Ketan Patel will always remember the shock he felt when a burn victim was turned away from a hospital in India where he volunteered the summer after his freshman year at GW.
A propane tank had exploded all over the 23-year-old woman while she was cooking. After talking with her family, Patel realized the incident had occurred Friday, but she arrived at the hospital Sunday because she could not afford the transportation cost.
“I had been so sheltered by the American health care system,” Patel, 24, said. “I didn’t understand why the woman could not be treated right away and I started asking myself how much it would cost me to pay for her treatment.”
After seeing the wide disparity in health care firsthand, Patel and his twin brother, Kamal, founded Global Aid, which seeks to build medical clinics in developing countries. The brothers, who both graduated from GW in 2008 with biomedical engineering degrees, created a program that sends medical interns to underprivileged locations to work with health care professionals in the fields of medicine, business and international development.
Global Aid eventually hopes to construct clinics in countries where medical facilities are lacking and local residents are not provided with adequate health care. The first clinic will be launched in India in 2012.
Kamal, a third-year medical student at GW, said he hopes the organization can learn from the interns’ experiences and use the information to build successful clinics.
“What we have is sort of like a staircase,” he said. “We don’t just want to take interns to different countries and have the same experience each time. We want to learn from the years before and build off of those lessons.”
Global Aid started its internship program last year. Seven student interns took the four-week trip to India, including four from GW. The program has been expanded to include opportunities in South Africa, Thailand, Ecuador and Uganda. Trips are planned for winter and summer break, with a goal of sending 15 students per trip. Global Aid has already received more than 40 applications for its winter trips and will continue accepting them on a rolling basis until the end of October.
Ketan – who received his master’s of business degree from the University this past spring – said the nontraditional nature of the internship program helps students realize their passion for making a difference, as he and his brother have, while exploring a different culture.
“Let’s be serious, you can read a book on culture anywhere,” he said. “But to experience the day-to-day lifestyles and encounter a different situation each day helps people find out who they are.”
Global Aid will use donations and the help of partner organizations to build its clinics.
“It’s not about making money,” Patal said. “We’re able to do such great things in giving back and that’s what makes us feel good at the end of the day.”
For Kamal, there is one lesson he hopes the interns will learn from the program.
“I want the interns to be able to say, ‘Hey, I have an engineering degree but I can still be in India and give back,'” he said. “No matter who you are, you can use your time and your skills to help others.”