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It was 1978 when in the village of Kanhapur (Maharashtra’s Wardha District), a widowed landless labourer came to a gynaecologist. She came to seek treatment for her daughter for gastroenteritis and pneumonia. The gynaecologist namely Dr Bang found that her condition was very serious. She told her to take her daughter to the nearest hospital as soon as possible.
However, when two days later, Dr Bang reached the clinic she saw that the same infant was struggling for breath. She was in her five-year-old sister’s arms. The infant then died in front of her. This incident left a deep impact on Dr bang’s mind. She realised that healthcare was not only about medicine and recovery but being sensitive to your patients.
What caused the realisation?
When Dr Bang found that woman two days later in her clinic with her daughter struggling for life, she learnt that she didn’t take her to the hospital as suggested. This infuriated Dr Bang. Upon asking her the reason, the woman said that she earned by working in the fields all day. If she wouldn’t have gone to the field that day she wouldn’t have been able to feed her children.
She further said that she couldn’t let her other children die of starvation because of the one dying child. Hence, she had no other option but to leave the sick child back at home when she had to work out in the field. This was what hit Dr Bang and she learnt what she needed to do to improve the scenario.
From a gynaecologist to a social reformer
It’s been over 30 years now since Dr Rani Bang and her husband Dr Abhay Bang have dedicated themselves to serve for the social and educational upliftment of Gadchiroli. It is a tribal district of Maharashtra.
This couple has also been awarded Padma Shri. In 1986, they came back from the United States to serve their homeland. They established a health organisation named SEARCH in the same year. SEARCH stands for Society for Education, Action, and Research in Community Health. Through this organisation, they set up health surveys in the villages. This led them to the discovery that 90% of the women in the villages were suffering from gynaecological disorders. The majority were STD-related.
Dr Bang was the only gynaecologist in the district
Back in the day, Dr Bang was the only gynaecologist in the whole district. She was thus the first to perform cesarean surgery in that area. Apart from SEARCH, the couple also set up Shodh-gram, 17 km from Gadchiroli. The purpose was to work out solutions in collaboration with the villagers.
The Shodh-gram consists of a de-addiction centre, a farming patch for training, and a sex education program for the school kids. Most importantly, Shodh-gram not only hosts the Ma Danteshwati Hospital, but also a temple for the deity to make it more tribal-friendly. Thus, Shodh-gram is their home, research campus, and quarters for SEARCH.
Other contributions of Dr Rani Bang (gynaecologist) and Dr Abhay Bang
It was their research which shook the World Health Organisation. Their research proved that it was pneumonia and not diarrhoea which was the main cause of under-five mortality. This helped the World Health Organisation change its drug manufacturing strategy. They got to publish this research work in the internationally known journal, Lancet. This journal honoured them as “the pioneers of healthcare in rural India”.
The couple has served the villages in other several ways as well. For example, they even opened a cost-effective Home-Based Newborn Care Program. There they have been giving training to the dais in the villages. The training includes examining expectant mothers, regular health check-ups, providing medical help to newborns and mothers, etc. These trained dais are called ‘Arogyadoot’ which means health warrior. The arogyadoots are also trained in administering injections to newborns.
The couple would have settled in the United States and could live a good comfortable life. But instead, they chose to return to their homeland and serve for the upliftment of the underprivileged tribes. Their dedication and concern for their homeland have shown that selfless and true citizens exist who can sacrifice anything for the greater cause. An Inspiring Journey of Arpana ServicesAdd to favorites