Fire and Ice

Rudrakshi Shetty, Final year MBBS,

Northern State Medical University

A foreign land awaited me right out of school. While barely having any understanding of my own self, let alone the world, I was out there in another country trying to make something of myself. It took me a good amount of time trying to achieve the stability I once had back home. I was trying to relearn everything I had once known: a new language, my vicinity, where do I buy groceries from, to bigger things like how to study efficiently in medical school, how to sustain in -30°C, how to cook my own food, how to deal with my emotions when I’m homesick and sometimes, something as simple as how do I go about my day? I was walking around with too many questions with little to no answers often. While gruelling in self-pity, I realized that I wasn’t the only one, there were 200 more like me. While we came from different parts of the country, with different values and lifestyles, the thing that bound us together was that we were all looking out for one another and trying to make the best from what we had and much sooner than I’d anticipated, I had people to call my own!

While settling in Russia was a challenge, getting acquainted with the syllabus in medical school was another ball game altogether. The true feeling of being a medical student comes to life once you start attending postings. The healthcare system works a lot more differently and it has been very interesting to see the contrast from the system back home. From my experience in India, every healthcare institution has a distinct hierarchy in place but for better or worse, there is no such hierarchy in Russia. Once you’re done with residency, you’ll be taking the same amount of cases as your seniors and will be working the same hours as them. The concept of Sir-Mam/ senior-junior doesn’t exist and while we do have the position of a consultant at the hospital, it’s more on paper than in reality. India has a multi-payer universal health care model that involves a combination of public (which is entirely tax funded) and private sector with the aim that the healthcare system is accessible to all and sustainable over the long term. The sort of system is important because we have to create something that caters to our ever-growing population. Healthcare in Russia is provided by the state through the Federal Compulsory Medical Insurance Fund, and regulated through the Ministry of Health and this works for them because population crisis isn’t really the focus of their system. Due to this very reason, even on the busiest of days, doctors in Russia can still find time to properly counsel the patient and their family while Indian doctors might not always have that privilege. The biggest benefit to come out of this is that due to proper counselling and time given to each patient, the chances of violence inflicted by patients on healthcare workers is almost negligible. While patients are quite agreeable to doctors usually, I have sensed some degree of hostility as someone not native to the land.

While the differences may be countless, the virtues of compassion and empathy stays constant across borders. In my journey so far, I’ve observed my mentors express an array of emotions. As their student, I’m observing and taking the best of whatever I can to mould myself into the kind of doctor I want to be. The ice around me hasn’t dulled down my spirit, if anything, it has only given fire to my soul. This is just the beginning, with many more peaks and troughs, this journey is going so worthwhile!


  • Baran, A., Czech, M., Kooiker, C., Hołownia, M. and Sykut- Cegielska, J. (2018). Bridging East with West of Europe – a comparison of orphan drugs policies in Poland, Russia and the Netherlands. Acta Poloniae Pharmaceutica – Drug Research, 75(6), pp.1409–1422. doi:

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