At a time when Americans are increasingly looking at alternative medical systems, particularly those from oriental countries, the United States is sending a renowned Indian-American scholar to study Ayurveda in India.
Bhaswati Bhattacharya would be based at the holy city of Varanasi to explore various fields of Ayurveda at its prestigious Banaras Hindu University.
She will study the concept of Ojas, which roughly correlates to today's understanding of immunity. Notably a large number of diseases in the US are related to the immunity system.
"As a scientist and a physician in the United States, I want to know why has no one looked at Ojas and the prescriptions that are given in Ayurveda for these diseases when many of them are so useful for the kind of diseases that plaguing in our family and in our population," Bhattacharya said in an interview before leaving for India.
Possibly the first US doctor to study Ayurveda in India as a Fulbright scholar, Bhattacharya is scheduled to reach India next week.
On having selecting Varanasi as her centre of study, she described BHU as Harvard or Stanford of Ayurveda. "Banaras also has very strong MBBS -- modern medicine program," said the Fulbright scholar, who is a practising doctor trained in pharmacology and nerve science.
However, Kolkata-born Bhattacharya conceded that Ayurveda is facing challenges from the mainstream medical system.
"Mainstream medicine does not want to accept anything that's not going to propagate its own profits," she said.
"Complementary medicine has been increasing in popularity since last decade. So huge number of people here spending lot of money out of pockets for everything from acupuncture to supplements, massage to yoga, all these things which they use instead going to their doctor for their healthcare. There is huge amount of that. So masses of American population need to know more about other medical systems," she said.
Bhattacharya said her work will explore the use of pedagogical methods such as problem-based learning and student-centered curriculum design for teaching in the clinical profession of Ayurveda.
"People think Ayurveda as preventive medicines. But Ayurveda actually is curative medicine," she added.
Bhattacharya received her baccalaureate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and earned a masters in pharmacology with a concentration in neuroscience at Columbia University.
She then studied at the Harvard School of Public Health and received a masters in international public health.
Bhattacharya has served as Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at Weill-Cornell Medical College and as Adjunct Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.