The teachers of my MBA program at University of Hyderabad often quoted Aravind. I read the book Infinite Vision. I wanted to understand How Aravind Became the World's Greatest Business Case for Compassion; I wanted to learn and contribute in some way to this unique system and so, I applied for a project at Aravind. My time there, though technically for a project for my MBA in health and hospital management, turned out to be an experience that I will cherish for a lifetime.
My project was an experiment to explore if Focus Group Discussions were a good way of getting transparent feedback from the patient; if they were a good way of listening to the patient. In a busy system, having an average outpatient attendance of 1800 per day, we were trying to fit in regular group discussions pulling together a group of 6-7 patients, also inviting a paramedic or a doctor to attend (even the management is welcome for surprise participation!) – and all participants spend over 10 -15 minutes in open discussion! I initially doubted "why would anyone care?" and if such a mechanism could ever be institutionalized in any hospital setting, leave alone in Aravind.
But, to my surprise, when sensitized, the staff realized that they wanted to hear from their patients. The patients, even after enduring long waiting lines, were impressed to learn that their opinion mattered and were willing to participate. We gathered stories of gratitude, innovative suggestions and of course constructive criticism. And today, with further efforts, these discussions have not only been instituted, but institutionalized as a regular system of engaging with the patients. My teachers definitely ranked it as meaningful and practical project material. When I spoke of this work to a wider audience, they too listened. My paper on this project got the second prize at a health care conference organized by Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad in September 2013!!
At Aravind, I witnessed the importance of having a patient-centered system of delivering healthcare and learned the power of intent in bringing systemic changes. After those busy but purposeful two months in Madurai, I try to take my whole self to work each day. And my greatest takeaway from Aravind is Dr V's saying that Intelligence and capability are not enough. There must also be the joy of doing something beautiful.
For potential interns and volunteers, the Aravind experience has a lot to offer: be it in medicine and eye care, or business and administration, or ingenuity and innovation, or empathy and compassion - as it is a blend of all of these ..and more.