Dr. S. Aravind
Mr. Jerry G. Jones
Ms. Meg Lueker
Prof. Kasthuri Rangan
Dr. R.D. Ravindran
Dr. Alan Robin
Mr.R. D. Thulasiraj
Mr. Jose Barquin
Dr. Morton Goldberg
Ms. Santha Jeyabalan
Prof. Fred Munson
Dr. P. Namperumalsamy
Dr. Bruce Spivey
Ms. Donna Campbell
Aravind sees over 2.5 million patients a year. In a single day over 7000 people will be examined through its various centers, and approximately 1000 will undergo sight-restoring operations. Operating at such massive scale, how does the organization ensure that its efficient, assembly line model remains human and compassionate? The answer in one word: Paraprofessionals. Recruited from village backgrounds, these young women, like highly skilled relay runners, hardly miss a step while guiding the patient through the maze of Aravind ophthalmic departments.
Patients entering Aravind immediately encounter the paraprofessional presence. From receptionist, to vision testing and refraction nurses, to counselors, housekeepers, and ward and theatre nurses, patients are guided seamlessly through a chain of services, never far from a uniform-clad, competent young woman who speaks their language and is ready to help them.
In celebration of International Woman Day this month, we pay tribute to the many women who contribute to Aravind mission of eliminating needless blindness. They have many stories to tell, epitomizing the dedication, professionalism, and compassion of Aravind Eye Care System. We share just a few of those stories with you in this issue of the newsletter, and hope you will join us in celebrating the remarkable women of Aravind and women around the world.
The Board of Aravind Eye Foundation
Spotlight on the Women Leaders of Aravind
We are pleased to bring you some of the distinct voices of Aravind's remarkable women leaders -- each offering a brief reflection on her career, her connection to the organization's mission and aspirations for the future. The voices include Drs. Natchiar and Vijayalakshmi -- two strong, dedicated women who made incredible differences at Aravind at a time when it was unusual for women in India to have professional careers - and who have made it possible for so many other women to do the same.
Dr. G. Natchiar, Founding Member Aravind Eye Care System
What has been your deepest learning from the experience of helping to build this organization and where do you see the organization heading?
Dr.Natchiar: With sustained hard work, positive thinking and self-confidence, we can achieve anything. When your intentions are good, your work too will be good. Dr. V really went into all the aspects of a person who had a vision problem. A rural man has money problems, fear, and lack of a companion to come with him. Those aren't normally thought of as a doctor responsibility. But Dr. V really wanted to know why they weren't coming. So we reduced the cost. Then we kept ourselves available for eight hours of outpatient time, so patients could come and go at their convenience. It was totally a new approach. We tried to anticipate and take care of all their problems. Thats the difference between a doctor here and a doctor elsewhere. Even after 50 years this is the philosophy we want to maintain.
Aravind is known for its value system -- the big question is how do we sustain the value system across people who are so different? We can have vision but to turn the vision into action you need people. The value comes from each employee. We have many ways to create value in an employee -- the way we recruit, orient, train, and follow up. If we grow too much in a short period, I am afraid that will get diluted. Today, HR is the key element not money. That doesn't happen in a day. The buildings, money, technology can come in a day. But values have to be cooked.
A Visit to the Womens Section of the Camp Hospital, Aravind-Madurai
Excerpted from the writing of Pavithra K. Mehta, writer, filmmaker, and co-author of Infinite Vision
VK Ponni is 65 and has all the makings of a ringleader. A skeletal woman with a cheerful, I m-in-charge air, given to floral speeches. And yet there is something sincere and heartwarming about her. She was married to a local politician, who then apparently married two other women and abandoned her to fend for herself and their two children. She snuck away from home to attend the eye camp this past weekend and then quietly boarded a bus without informing her son or daughter-in-law with whom she stays. She phoned them two days later to let them know where she was (they d assumed shed gone to visit relatives). "I didn't even bring a change of clothes with me," she confesses with a grin. "But I wanted to come here because I had heard that they do good quality here. Now I stink so much I don't know how you are sitting next to me. I am not this kind of person you know. I bathe every day when I am at home." It is impossible not to smile listening to this women and her childlike candor.
Thenmozhi is Ponni relative. She is only 37 and has cataract in both eyes. Her vision was so badly impaired that she could only recognize people if they were standing a few inches away. She d refused surgery up to this point because all the other places shed been to were charging too much. Most of the women here are field laborers. Physically hard lives that begin before sunrise; Water must be pumped and carried home, meals cooked, children taken care of all before the strenuous work in the fields. I ask them what it's like being at Aravind. Thenmozhli smiles, "We have to work so hard, being here this is rest for us." Only in India does a woman consider the experience of eye surgery restful.
Updates on Aravind Initiatives -- Your donations at work
On December 5, Aravind inaugurated the rural vision center at Kadayanallur, Tamil Nadu. Situated in the foothills of the Western Ghats, Kadayanallur is known for its paddy and coconut fields. A town of about 70,000 people, Kadayanallur had no eye doctor. Now, two highly trained technicians provide vision screening and refractive services. A high speed Internet connection to the Aravind Eye Hospital in Tirunelveli allows patients to consult with an Aravind ophthalmologist.
Capacity Building -- Healthcare Management
With the support of the Aravind Eye Foundation, Aravind launched a program in July 2011 to develop a patient feedback system. The system will capture patient feedback on a wide-ranging number of issues, including quality of care, waiting times, and ease of admissions, and the information will be used towards continuous improvement of the quality of care.
Four fellows, who are researching infections and genetic diseases of the eye prevalent in India, received grants to support their work. Their research focuses on identifying possible causes of these various diseases and improved methods of prevention and treatment.
Ring of Hope Fund
Twenty children suffering from devastating eye cancers received treatment at Aravind completely free of cost, including radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery, as well as room and board for the patient and family. Since its founding, the Ring of Hope has provided treatment for 444 patients, including 220 children with retinoblastoma and 224 patients with other eye cancers.
Youth Vision Project:
Aravind provides free screening of school children and glasses through its outreach programs. This past year, Aravind screened 44 schools, tested 58,437 school children, and gave away 1,785 pairs of glasses through its school screening program.
As part of expanding eye care services to the needy, Aravind opened a new hospital in Salem on November 27, 2011. The hospital caters to the eye care needs of a population of more than 3 million, and provides all the specialty services in eye care.
Aravind Eye Care System named one of Top 100 Best NGOs".
The Global Journal named Aravind to its Top 100 Best NGOs list, which recognizes international non-profits for their innovative approaches to global issues. The list includes a broad range of organizations, such as humanitarian relief, environment, public health education, microfinance and intellectual property.
Aravind Wins India Most Innovative Hospital Award
Aravind Eye Hospital, Madurai won India Healthcare Awards 2011 in the category of "Most Innovative Hospital" instituted by ICICI Lombard Health Insurance and CNBC TV 18.