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Service Wing - National Medical Conference - Sai Ideal Healthcare

The first Sai Ideal Healthcare Conference in the United Kingdom was convened on Saturday, 17th September 2011 at Henley Business School, University of Reading. It was attended by about 150 professionals from various fields such as medicine, surgery, anaesthetics, paediatrics, dentistry, psychiatry, pharmacy, optometry, nursing etc. The purpose of the conference was to raise awareness of the Principles and Practise of Ideal Healthcare, as taught and inspired by our beloved Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Whilst the morning session of the conference focused on the Principles of Sai Ideal Healthcare, the afternoon session highlighted various practical projects currently in operation- such as hospitals, clinics, and camps- that incorporate these principles.

The Conference started on an auspicious note with an invocation and prayers for the Grace of the Almighty. The modern and spacious venue set in the peaceful sorrounds of the University also seemed to uplift the minds and spirits of all participants. A delightful picture of Bhagawan projected on to a big screen on the stage, and Bhagawan’s throne placed in the centre of the front row amidst the delegates, brought a palpable sense of sanctity and calmness in the auditorium that prevailed throughout the day’s proceedings.

After a brief introduction by Dr. Anila Modi, who anchored the morning session and herself a scientist researching on pancreatic islet cells, delegates were welcomed with an overview of the conference by Dr. Puvanachandra, Consultant Ophthalmologist and member of the International Medical Committee (IMC) of the Sri Sathya Sai World Foundation. He reminded the congregation very aptly, that whilst it is important to engage in discussions and plans for various healthcare projects and participate in conferences , it is more important not to lose sight of the fact that Bhagawan Baba exhorts us to first practise the Principles of ideal healthcare in our daily personal and professional lives.

Following his talk, seven short presentations on the principles of Sai Ideal Healthcare were made by various speakers. They shared experiences from their day to day professional lives that illustrated how, with only some little effort, these principles when put into practise brought joy and happiness to everyone.

1. ‘Spirit of Sacrifice is the Hallmark of a Healthcare Professional’
Professor Surendra Upadhyay , Honorary Professor and Consultant Ophthalmologist, UCL London.

Prof. Upadhyay is well known in the Sai family as a pioneer of International Medical Camps run by the Sri Sathya Sai Service Organisation UK, and as a Member of the International Medical Committee. He elaborated on the meaning of sacrifice as described by Swami- to love and serve in need without any personal reservations or expectations to the best of one’s capacity. He illustrated it through his numerous experiences and interactions with Swami, Mother Teresa and observations at the many Sai Medical Camps he conducted in various countries. He encouraged all healthcare professionals to participate in the medical camps.

2. 'Purpose of Healthcare’
Dr. Nikila Ankur Pandya, Consultant Pediatrician, Maidstone &
Turnbridge Wells NHS Trust

Dr. Pandya quoted Swami’s teachings which emphasize that the purpose of healthcare is to express Love and achieve physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. She then brought to the attention of the conference that many healthcare bodies in the world including the WHO, now acknowledge and concur with this principle, as reflected in their statements and definitions of health. She illustrated this through her experiences at the Sri Sathya Sai Medical Camps in Malawi, Russia, Ukraine and Alike, India.

3. ‘Integral Approach to Healthcare’
Dr. Adam Stainton Price, General Practitioner, Cornwall.

Dr. Price, an ardent devotee of Bhagawan Baba, elaborated on the holistic approach to healthcare as emphasized by Swami and which he has practiced in his daily clinical work. The primary physician is in a unique position to treat the patient as a whole, in the context of a better knowledge about the patient’s circumstances and background, and thus is able to focus not just on physical ailments but also ensure mental and emotional well-being. He also stressed the importance and value of team work amongst the healthcare professionals, communication skills between the healthcare professional and patients and reminded delegates that 50% of the cure is provided by our soothing and calm speech.

4. ‘Healthcare with Social Consciousness’
Mr. Daryll Baker, Consultant Vascular Surgeon, Royal Free Hospital, London

Mr. Baker has participated in several international medical camps. He spoke of his experiences at these camps and his understanding of the Sai principles that he gathered from these experiences. He summarized that Sai principles emphasized the expansion of one’s social awareness, thus allowing an individual to acknowledge the suffering of our fellow human beings in different societies of the world. Such consciousness must be translated into positive action to reduce this suffering using high-quality healthcare.

5. ‘Prevention is Better than Cure’
Dr. Suneil Aggarwal,
Specialist Registrar in Cardiology, The Heart Hospital, London

Dr. Aggarwal previously worked as a Cardiology Resident at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Prasanthigram, India between 2005 and 2008. He also has participated in Medical Camps in India and Malawi and in Health awareness Clinics in London, Southampton and Oxford. Dr. Aggarwal emphasized Swami’s message that Prevention is Better than Cure and illustrated this with his experiences and observations at the Sri Sathya Sai Insititute of Higher Medical Sciences. He ended very aptly by quoting from a conversation with Bhagawan, when He said that ideal healthcare ought to result, in fact, in there being no need for hospitals!

6. ‘Food and Health’
Professor Keshavan Niranjan, Professor of Food Bioprocessing at University of Reading, UK.

An internationally acclaimed Food Scientist, Professor Niranjan is well known to the Sai family as the Director of the Institute of Sathya Sai Education, Sri Sathya Sai Service Organisation UK. In his interesting talk, the Professor stressed the importance of the process of food preparation and the how this can impact physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. He highlighted that healthcare professionals have a duty to educate their patients on healthy eating which could prevent many diseases. He reminded the importance of ‘being’ spiritual, apart from participating in spiritual activities such as nutrition camps, medical camps etc.

