Succeeding From The Clutches Of Life’s Hardships, This Doctor Is Now Training Underprivileged Kids

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American historian Howard Zinn once said, “Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.” Very few continue to live these lines. Those who do, make us question ourselves on the share of responsibility we have as fellow human beings. Dr Dhetchenamoorthy is one of the examples of such people.

Break the Shackles, Conquer Your Dreams !

Coming from a humble family background, Dr Dhetchenamoorthy’s father earned a paltry sum, and his mother was a housewife.  Since childhood, his ambition was to become a doctor. On the other side, he was also aware that studies and marks are his only weapon to live his dreams. 

He passed his entire schooling from the nearest Tamil medium public school in his town. Amid severe financial constraints, he passed with flying colours, thereby fulfilling his dream of becoming a medico, enrolling in Tanjore medical college with an excellent score. 

“Never introduced to English medium until college, wore torn clothes to school, struggled harsh realities of life. When kids witness someone being successful out of these things they complain about, they derive enormous courage to dream something magnanimous,” Dr Moorthy exclaims. 

Dr Dhetchenamoorthy

Since his graduation days, Moorthy was determined to motivate students like him to make sure they chase their dreams. During his college vacations at his hometown where he took motivational sessions for the children of public schools. His talk is paced with hard-hitting words of courage and strength to encourage children to dream big.

Using Thy Strength For A Cause

After completing his graduation in 2005, Moorthy wished to expand his work to more students. He contacted his school alumni and gathered more doctors, lawyers and professionals from his batch to start a group named “Thisaigal” (Directions]”. Together they had a long journey for the past 15 years grooming 1000’s of kids.

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Regular motivation and counselling sessions for students across the town was their primary work. Their efforts yielded results reflecting on student’s academic records. Some students turned up to special counselling sessions too.

Booklet On Career Guidance

Though the advent of the internet is remarkable, rural kids in India are still not aware of the varied career options available for them. Vast knowledge on innovative spheres of job and employment plays a vital role in empowering them for the future. 

Dhakshana Moorthy

To make children aware, Moorthy and his team of Thisaigal has prepared a booklet detailing the scholarships and entrance exams available for students from economically weak backgrounds. This encapsulates career opportunities in every stream and explains the ways and means to graduate with scholarships. It also carries information about all leading universities, colleges, including foreign institutes, and corresponding courses they provide. Loan processing and benefits are also discussed in-depth to educate kids on financial aid

To encourage sports among children, Thisaigal along with Indian Medical Association (IMA) and other NGOs is making free sports coaching available to the kids. The coaching is guided by the first Tamil woman to win a medal at Asian Games Shanthi Soundarajan. 

Free NEET Coaching Classes

Out of all initiatives shouldered, The milestone of Thisaigal is yet to be quoted!!

In 2018, Thisaigal started NEET coaching programme “SIGARAM”, in collaboration with IMA. Reputed doctors and professors in various fields conduct classes for the children under this programme. 

SIGARAM is one of the very few coaching institutes in Tamilnadu to get the students trained by Doctors themselves. In its very first-year induction, nine students out of 52 got selected. In the next consecutive year, 17 out of 104 students passed out successfully. With wholehearted involvement and motivation of students, classes are being conducted regularly in and around the town.

Nevertheless, Dr. Moorthy fulfills his professional duties as a service for people by various means!

As he continued, “Menstrual hygiene remains to be a very major reason for school dropouts, especially among adolescent girls in India. As an initial step to address this issue, we conduct videos sessions and clippings along with oral awareness sessions for menstrual hygiene”.

Dhakshana Moorthy

His group also conducts multiple health camps in villages to check the living conditions of people and to advise them of healthy living. With the efforts of IMA, Thisaigal and other health welfare associations a landmark result of ZERO Maternal mortality rate in the main town of Aranthangi, Pudukkottai was achieved. Being the town’s branch joint secretary of IMA, he is planning to undertake various health welfare initiatives across the town in the near future. 

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MyStory: “Two Months After I Joined IIT For My PhD I Was Diagnosed With TB”

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A person suffering from Tuberculosis (TB) not only battles the ‘Mycobacterium tuberculosis’ bacteria inside his lungs but also from the stigma attached to the disease. It weakens the patients in many different ways in their fight against the dreaded disease.  

My fight with TB was also filled with stigma. I joined IIT Kharagpur for my PhD in January 2015. Two months later, in March 2015, I was diagnosed with TB. I had to take sick leave from March 2015 that eventually lasted till June 2016. Initially, I did not respond well to medication. Further tests revealed that I had multidrug-resistant TB (MDR TB). This meant that the type of TB I had was resistant to two or more of the antitubercular medication I was taking.

About a year after the intensive phase of my treatment, I felt better and applied for readmission to IIT in July 2016. A prerequisite for rejoining was that my faculty members had to verify my application. With the formalities completed, I resumed my education, but I felt that something was amiss. 

My guide indicated that he did not want his work to suffer on account of my illness. I also heard from a senior colleague that my guide had said that I would spread the disease like an ‘infested animal’. I was disheartened at being subjected to this indignity by my supposed mentor.

However, my primary concern was defeating TB, so I didn’t dwell on it. Today, as I reflect on it, I realise the reasons behind the stigma were ignorance as well as fear.

Even among the educated, there are misconceptions about TB. People think all forms of TB are contagious. Others believe the patient is infectious for the entire length of the treatment. Some even believe that TB spreads through touch. This breeds the fear of contracting the illness.

As we know, people stigmatise and discriminate when they fear. I felt the impact of the stigma on two levels – in my professional life and my personal life.

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Professionally, the reluctance of my supervisor to mentor me and his discouragement affected me. I could not decide whether I should wait for the IIT authorities to tell me to leave or drop out. That decision was made for me by luck when I found out that my CSIR grant application was never processed. 

This meant that I would have to pay for my education. Given the expenditure on my treatment, this was unaffordable for me. This was the final nail in the coffin. I was forced to drop out and could not go back to completing my PhD.

What I faced was not technically illegal. I was discouraged from doing my PhD, but it was still a form of stigma. The external stigma I faced led to depression and isolation. 

Eventually, I realised I had to fight. The treatment for TB is difficult, requiring strict compliance and the management of side effects, and these demands resolve. I began motivating myself. I began following a proper diet and completing my treatment to ensure I could recover. I also turned to books as they transported me to other worlds and helped with my isolation. I also focused on reviving my old relationships.

Gradually, things improved. I could not proceed on my desired career path, but I am an educator now. I constantly realise that I have a role to play in shaping young minds. 

Workplace stigma has tangible consequences. It affects an individual’s career, financial opportunities and their right to work with dignity. So what can we do to address this stigma? 

First, we need to sensitise people by educating them about TB, and the impact stigma has on patients.

Another measure is group counselling involving the patient, the employer and the immediate supervisor. Informal versions of these sessions happen in the workplace in the context of illnesses like cancer. Why should it be any different for TB? 

The goal of this session would be to ensure that the patient is in a supportive environment. 

Finally, at a systemic level, there needs to be a workplace policy on stigma mitigation and a mechanism where the patients can anonymously register their concerns about stigma at the workplace.

A person’s career or job is often their calling and a provider of financial security. Workplace stigma creates a hostile work environment, affecting a person’s ability to do their job and their financial security. Financial insecurity and stigma make it harder for the patient to fight TB both in terms of means and motivation. Therefore, addressing stigma in the workplace is critical to patient well-being and recovery but also to their right to work with dignity.

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It's not how much we give
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