I 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 straight-forward. 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 much-needed 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.