Talking To The Experts

 

Sonali Mehta

 

 

It has been an opportunistic spring for Lexicon having the chance to talk to the expert himself, Dr. BK Jain. Lifetime Achievement Award Winner as a Community Ophthalmologist and Director at Shri Sadguru Netra Chikitsalaya, Chitrakoot tells us about how a doctor even in today’s world of “Hippocritic” Oath can serve truly to the “Hippocrate’s” Oath.

 

 

  • Sir, tell us about your journey, from a young medical student to one of the top ophthalmologists all over the world!

During my Childhood , I was fortunate to attend few of the  eye camps conducted by Shri Ranchoddasji Maharaj ( lovingly called as Gurudev by his disciples)  and his devotees at Chitrakoot ,Madhya Pradesh.

Guru Dev was a well known saint of that time, initiated many humanitarian activities in the early  1950s .Even in Childhood, the blind and suffering  people I met over these camps were really concerning  to me. The early influence from GuruDev and larger majority of people in need, made me think of becoming an aid  and continued service provision for this humanitarian  service. This  brought me determination  in pursuing highest perquisite in the field of eye care and determined to become an ophthalmologist.

After my basic educations, I pursued my Under Graduation at S.S. Medical College, Rewa, Madhya Pradesh, followed with Post Graduation in Ophthalmology from College of Physicians and Surgeons in Mumbai, Maharashtra.

Later to this, I took the role of the President of National Society for Prevention of Blindness (NSPB), Satna, Madhya Pradesh. During this time itself, I could realize, that the  existing government  systems alone will not be able  to leverage and provide the quality eye care that could eliminate a majority of the cases of blindness that were predominantly prevailing in the rural part of India.

I always  believed in a joined and continuous efforts,  people with need can be reached with the quality of eye care  With this aim,  in the year 1974, I have  joined Shri Sadguru Seva Sangh Trust, which was the formalized humanitarian organization founded by Gurudev in the year 1968

When I joined the Eye Care unit of the Trust, it was a single room with basic instruments and my work was supported by the para clinical staffs of the general hospital run by the trust

After more than four decades, I look back with a great sense of satisfaction and blissfulness, both as an ophthalmologist and a devotee of Guru dev

With over time, we are fortunate to have around 80+ full time ophthalmologists with us in a remote location like Chitrakoot, serving close to one million patients and performing more than 130000 eye surgeries annually.

 

  • What according to you, is the leading ophthalmological problem that exists in our country? Why so? How can this is prevented? What is being done by the community of ophthalmologists about the same?

To me, the biggest  problem in India is to deal with the greater health need of its rural population . As , among the 1.3 billion population around 70% of them lives in rural areas , and only  30% of available health care resources are in reach with these population

In the field of ophthalmology also it reflected as same, with largest number of blind people in the world , according to recent IAPB reports

Till then, we were coping these highly underserved scenario of rural population ,  with outreach camps  , vision centers …. Involvement of NGOs found to be an efficient and relevant to the context  with an evidence in gradual increases in  Cataract Surgical Rate  of India

But as we have to deal with emerging eye diseases like Diabetic Retinopathy, Glaucoma… establishing a provision for comprehensive eye care in the rural area is the real challenge

It is more important to be self-reliant in the rural area, as the all these increasing  diseases like Diabetic Retinopathy , Glaucoma, Age Related Macular Degeneration … demands more continuity in care.

But as a hope to it, there are some good practical models which were able to establish comprehensive care set up in rural areas and serving millions in need. This include , our own organization, Sadguru Netra Chikitsalaya  , which is situated in the remote area of Madhya Pradesh and providing established comprehensive eye care to the rural needy

Akhand Jyoti Hospital in Bihar, Netra Niramay Niketan Eye Hospital in West Bengal are also among the few who could establish such comprehensive eye care system in the rural areas for the needy

The situation demands more such practical and replicable models, so that the ever growing unmet eye care needs rural population can be handled effectively

  • We’ve heard about your aim “Cataract free India”. Could you tell us a little more about it? What is it exactly and how do you plan to achieve it?

“Creating Cataract Blindness Backlog Free Zones”

In developing countries like India, Cataract still stands as the major cause of avoidable blindness. Due to lack of awareness, access to eye care services and affordability among the people, backlog of cataract blind cases in the rural areas are increasing significantly.

