels at home at Hinduja Hospital in Mahim, Mumbai. Alabi is among the growing breed of foreign doctors who go on self-funded trips to Indian hospitals to broaden their medical knowledge, preferring them over US and UK hospitals. “This is a rising and welcome trend,” confirmed Dr HS Rissam, member board of governors of the Medical Council of India and director, cardiology at Max Hospital, New Delhi.
In 1996, two Norwegian plastic surgeons doctors from Ethiopia visited Christian Medical College (CMC) in Vellore and left impressed. This lead to a project that let plastic surgeons from Ethiopia train for six months in Norway and six months in India. Of late though, the numbers of foreign doctors on observership programmes have increased noticeably. “Today we have overseas doctors coming to many departments like cardiology, infectious diseases, urology and ortho-surgery at the hospital,” said professor and head of plastic surgery at CMC, Ashish Gupta. Unlike the West, where plastic surgery is greatly associated with cosmetic surgery, Indian and Ethiopian surgeons share interest in cases like post-burn deformities, post trauma and post-cancer defects, and congenital deformities.
Consultant orthopaedic surgeon Dr Salah Elmegri from Basra, Iraq, came to Fortis Hopsital, Mumbai, in December 2011 for a month long, self-funded observership programme. Elmegri has been practising orthopaedics for almost 10 years in Basra.
“Many doctors from Iraq used to learn and work in England, Europe and USA, but clearly things changed,” he said in an email interview with DNA. “It was good to know that India had a lot to offer… There are quite a number of patients going from my country to India for medical treatment. We are seeing examples of good work being done. In addition, we feel India is much more accessible for us for gaining and sharing knowledge.”
Hinduja Hospital has had visiting doctors for the past two years. “They are mainly interested in learning how we render such good service at a low cost. In the West, the overhead cost is much higher,” says Gustad Daver, the hospital’s medical director who also confirmed that the number of visiting doctors from overseas has increased of late. Sachin Bhonsle, senior consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Fortis Hospitals, said that the complexity of cases and surgical procedures like joint replacements have made India an attractive training ground. “I was in England for 12 years and 90- 95 per cent of the cases that I got there were simple,” he said. “I have to say that my confidence has increased a lot after practising in India and handling complicated cases.”