01 March, 2021

Healing Heartlands

The SVYM and its idealist doctors go against the grain—to the villages

Healing Heartlands

As an intern at a Mysore hospital in 1984, Dr R. Balasubramaniam came across a 44-year-old patient with idiopathic hypertension, or high blood pressure from no readily indentifiable causes. All that doctors could do was write out prescriptions. Some medicines were not available at government hospitals; others were expensive and out of the patient’s reach. Ultimately, the patient died. The cause of death, as Dr Balasubramaniam puts it, was treatment that was never administered. The death of someone in his mid-40s from an easily manageable condition left a deep impression on Balasubramaniam’s  mind. He vowed to reach out to people with little or no access to healthcare. Teaming up with 20 like-minded students from the Mysore Medical College, he set up the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM) to take healthcare to poor villagers.

Diagnosis by slovenly trial-and-error, batteries of unnecessary tests, overprescription—these are the bane of treatment, burdening patients, and in India, keeping treatment out of the reach of the poor. By focusing on...

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