RMF India Thanks Our Incredible Medical Volunteers

May 22, 2010

Caitlin McQuilling

Matt Oertli and Tyler Chernin just graduated from Harvard Medical School and are bracing for their next big step, beginning their residencies, moving to new cities, and giving up sleep (which they already sorely miss). While many of their classmates decided to take this time between the pressures of medical school and the hectic life of residency for well-deserved rest and relaxation, Tyler and Matt flew across the world to return to the sweltering heat of Jhabua, a rural town in Madhya Pradesh, India, to help RMF for a month.


Dr. Matt Oertli & Setu Patel at the Health Camp


At the same time, Setu Patel, an American Physician’s Assistant, decided to also generously donate her vacation time while visiting family in India, to come to Jhabua and lend a much needed hand.

One day off the plane, Tyler and Matt battled jetlag to help hold the Bhil Academy’s annual health camp for perspective students and their families. With the help of Setu and our local medical team, they screened over 200 children and referred serious cases for follow-up at our partner hospital. The hectic schedule continued.


Dr. Matt Oertli & Setu Patel


During their time here, Matt, Setu, and Tyler focused their time on both individual patients and addressing long-term systematic needs. They helped us create a training program for our new nutrition rehabilitation center staff, helped procure better medical equipment for our field health team, and focused on quality of care, especially emergency care at our partner hospital, Jeevan Jyoti Health Service Society. As with all our programs, things don’t always go as expected and Matt, Tyler, and Setu stepped up to the challenges and adapted to situations. When one of our health worker’s daughters fell seriously ill, they acted and immediately arranged to take the entire family to a specialty hospital in Ahmadabad, 10 hours away, without a second thought.

The students at the Bhil Academy loved having the group to hang out with every day. Even though the group has only been gone for a few weeks now, many of the students have already written letters to them for us to send to the US.

Vinay, one of our brightest 9th class students, was one of the most excited to see Tyler and Matt returning. Last year when Tyler and Matt volunteered with us in Jhabua they had helped with the medical care of Vinay’s father. Despite all our efforts, unfortunately Vinay’s father passed away and the family was stuck with crippling medical debts. Vinay’s family told us that they would need to pull him out of school so he could support the family in working to pay back the medical debts. When Tyler found out about this back in the US, he immediately initiated a campaign through his friends and family to raise money to pay Vinay’s family’s debts. Tyler was able to raise enough money in a few weeks to be able to repay the debts and keep Vinay in school. It was touching to see Vinay and Tyler’s first interaction since being back. Vinay was counting down the days until Tyler’s arrival, but once Tyler arrived he was nervous to see him: As a popular 14 year old he was embarrassed he might start crying in front of his classmates. Vinay is still one of the best performers in school, all thanks to Tyler’s efforts to keep him there.


Dr. Tyler Chernin


We thank Matt, Setu, and Tyler for giving up their vacations to work tirelessly for our friends in Jhabua. It was an incredible pick-me-up for the RMF staff to have such dedicated, positive, and interesting people here for the month. We learned a great deal from the crew – from Setu’s advanced clinical experience and cooking skills to Matt’s ability to connect with patients and grasp both medical and psychological needs to Tyler’s ability to translate difficult concepts into easy to follow guidelines. We were lucky to have volunteers who came and made a huge impact to our programs and who also made us laugh.

RMF’s doors are always open to bright, driven, passionate volunteers like Setu, Tyler, and Matt. Please contact us if you’re interested in finding out more about how to volunteer your time and skills both in the field and back home.

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