Alekhya Rajasekaran

I had an unforgettable experience at Aravind- Pondicherry as an intern for a month. The ophthalmologists, nurses, and staff are all committed to the universal cause, and that creates a family-like bond between the entire hospital. From the moment I stepped into the premises, I could see the camaraderie the staff members had; and after shadowing the ophthalmologists on the first day, I could immediately see how they extended their kindness to each and every one of their patients. Witnessing a vast amount of surgeries (YAG-PI, cataracts, corneal tears, DCT, trabeculectomies, and more!) along with more treatment-based cures (topical creams, steroids, eye drops, medicinal injections) showed me the immense variety in cases that the physicians treat. On top of this were the large amounts of patients, which displayed the tenacity of the Aravind system. I observed cases that I have never seen before, such as the infamous “Kambli poochi” (caterpillar) hairs getting into patients’ eyes, along with newer methods to treat more universal cases like cataracts. Aravind was a clear example that simplicity is oftentimes the best option since it allows for clearer transparency and efficiency between the patient and all hospital members. Exploring the specialty sectors of the hospital, conversing with the doctors, observing the nurses, and listening to patients’ concerns were eye-opening and taught me an incredible amount about how different each patient’s personal background and situation can be. The doctors at Aravind listen calmly and assist patients on how to proceed with treatment based on their unique situations. Outside of shadowing and volunteering, I also worked on a study during my time. My project focuses on evaluating glaucoma patients’ perceptions of telemedicine, and their thoughts on the use of telemedicine used specifically through Aravind’s vision centers. Telemedicine is the delivery of healthcare from a distance using technology. This work can help the hospital better understand patients’ predispositions towards telemedicine so they can better improve vision centers and perhaps implement telemedicine in other areas of the hospital as well. In addition, telemedicine can help catch patients with glaucoma earlier on so that they can receive the treatment they need. The knowledge gained through this study can be used for a variety of reasons, but improving the patient experience to increase access to medicine is always at the core. I have been working heavily with the Glaucoma department – specifically Dr. Shagufa and Dr. Kavitha – to publish our findings in a paper in the future. Witnessing the study come to life when seeing the questionnaire asked to patients, and even writing the paper has been an unreal and valuable experience. I also had the opportunity to assist in an eye camp and visit one of the vision centers during my internship. When the nurses quickly turned an elementary school into a hospital in a half hour, I was in awe. Aravind’s commitment to rural health is inspiring and taught me quite a bit about the implementation of healthcare in villages without easy access. My grandparents got their cataract surgeries done at Aravind. They would often tell me when Aravind would come to their village to conduct a camp, which is when I looked up Aravind out of my own curiosity and found out about their internship program. The decision to apply is one I am incredibly glad I made. My month-long stay went by in a flash, and my only complaint is that I wish I could have stayed longer! For future interns, here are my tips:

  • Utilize your tea breaks to talk to ophthalmologists and medical students. They are all so kind and I was even able to become close friends with some of them.
  • Bring bug spray and lizard repellent unless you want to be greeted by some unexpected visitors in your room in the mornings!
  • Please talk to the nurses, they know all of the ins and outs of the hospital and can provide you with much more knowledge about the patients and practices
  • Take some time to just absorb the atmosphere of Aravind, and notice the small and ingenious details the hospital has to offer. My favorite was the color-coded footprints that were painted on the ground that lead to each of the Unit Clinics.
I am beyond grateful to have witnessed the power of Aravind and assisted in the goal to end needless blindness. I made experiences I will hold onto me for a lifetime, and I look forward to continuing working with and keeping in touch with Aravind in the future!