7. ‘Why Serve’
Dr. Nishith Patel, Specialist Registrar in Cardiothoracic Surgery,
Bristol Heart Institute, UK.

Dr. Patel has actively participated in International Medical Camps in Kenya, Russia and India. He based his talk on quotes from Swami’s Discourses on the meaning of Service and why one should serve. ‘Activities performed with holy motives, with love, and with no selfish expectations are determined by the Divine as acts of Service or Seva’, he reminded the delegates. He emphasized that the purpose of service is to help one recognize that the same divinity exists in all beings.

The morning session concluded with an interactive session addressed by a panel consisting of Dr. Upadhyay, Dr. Puvanachandra and Mr. Baker. The Conference Souvenier booklet titled ‘Experiencing Kinship through Healthcare’ was released by Mr. Shitu Chudasama, Chairperson of the UK Sai Organisation. After a sumptuous lunch, when delegates also had a chance to visit the Exhibition on Sai Ideal Healthcare, the afternoon session commenced.

Anchored by Dr. Rakendu Suren, Consultant Psychiatrist in London and a Saistudent alumnus, this session began with a series of short talks on the Sri Sathya Sai General Hospitals and the Institutes of Higher Medical Sciences in Prasanthi Nilayam and Bangalore. Dr. Dharam Maudgal, a retired consultant gastroenterologist from London, who now works and leads the department in Prasanthi Nilayam shared his journey of spiritual transformation and happiness under the Divine Guidance of Bhagawan Baba. He encouraged all present to grab any opportunity that might come their way to offer their services in these divine institutions. Dr. Suneil Aggarwal, who worked in Cardiology in SSSIHMS Prasanthi Nilayam for 3 years, spoke of the learning and experience he gained from his seniors in the department who were always loving and patient. Dr. Pinakin Shah, a dentist from London who participates in the international rota and has been working as a visiting dentist over many years in Prasanthi Nilayam, recounted his various experiences that were both educative and insightful to many participants, especially the young dentists in the audience. Dr. Puvanachandra, who coordinates the international medical rota from UK, concluded this section with an update on the opportunities available and guidelines for service in these hospitals.

Then followed a detailed presentation on international medical camps by Mrs. Urvi Widhani, a banking professional from London who has been involved in organizing the camps along with Dr Upadhyay since many years. Various aspects were covered, such as- initial survey of needs, building local partnerships, obtaining necessary approvals from local governments, logistics of procurement and transportation, mobilizing personnel and equipment, etc. Mrs. Bina Patel then elaborated on the organization of Pharmacy services in these camps, whilst Mr. Kanti Mistry gave glimpses of the tremendous work that the Optometrists render to support the Ophthalmology services in these camps. Mr. Kathiramalai, who coordinates the activities of ‘Something Beautiful for God’- a voluntary group that sends clothes and toys for children in various parts of the world as gifts, handmade lovingly in UK- then gave a very short but touching presentation on their activities. Dr. Upadhyay concluded this session recounting some beautiful experiences from the recent medical camp in Ukraine.

Mrs. Gayatri Bikoo, National Service Coordinator and a clinical nurse specialist by profession, gave a presentation on various healthcare activities undertaken within the UK by the Sai Organisation in partnership with local councils and other agencies. These include organising Health Awareness clinics, blood donation and bone marrow donation clinics; in 2011 alone, about a 1000 patients have been seen in the 6 clinics conducted so far, and more are still being organized. She shared that the Organisation wishes to build sustainable partnerships with local government councils and invited interested delegates to extend their support.

This was followed by a very informative presentation on the sustainable projects, such as hospitals and clinics, being run by devotees of Bhagawan in various parts of the world, and where ample opportunities to serve exist at present. Dr. Kumarasen Pillai, Consultant Psychiatrist, Newport talked about the Sathya Sai Hospitals in Rajkot, Pothepalli and Alike in India; he also brought to the attention of the conference the Sathya Sai Clinics in South Africa, Botswana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Dr. Puvanachandra spoke of the ongoing activities in the Vavuniya area of Sri Lanka, and gave an update on currents needs and opportunities for Service.
After a short coffee break, delegates reassembled for a surprise treat! A live video-link with Dr. Narendranath Reddy in California USA, and Chairman of the Sathya Sai International Medical Committee. Dr. Reddy assured the conference that Bhagawan’s Global Healthcare Mission would continue to carry forward His Divine Message of Universal Love with unabated enthusiasm and vigour. He congratulated all delegates for participating in the Conference and encouraged all to engage with the various activities such as medical camps, clinics and hospital rotations. He invited interested professionals to enlist for telemedicine activities currently being conducted by the International Medical Committee such as teaching webinars, tele-reporting, video- consultations etc. Dr. Reddy’s talk was very warmly received by one and all at the conference.

The Conference was brought to a close with a brief presentation on the ‘Way Forward’ by Dr. Veeru Mudigonda, National Spiritual Coordinator and a Saistudent alumnus, followed by a Vote of Thanks by Mrs. Gayatri Bikoo. The next Healthcare Conference will be held during the 15th and 16th of September 2012. It is envisaged that whilst we continue with our various activities in the ensuing period, a fully functional National Healthcare Coordinating Committee will be in place in the immediate future. The sole objective and purpose of this committee will be to optimize all efforts and resources available within UK, thus enabling participation in the Global Sai Ideal Healthcare Mission in a more efficient and effective manner.