Ever since Dr. Arun Kumar completed his public health post-graduation work in India, he has had a passion for working in rural communities. In 2016, after more than a decade in the United States, he returned to India as an emergency medicine specialist and global health researcher for Wayne State University in Detroit.
Coincidentally with Dr. Kumar’s involvement with PPES, it had received a donation to create a separate health center on the school’s campus. With input from Dr. Kumar and others, the Prana Health Center was built to function both as a health clinic for the school children and help meet the community’s health needs. For instance, there is a large room at the Center where education classes take place. Also with a community available for study, Dr. Kumar began investigating the issues and difficulties that affect villagers’ health and developing concrete ways to address those challenges.
Dr. Kumar was involved in developing courses for training community health workers and local doctors in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. He continues to conduct several research projects at the Center. His first research project was a study to assess what medical resources were needed by the community. “What did they want from us and what assets do they have?” he asked. This needs and assessment study was completed in 2018. He concluded that the best approach to preventing and treating the most commonly encountered diseases, such as infectious diseases and asthma, was to improve the villagers’ health literacy by providing community health education.
Dr. Kumar discovered that many of the obstacles to improving health literacy could be overcome by creating a program to empower the women leaders in the community to become champions of health themselves. In short, these women leaders could become health educators. Dr. Kumar has also met with the district magistrate to discuss various ways to train counsellors in the community and to create additional resources using telemedicine technology.
Another area of study is the prevalence of depression, especially among village farmers. In 2017, after collecting data from a depression survey especially designed for Indian culture, Dr. Kumar began analyzing the data and hopes to publish the results. “We found that the women villagers were significantly more depressed than the men, and that their mood disorder was severe enough to warrant intervention with medication or counseling or both,” he says.
Getting a laboratory at the Prana Health Center to do testing at a reasonable cost was another goal. Today, the laboratory can do a complete blood count and urinalysis and test for dengue fever test and cholera. Dr. Kumar hopes to be testing for TB, malaria, and Covid soon. During this process, he has also installed a “tele portal” device that transmits heart and breath sounds and an electrocardiogram remotely.
In addition to his health care work and research, he also lectures and mentors the senior students. “I talk with them about career options and how they can pursue them. My aim is to prepare the girls for the medical school entrance exams. A few girls do become nurses, but so far no one has managed to pass the medical school exams,” says Dr. Kumar. “I’m confident in the next five years, I will see several girls becoming exceptional physicians!”
Dr. Kumar is an associate professor of emergency medicine at Wayne State University and Co-Director of the Global Health Section and GUEM Fellowship at Wayne State University (WSU), which conducts virtual clinical research training workshops for junior faculty and investigators especially from LMIC’s. He also has a Master degree in Public Health from the University of Michigan. Currently, his clinical research focuses on cardiovascular emergency medicine and women’s health. His goal is to develop clinical research capacity in LMICs.