Treble grant success for Monash doctor saving lives in India

A Royal Australasian College of Physicians’ (RACP) grant will enable expansion of a teaching and research program in maternal and neonatal resuscitation in parts of rural India, potentially saving the lives of hundreds of women and babies.

For the third consecutive year, Monash University researcher and Monash Children’s Hospital neonatologist, Dr Atul Malhotra is the recipient of the RACP Foundation’s Eric Burnard Fellowship, allowing him to travel to India to further expand an educational program for health workers, medical and nursing students to improve maternal and neonatal outcomes of difficult child birth.

“Post partum haemorrhage and birth asphyxia contribute to a significant proportion of deaths in the developing world—close to one million deaths per year worldwide,” said Dr Malhotra.

“Obstetric and neonatal resuscitation and the prompt recognition of an exsanguinated mother or an asphyxiated newborn is key to reducing maternal and neonatal mortality.”

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2013-14, Dr Malhotra along with his co-researchers at Monash University led an Indian collaborative program to develop neuroprotective therapies with local health leaders to decrease birth asphyxia-related brain injuries in neonates.

Dr Malhotra said the program initially started as neonatal resuscitation education tool for medical and nursing staff, but has now expanded to obstetric and neonatal emergency simulation (ONE Sim) training, largely thanks to the skills and contribution from obstetrician, Dr Arunaz Kumar.

A Monash Health obstetrician and expert in interprofessional educational research at Monash University, Dr Kumar is Dr Malhotra’s wife.

“My research shows the benefits of embedding skills early in training, and we’ve expanded the Indian program this year to include nursing and medical students,” Dr Kumar said.

“We provide ‘simulation from a suitcase’, offering multiple workshops in a day, travelling from one rural health centre to another.”

“We’ve trained over 1000 staff and students so far as a result of this continuous funding,” Dr Kumar said.

The ONE Sim program is currently running in three Indian states: Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, and similar workshops are also operating in regions of the Pacific Islands and Africa, using equipment and programs designed by Dr Kumar and Dr Malhotra.

Dr Malhotra and Dr Kumar have also been appointed as honorary faculty (Associate Professors) members by one of the Indian institutions in recognition for their contributions.