I am a palliative care physician working at PeterMacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne, Australia.
While training in palliative medicine in the UK, I heard Jan Stjernswald talk about the first Indian Association of Palliative Medicine conference to be held in Varanasi in 1994. I was inspired to attend the conference. That was the first of many for me, for several years, with several conferences combined with extended visits for teaching, mentoring, and just getting to know the colleagues in India. Also in the UK, I met Joseph O’Neill, another palliative medicine trainee, who set up British Aid for Hospices Abroad. This was the inspiration for Australasian Palliative Link International (APLI), which I established in 1996.
As for motivations, for me, it probably goes back to my childhood and the encouragement we always had to consider those less fortunate and to provide help where possible. Something about India in particular connects with me, something hard to define or explain. I think my first visit was so intense and the exposure to ‘the life force” there was mindblowing, and made my own culture seem so lacklustre at that time.
At times, I wonder what I can offer of any use when daily realities are so different. The warmth of friendships and the ongoing desire of many Indian colleagues for contact and support have encouraged me to continue.