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Rotary roundup

Professionals from India learn about work in the United States,
bringing Rotary’s international exchange full circle
Monday, May 10, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:44 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

A group of five business professionals from India recently visited Columbia to explore the differences a hemisphere makes in their fields.

The Rotary International Group Study Exchange connects business and professional leaders through humanitarian efforts to promote international cooperation. In February, four local business persons and one Rotarian went to India. In April, a group from Pune, India, came to visit practitioners in dermatology, business analysis, dentistry and education in mid-Missouri.

The India team’s leader, Nalini Ramaswamy, a professor and the only Rotarian in the group, teaches feminist issues and American literature at the University of Bombay. While in Columbia, she visited a classroom at Rock Bridge High School.

In India, Ramaswamy teaches many familiar titles and authors, such as Sylvia Plath. A typical class has about 100 students. She was struck by the rapport between the students and teachers at Rock Bridge, where classes are much smaller.

“Students are more shy in India,” she said. “They are afraid they may be wrong.”

After visiting an American classroom, Ramaswamy said she would be interested in stretching her teaching style, which she described as very conventional, when she returns home.

Varsha Chitale founded a business research company four years ago with three other people. The firm began as a search engine for Indian corporations before expanding into industrial business research. While in Columbia, Chitale toured Horizon Research Services, a company founded by Kathleen Anger in 1991.

During the tour of Anger’s business, the two women compared life in their field and the local roles of women. While Missouri requires that a certain percentage of public work be performed by women- or minority-owned businesses, India has yet to consider using similar incentive programs.

“There’s nothing for women entrepreneurs,” Chitale said.

Three of the India team’s members are in health care — two in dentistry and one in dermatology. Like many U.S. physicians, all three deal with lack of insurance coverage for patients. They discovered that medicine in the two countries shares other similarities, thanks to the global spread of ideas.

Priya Dendekar and Satish Lazminarayan visited dentist Bryan Foote, where they compared root canal techniques, shared notes on professional publications and discussed the latest medical devices.

“We import a lot of the same tools,” Lazminarayan said. “We are in touch with the latest trends.”

Lazminarayan said that group dental practices, which are widespread in the United States, don’t exist in India. And even those patients with insurance find it doesn’t cover dental procedures.

“They do come in for regular treatment, but it’s very expensive for them to pay out of pocket,” Lazminarayan said.

Dendekar said she participated in the program “to get insight into advanced techniques.” She also enjoys meeting people and making new friends.

Prassana Gadre, a dermatologist, owns his own practice and sits on a consulting panel to three hospitals. While in Columbia, Gadre met dermatologists at University Hospital, where he saw the latest in laser technology. Dermatological procedures aren’t covered by insurance in India, although Gadre said he has the freedom to decide how much, if anything, to charge his patients.

His view of health care is not dissimilar from some physicians’ and advocates’ in the United States, who would like to see affordable health care for everyone.

“Money should not be a criteria,” Gadre said. “It should not prevent people from visiting health facilities.”

Gadre and his colleagues from India left Columbia on April 25 to visit other cities in Missouri. The group heads to India later this month.


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