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MABELLE AROLE (1935-1999)

Mabelle Arole was a doctor. She graduated with a gold medal from the Vellore Medical College, and chose to work among the rural poor. While at the college she met and later married Dr Rajanikant Arole. They worked for a mission for two years to get experience, then set up their own practice in Wadala, near Ahmednagar, in 1962. This was a rural area with hardly any doctors. For the next four years they roamed the district with their mobile clinic, helping and curing people, but they felt they were not doing enough. They then went to the US to study public health. Mabelle studied communicable diseases and child health while her husband studied orthopedics. In 1970 they returned to Jamkhed, a small village where their friend Bansilal Kothari had set up an NGO. There they began working again. At first they faced a lot of opposition, then they managed to convince one woman, Janabai, of the efficacy of their methods. Mabelle spent many weeks with Janabai, teaching her how to use an microscope and the principles of basic health. In a few months Janabai changed her village: the rate of vaccination rose to 80% from 2% and 70% of the women had tubectomies done. In another incident, a woman who had been bitten by a snake was not allowed to enter the temple, where snakebite victims were usually taken, because she was menstruating. She went instead to Mabelle’s clinic, and was cured. This transformed the way the local people thought about snakebites.

She and her husband wrote Jamkhed: A Comprehensive Rural Health Project. Both Drs Arole served on the Doctors for Global Health Advisory Council from 1998. A Boston-based NGO, John Snow, Inc. Research and Training Institute, has set up a fellowship in Mabelle’s memory for US premedical students to work in India for a year.
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