By SAURABH JHA
Poverty is known to be an important determinant of a person’s health and longevity. A person’s zip code is more relevant than genetic code. Does a physician’s zip code – that is where they were born and raised – have an effect on where they practice? Specifically, do rural born and raised physicians return to their rural roots? The story of Prashant, a physician raised in rural Bihar, India, is instructive.
When I first met Prashant, he was a second-year medical student in Patna Medical College and Hospital. Patna is the capital of Bihar, and Bihar is one of the poorest states in India.
Prashant brimmed with idealism and vigor. “I’ll practice in Purnea one day and serve the poor villagers,” he told me in broken English.
Prashant comes from a family of Bihari farmers who are also affluent landowners. He grew up near Purnea, a fourth-tier town in Bihar surrounded by villages. Visiting these villages is like stepping into a time machine – you can see people travelling by bullock carts but using mobile phones.