Experience of a lifetime

Making a difference through UQ Medicine

Nestled in the Manali Valley at the foothills of the Indian Himalayas is the Lady Willingdon Hospital, a small but busy facility with a unique philosophy: no patient will be turned away, no matter their race, religion, age, sex or financial situation.

Unfortunately, this philanthropy comes at a price. With too many patients and not enough resources to manage them, Lady Willingdon relies heavily on both local and international support in order to continue its compassionate model of care.

Every year, four first-year medicine students at UQ are chosen to manage the Manali Medical Aid Project (MMAP). Started by UQ students in 2007, MMAP is designed to provide much-needed financial aid to the hospital.

In addition to coordinating fundraising events for that year, the organisers have the opportunity to undertake their end-of-year clinical placement at Lady Willingdon, giving them four weeks to put their skills to the test and see their fundraising efforts come to fruition.

In 2016 this team consisted of Henry Zimmermann, Matt McMahon, Serena Kosciejew, and James Huelin.

Henry views MMAP as the experience of a lifetime.

“It allowed us to witness firsthand what our fundraising efforts were going to support, and gave us, as prospective medical professionals, an opportunity to experience health care in a different cultural and economic context.”

Henry Zimmerman, UQ fourth-year medical student working on Manali Medical Aid Project (MMAP)

The clinical placement at Lady Willingdon Hospital is predominantly observation-based; students are not expected to participate in procedures, but rather to watch and learn from medical professionals working in a unique and challenging environment.

The 2016 MMAP team.

The 2016 MMAP team.

“The doctors are fantastic,” Serena says.

“Their clinical knowledge and ability to ration limited resources while maintaining a high level of individual patient care was incredible and inspiring.”

MMAP has a strong tradition of facilitating the purchase of vital medical equipment. In past years it has contributed towards a CT scanner and ambulance to service the region, as well as funding for the treatment of drug-resistant tuberculosis. The 2016 team are pleased to announce that their fundraising efforts are going towards a dental x-ray sensor, a new patient transport vehicle, supporting the local orphanage and bolstering the hospital's funding for tuberculosis and economically disadvantaged patients.

The 2016 project managers raised $37,000 through their efforts, focusing on getting support from the local community. Bare-foot bowls, a barbeque and a trivia night were among the charitable events arranged by the team. Matt attributes a lot of success towards a community dinner supported by his mother Ann McMahon, “filled with live music, a raffle, an auction, dancing and Indian-style cuisine.” These community events raised $12,000, with the rest of the money coming from a generous $25,000 donation.

During their time at the hospital the team was struck by the attitudes of the patients, who were always in good spirits despite their difficult circumstances.

“The acceptance, kindness and stoicism was humbling to witness," says James.

The 2016 project managers will soon be passing on the torch to a new group of keen volunteers. Shaq Rizvi, Sehrish Khokhar, Heather Hunt and Teresa Liew have been chosen as the 2017 team, and are all committed to tackling the challenges of providing healthcare in Manali.

Lady Willingdon is currently looking to upgrade its badly outdated male ward and outpatient department. With any luck, the new team will provide the funding to make this possible, as well as contribute to the vital work carried out at the hospital.

The 2017 MMAP team is looking for donations to support their efforts. If you would like to make a contribution or learn more about the project, visit their website or follow them on Facebook.