Unique camp provides goitre treatment to tribals


Chikhaldara (Maharashtra) : Combining health service with continuing medical education and recreation, over 50 surgeons drawn from different parts of India have assembled at this scenic tourist spot in Maharashtra’s forest-rich Amravati district to conduct a two-day thyroid camp for tribals.

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Twelve tribals from the dense interiors of Melghat forest will be operated upon for the treatment of goitre (swelling of thyroid gland in the throat) Friday and Saturday by ENT surgeon Madan Kapre and his expert assistants, with 36 surgeons obtaining hands-on training and 18 others standing by as observers in the unique surgical camp.

The thyroid camp that Kapre has been conducting for the last seven years is an annual service event of the Rotary Club of Nagpur South. It is supported by the Foundation for Head and Neck Oncology and the Vidarbha chapter of the Association of Otolaryngologists of India.

The service venture started as an offshoot of a general health camp the Rotary Club has been conducting for the tribals the past 13 years on the outskirts of the famous Melghat Tiger Reserve, Kapre told IANS.

“Coming across several cases of acute goitre among the tribals at the health camp and realizing the complexity of the major, high-skill surgery that the problem demanded, I decided to hold a separate camp for the purpose every year,” Kapre said.

Also realizing that the training and demonstration of the recently developed surgical procedure was only available at a few places in India and abroad, Kapre decided to make it into an advanced surgical training camp, inviting delegates to take the unique opportunity.

“The response was tremendous from the word go and is growing every year. In fact, we are booked for the next two years,” said Kapre, who conducts the camp as ‘shraddh’ (death anniversary homage) in memory of his father as he doesn’t believe in religious rituals.

Apart from successfully treating more than 100 tribals during the last seven years, the advanced training camp has been instrumental in starting thyroid surgery units in Raipur (Chhattisgarh), Raurkela (Orissa), Warangal and Vijaywada (Andhra Pradesh), Singrur (Punjab) and Dehradun (Uttarakhand).

The camp is also providing evidence to support a recent finding that goitre is not caused by iodine deficiency but because of a genetic flaw termed as PQ18 prevalent among tribals and hilly people.

“It is common knowledge now that tribals and all others are consuming iodised salt notwithstanding which they continue to suffer from goitre. What remains to be verified is whether the PQ18 flaw is typical of tribal genetic structure and whether it prevents absorption of consumed iodine,” Kapre said.

While the Rotary International financed a state of the art operation theatre in which surgeries are conducted, the camp expenses were hitherto met from members’ contributions and donations from friends.

With automobile major Mahindra & Mahindra donating funds for the camp since last year, the members’ contribution will now be used to build a corpus to augment the medical facilities for the tribals, Kapre declared.