The best person for the job – hands down

Expertise in hand therapy and a “handy” Indian accent create the perfect formula for teaching in South Asia.

Shrikant Chinchalkar, occupational therapist and renowned leader in hand therapy couldn’t stay away too long as after his recent retirement from the Roth|McFarlane Hand and Upper Limb Centre. Continuing to work on a casual basis, he also contributes to the organization’s academic mission through teaching abroad.

Travelling to India for the past eight years, Shrikant is no stranger to the medical needs of developing countries. “At the Government Medical College and Hospital, I met with orthopedic and plastic surgeons, residents, fellows and medical students to discuss wound healing and decision making for hand therapy.”

Challenging old practices on hand fractures, Shrikant brought with him vast knowledge of wound healing, the right timing for casting, and when to begin hand therapy. “In the past, the practice of keeping a cast on for three to six weeks was typical. Often surgeons felt the stiffer the injury was held in place the better. But based on knowledge of wound healing we know there is a better way.” 

Occupation therapist Shrikant Chinchalkar treating a patient who has a hand injury

Starting with a controlled movement program, patients are benefiting from wearing a cast for only three to seven days and then wearing a splint while progressing into therapy. “This early hand rehabilitation helps the break to heal better,” says Shrikant. “Having a patient in a cast for up to six weeks can pose problems for hand therapists as they struggle with stiffness. It often results in a slower recovery, and sometimes additional surgeries. If therapy is started at the right time, it helps to minimize recovery time, the need for additional therapies, and health care costs.”

Not only is Shrikant sharing the most up-to-date strategies and therapies with his counterparts in India, he is also helping to bridge the communication gap between disciplines. “Sometimes the surgeons don’t talk to the hand therapists and vice versa. Breaking down silos is critically important so we can all share information that benefits patients.”

At the request of the Education Committee of the International Federation of Societies for Hand Therapy (IFSHT), Shrikant was invited to impart his knowledge in Sri Lanka as well. He jokingly declaring the invitation wasn’t just about his expertise. “It proves challenging in Asia when teachers are from Australia or the United Kingdom; the accents pose a problem. I think I was chosen not only because of my experience but because of my Indian accent,” he smiles.  

Through talks and clinics in both countries, Shrikant was able to impart his wisdom upon eager-to-learn clinicians. “They do exceptional work in India and Sri Lanka. I was there to enhance the practice of hand therapy and recommend best practices to ensure patients are referred to therapy before muscles develop poor function. Early movement is key, as it results in less scar tissue formation, and better healing and mobility.

When asked what the reaction was to his coaching in Sri Lanka, Shrikant humbly states, “It was good.” So good it seems he was invited back in January 2020. 

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