Back at orientation in September, I remember meeting my co-fellows and learning about their placements. Most placement organizations I had not heard of, but there was one that I knew very well: Aravind Eye Care. When I learned that a co-fellow—Nikhil—was placed there, I said to myself (and him): “I’m going to visit Aravind.”
Having studied and worked with social entrepreneurship throughout college, Aravind Eye Care conjures up quite the image for me. In my first class in social entrepreneurship, we learned about Aravind as a model social enterprise that operates on a sliding scale pay model where the profits made from the well-off patients subsides the costs of the very poor patients. With the same quality of service for all patients, the hospital is able to serve the poorest of the poor—among many other innovations.
Going forward, as a teaching assistant for this same class, Aravind was continually used to start off the semester. We started by watching a video—which I have now seen probably 10 times—about the Aravind hospital in Madurai that detailed it’s founding by “Dr. V” and its model. It also featured a clip of a cataract surgery. The professor and I always waited in anticipation to see the students’ reaction at this point in the video. The organization was the focal point for students’ first quizzes with simple details on Aravind and its innovations as well.
As such, I was quite excited with the possibility of visiting the hospital for myself. A unique feature of the fellowship is that they allow us exposure visits to go visit other fellows and see the work they are doing. For my exposure visit, I visited Nikhil and Aravind in Madurai, and it felt just like the hundreds of quizzes on Aravind I have graded coming to life.
Early on a Saturday morning a couple fellows and myself met Nikhil at work. When we pulled up to the hospital it was bustling already, but the efficiencies of the place were easy to see as Nikhil gave us the grand tour of the hospital: ranks of nurses screening patients, each patient given a color-coded folder, and dozen of patients being prepped for surgery. We then visited the free hospital just down the street where the majority of the patients come for cataract surgery inline with Aravind’s mission to “Eliminate Needless Blindness.”
Most impressively, we were able to watch a few cataract surgeries on our visit (bringing back fine memories of students’ reactions to our video). After patients are prepped by the nurses, they are brought into the operating room where doctors perform the surgeries in under 10 minutes with methodical precision. The quickest doctor at Aravind can do it in three. It was quite a remarkable process, and the visit was quite the social enterprise dream come true!