For­mer AIMU Stu­dent Speaks Out!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By

INishi Narayanan am Nishi Narayanan. I grad­u­ated from AIMU in 2013 with my Doc­tor of Medicine de­gree. I am cur­rently pur­su­ing my med­i­cal in­tern­ship at Mil­ton Cato Me­mo­rial Hos­pi­tal in St. Vin­cent. I am also a found­ing mem­ber and con­tribut­ing writer of St. Lu­cia’s first satir­i­cal web­site, Is­land Wide News.

Re­gard­ing the re­cent scan­dal sur­round­ing AIMU, I thought I should put in my two cents’ worth con­sid­er­ing my sta­tus as a past stu­dent. When I be­gan my course in 2007, I was merely 18 years old and away from fam­ily for the first time. We were not in­formed that AIMU had just started a cam­pus in St. Lu­cia, in­stead we were told that AIMU was a well-es­tab­lished med­i­cal school with af­fil­i­a­tions to US hos­pi­tals for clin­i­cal ro­ta­tions. What Mr. Raju Babu told us prior to our ar­rival seemed very straight­for­ward. Af­ter ar­riv­ing in St. Lu­cia, we went through sev­eral hard­ships. Our wor­ries in­cluded how long the school would sur­vive, whether we would ever grad­u­ate, and whether we would even get jobs as doc­tors. I was one of the for­tu­nate ones. My fam­ily had taken over all fi­nan­cial re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and pro­vided me with much­needed emo­tional sup­port as well. Un­for­tu­nately, there were stu­dents like Vard­han who could not al­ways pay the re­quired fees and could not ob­tain any as­sis­tance from the school. We were given sev­eral empty prom­ises which we, as young naive adults,be­lieved. Fast for­ward to 2013, 40% of my batch grad­u­ated. The rest had ei­ther left the school or quit medicine en­tirely. No stu­dent was lured into any other school but rather it was an is­sue or two they ex­pe­ri­enced with the ad­min­is­tra­tion that caused them to trans­fer to an­other school.

I have al­ways wished to work in the Caribbean and I con­sider St. Lu­cia my sec­ond home. As soon as I grad­u­ated, I started to look into ob­tain­ing a med­i­cal in­tern­ship in St. Lu­cia, only to be mocked, in­sulted and told that I would never be a good doc­tor. One of the is­land’s most prom­i­nent con­sul­tant doc­tors, Dr. Leonard Surage, told me to not make the mis­take of go­ing to a bad med­i­cal school again. I am yet to de­ci­pher what he meant by telling me to not do it “again”. Am I re­ally go­ing to spend an­other six years and a ton of money to go to a branded school like UWI just be­cause of the per­cep­tion that at­tend­ing UWI makes you the ul­ti­mate know-it-all su­per­hero doc­tor? Any­way, I ap­plied to St. Vin­cent and was ac­cepted. It is a two year pro­gramme and I will be com­plet­ing my first year this July. I have passed all my monthly eval­u­a­tions so far. None of my se­nior con­sul­tant doc­tors has told me that I am a bad doc­tor or that they would not be con­fi­dent to leave a pa­tient in my care. In­stead, it is al­ways words of en­cour­age­ment and con­struc­tive crit­i­cism.

We have known what it is like to be young adults try­ing to make a mark in this world. From ter­ri­ble cafe­te­ria food to be­ing made to pay an ex­tra USD 2,200 for grad­u­a­tion (we were told in a meet­ing that we would not be al­lowed to grad­u­ate un­less we paid the amount) to some stu­dents be­ing called “garbage” by Mr. Raju Babu in his bro­ken, fake Amer­i­can ac­cented English. Nev­er­the­less, most of us have made it fur­ther. Many of us are on our paths to be­com­ing li­censed med­i­cal of­fi­cers soon, do­ing our in­tern­ships in In­dia and St. Vin­cent. A few are even do­ing their masters in prom­i­nent uni­ver­si­ties in the US.

It is a lie that 47 of 48 stu­dents from Vard­han’s batch are li­censed to prac­tice in the US and In­dia. As far as I know, only one stu­dent has se­cured a res­i­dency po­si­tion in the States and is li­censed to prac­tice medicine. The rest of my class­mates are in In­dia ei­ther do­ing their med­i­cal in­tern­ship or study­ing to pass the Med­i­cal Coun­cil of In­dia ex­ams to se­cure in­tern­ship spots. The ones in St. Vin­cent are an­other class­mate and my­self.

How­ever, there is also an al­le­ga­tion that AIMU is in­volved in hu­man traf­fick­ing. I beg to dif­fer. We were never traf­ficked here, at least not my co­hort of stu­dents. We were given ac­com­mo­da­tion and food (although they were not to the stan­dards pre­vi­ously men­tioned, and were in fact pretty pa­thetic). Classes were taught by doc­tors from all over the is­land. Some of the fac­ulty in­cluded Dr. Kenny An­thony, Dr. An­dre Matthew, Dr. Al­jay Pierre, Dr. Ker­win Lan­siquot and Dr. In­grid Cox.

AIMU has come a long way from that very first class in 2007. I be­lieve that it can be one of the lead­ing med­i­cal uni­ver­si­ties in the Caribbean in the fu­ture. How­ever, I do be­lieve that the cor­rupt ad­min­is­tra­tion needs to change, and that stu­dents who fly in to St. Lu­cia need to be told the truth about Caribbean med­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion and the dif­fi­culty of ob­tain­ing a med­i­cal res­i­dency in the States rather than a fan­tasy world with an easy to ob­tain lu­cra­tive med­i­cal ca­reer in the US.

I would one day love to come back to St. Lu­cia and work as doc­tor pro­vided the Med­i­cal and Den­tal Coun­cil of St. Lu­cia ac­tu­ally gives me and the rest of the stu­dents an op­por­tu­nity. If St. Vin­cent can hire me and train me to be­come who I am now, why can’t the is­land that houses my alma mater? I have seen sev­eral news re­ports claim­ing an alarm­ing lack of doc­tors in some im­por­tant sec­tions of VH like the ER. If SLMDA would open its eyes and give us one op­por­tu­nity, things might change for the bet­ter. I do not say that it needs to blindly hire us. It can make pass­ing CAMC (UWI med­i­cal exam for non-UWI med­i­cal grads) a cri­te­ria. Upon pass­ing this exam, we could be al­lowed to do the in­tern­ship, eval­u­ated, and hired if we prove to be of a set stan­dard. There is noth­ing wrong with giv­ing some­one an op­por­tu­nity. It is what is made of the op­por­tu­nity that mat­ters.

Is there more be­hind th­ese walls of AIMU than we will ever know?

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