With doctors’ waiting rooms across the country packed, often with very ill children, pediatricians usually have neither the time nor the specialized training to conduct developmental assessments. Disabled children suffer needlessly from preventable diseases and deficiencies in addition to the problems associated with their disability. Our experience from back when we had full-time doctors on staff was that our children were generally healthier then, as their nutrition, growth and sleep patterns were monitored regularly, and routine illnesses dealt with promptly and effectively. But doctors are expensive to hire. It was a conundrum we resolved by launching the Latika Roy Foundation-Adhyan Fellowship in Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.
Now almost halfway through the programme, our first Fellow, Dr Iqra Khan, MD, is trained and mentored by Dr Ajay Sharma (FRCP, DCH, MSc), neuro-developmental pediatrician and former Clinical Director, Community Children’s Services, Evelina Children’s Hospital at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, London. As staff pediatrician, she works in close collaboration with our multi-disciplinary team of therapists, psychologists and special educators, catering to the needs of 150 children aged 0—18 years. Observations at the Department of Developmental Pediatrics at AIIMS, Rishikesh once a week are an integral part of her work. As Fellow, she’s part of a network of child development professionals in India and abroad, with two exchange visits to Ummeed Child Development Centre, Mumbai, and Sethu Child Development Centre, Goa, in the pipeline.
“I wanted to get into a work model other than the regular hospital setup I’d previously worked in because I was particularly interested in developmental pediatrics and neurosciences. I chose LRF to be able to learn and work directly with special educators, psychologists, physiotherapists and of course, the kids themselves! Here I can directly learn with kids and parents,” she says. Online supervision can be challenging but “with Dr Ajay, my understanding improves with every lesson. He believes in discussion rather than didactic lectures and he’s very approachable”.
The change from a purely medical environment to one where she’s working with many different types of professionals has been an exciting one for Dr Iqra. She believes the experience is benefitting her both professionally as well as personally. “The LRF ethos is different. We can be who we are. There’s acceptance, no matter what,” she maintains.