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Letter from prof John Whitehall to students re post graduates study programmes to Bangladesh

Post graduate study programmes to Bangladesh

Dear Students,

For many years I have lead post graduate study programmes to Bangladesh with James Cook University as elective modules of ‘Tropical Paediatrics’ in their Masters of Public Health, but the process has come to an end. Nevertheless, the system remains intact: the 2/52 visit is hosted by an international aid organisation, Symbiosis, and involves  several days in Dhaka, rotating through the Children’s, the Cholera, the TB and the Infectious Diseases hospitals before moving to Mymensingh in the middle of the country. There, while staying in the Symbiosis guest house students have rotated through local hospitals including the Mymensingh Medical College, the Infectious Disease Institute and the Damien Leprosy Hospital. Rural projects have also been visited e.g. Eye Camps and nutritional projects and students have rotated through the Garo Baptist Hospital up near the Indian border.

Though JCU has pulled out, three or four of my postgraduate students from a recent course still want to be taken to Bangladesh from November 12 to 26. I am somewhat interested in doing it but am not sure it is worth the effort for such a small number. Would any of you be interested in joining the group?

What would it involve?

  1. Buying an airline ticket to Bangladesh.
  2. Paying a daily rate to Symbiosis which covers food, accommodation in their guest house and all transport including picking up and dropping off at the airport. I can’t remember last year’s rate but it was quite cheap. If I go, I will be paying my own way. 
  3. Accommodation and food in Dhaka will be the student’s responsibility but Symbiosis arranges it in small, cheap but good hotels.
  4. Security will be paramount, therefore all girls will have to buy shalwar chemise (if that is how it is spelt) on arrival …Symbiosis will facilitate the visit to the appropriate shops…and wear them and scarves in public. In the past, we have wandered freely in the streets but those days are over. It is different in rural areas but all visits will be coordinated with local authorities.
  5. Bangladesh is a religious country and the reputation of Symbiosis is at stake, which means all its good projects with the poor are at stake and could be jeopardised by alcohol and ‘unseemly’ behaviour. Therefore, booze is out and so is fraternisation in the guest house. Boys will be on one floor and girls on the next but everyone will eat together, and share access to the big lounge room where case presentations occur and up on the roof with 360 views over the city.
  6. This respect for various religions needs to be applied to most of the institutions visited. State institutions are largely Muslim while many NGOs have originated in Christianity. There have never been any difficulties for us in any of these places but some tensions have increased in recent months in other parts of the country. Nevertheless, I think the visit of the team will be welcomed in all places with particular warmth because of those troubles. Frankly, I think the chances of terrorism affecting the team are extremely small: much smaller than the risk of travelling on the roads or contracting a serious illness such as dengue.
  7. You will need to get your own travel insurance as I do and realise this visit is not the responsibility of either JCU or WSU. It will, of course, be guided by DFAT advice. This is a private, non- profit venture! Why am I even thinking about it? Because I know I will learn from cases I will be seeing, and I think it would be worth-while  keeping  the machinery of the visit going in case the Masters programme is translocated e.g. to WSU.
  8. Let me know asap if you are interested in joining the group. I am usually responsible for a group of up to 8. I used rotate with two other tutors for the full group of 24-5.


Professor John Whitehall | Professor Paediatrics & Child Health

Department of Paediatrics, School of Medicine
Western Sydney University  
Locked Bag 1797 PENRITH  NSW  2751
P: 02 4620 3787 | M: 0414 295 875

                                  PO Box 877, Baulkham Hills, NSW 1755
ph (02) 9680 1233 • fax (02) 9634 2659 • office@cmdfa.org.au • www.cmdfa.org.au •                                                                                                ABN 95 084 292 464



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