We often receive emails of thanks and safe return from our International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) participants. After three intense weeks of traveling the United States, making new friends and enhancing their professional experiences, the emails we receive are bittersweet – sad that the project has ended, but happy to be home.
Just last Friday, Dr. Tamorish Kole, Director of Emergency Medicine at a New Delhi hospital and a Regional Faculty Member of the American Heart Association, completed his IVLP project, which was designed for seven emergency planning and disaster management specialists from South and Central Asia. Dr. Kole’s message to us was different: he was about to put his IVLP experience to immediate use in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand.
Dr. Kole shared that a day after returning home from his IVLP project, he was repacking his bags to travel to the flood-affected state of Uttarakhand, where at least 1,000 people are thought to have died and tens of thousands were stranded after the heaviest monsoon rains in 60 years. While at the Max Healthcare hospital in that region, he will likely use some of the practical experience learned from his American counterparts to help his country manage and cope with this disaster.
Dr. Kole’s “Crisis and Disaster Management” IVLP project examined emergency preparedness, management, planning and coordination among the public and private sectors. He was joined by six others from Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Nepal and Vietnam. The itinerary included visits to seven U.S. cities: Washington, DC, Baltimore, Maryland, New York, New York, Tulsa, Oklahoma, San Francisco and Sacramento, California, and Pensacola, Florida.
A highlight of the Baltimore program included a meeting with the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Services, as well as with the Baltimore County Volunteer Firemen’s Association. In Tulsa, Dr. Kole was able to visit emergency services in tornado affected areas. The Sacramento visit included a look at state government disaster response policy. In San Francisco, Mr. Kole and other visitors visited the Chinatown Safety Fair and learned about the Chinatown Disaster Response Project, including the role of community volunteers who support government agencies in firefighting, building inspections, as well as in search and rescue efforts. In Pensacola the professional program included a visit to the West Florida Hospital to look at the emergency operations and decontamination facility.
Dr. Kole is a leader in Emergency Medicine in India and has promoted the establishment of specialized training programs for medical residents, increasing the country's capacity to care for individual and mass medical problems.
He was highly impressed by American volunteerism and the role of communities in disaster preparedness and response. He commented at the project’s evaluation session, that “…American communities do a lot on their own, instead of being fully reliant on the government.” He added that “… Observing community based programs was one of the most valuable experiences.” As a professional take-away from his IVLP program, he plans to promote and implement the idea of Community Emergency Response Teams across India.
Calling his IVLP program a “wonderful experience of his life,” Dr. Kole is committed to sharing the acquired knowledge and information with government officials and community leaders in India to make needed changes and introduce useful preparedness and response practices in his country. Likely, he had no idea that this new knowledge would be put to use quite so soon.
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