Our initiative was evolved to tackle all such backlogs of cataract with a sustainable mechanism. This focused action ensures reachability (in the specified area) of cataract services to each every person affected. By adding the ASHA and Anganwadi workers the tier of eye care service delivery, this model demonstrates a workable and sustainable approach to the entire eye care fraternity

One of the key uniqueness of the programme is its practical approach and the model has demonstrated how efficiently govt. resources can be involved and strengthened further for the betterment of needy. I truly feel, this practical partnership model has a greater role to play in the current scenario.

The real relevance of this programme is its assurance of continuity.  The health workers (ASHA and Anganwadi) trained and the supportive machineries oriented along with are going to be in the same community forever. The hospital also has established several vision centers and planned for regular eye screening camps where by these workers can be contacted at regular intervals

So far, with the able involvement of  respective  District Govt. authorities and international organization  we could make 5 indian districts as cataract blindness backlog free

The districts are, Chirakoot, Banda and Hamirpur of Uttar Pradesh and Satna and Panna of Madhya Pradesh .The trained ASHA and Anganwadi workers(around 6000 in total) were crucial in the success in the programme, and through the programme we could facilitate more than 75000 eye surgeries for the needy population of these five districts

By realizing the overwhelming needs in the country, we profoundly feel this  should be scaled up further at national level by a lead from Govt with the support of regional NGOs and private eye care providers

 

  • After so many years, what keeps you going on daily?

Guru Dev, the visionary, is a true source of inspiration when it comes to selfless services.

The first eye camp he conducted in a remote place in the year 1950, facilitated 950 eye operations when there was no electricity, water and  road facility available

This shows the passion, dedication and selflessness in service to the humanity and  I think this passion keeps me engaged in what I am fortunate to take part in . And more over, the joy it brings to faces of the beneficiaries and overall impact in their life is more than any thing for me.

As we could expand our scale of services over a period of time, today around 1400 people directly associate with us, in which  more than 95%  is belongs to rural. Ensuring a greater boost to rural economy and well being, this helps in keep thinking further expanding our services as it get reflected with society in larger positive ways

  • We have heard a lot about Shri Sadguru Seva Sangh Trust. Could you tell us a little more about it? What are the latest available technologies over there? How with the advancement in technology do you manage to keep the costs affordable to everyone?

Shri Sadguru Seva Sangh is  a registered charitable organization situated in the rural part of central India Chitrakoot, Madhya Pradesh India. Since 1968, the trust is actively involved in Health care, Education, Dairy and Agriculture, Women Empowerment, cattle development and care & Relief works.

Vision: “Service to the Humanity”

Mission: “Food for the hungry, Cloth for the destitute and sight for the blind’’

Sadguru Netra Chikitsalaya the eye care wing of Shri Sadguru Seva Sangh Trust is a state-of-the-art Post Graduate Ophthalmology unit with 80+ full time ophthalmologists . Over the last 50 years, Sadguru Netra Chikitsalaya has been working towards elimination of curable blindness from the rural areas of central and northern part of India. Sadguru Netra Chikitsalaya has achieved national and international recognitions for its service delivery, modern ophthalmic practices and its community-oriented reach out activities.

This tertiary level eye care wing with all advanced specialty departments including, Vitreo Retina, Retinopathy of Pre Maturity, Glaucoma, Low vision and Rehabilitation …. is also supported with 26 modular operation theatres

The hospital is also having  an ICO(International council of Ophthalmology)  affiliated training centre of  ophthalmology which  is designed and equipped to meet the  training needs of aspiring eye care professionals . The center is having well experienced trainers and the unique features of the center includes, State of the art Wet-lab , Resource center. Animation lab 3 D assisted learning Theatre…

With core value of serving all the people  in need , irrespective of the paying capacity we have introduced a multi tired pricing system , through which a larger majority of free and subsidized patients expected to be availed with quality eye care facilities, which are generally offered to patients with paying capacity only

Today, even with more than 85% of all our standardized services are free and highly subsidized and with around  15% of paying proportion  (who pays less than or equal to existing market rates) we could sustain with all our operational expenditures . This majorly achieved with our high volume patient care, optimal expenditure through efficient operations and continued strive in performance/quality improvement

 

  • Your advice to aspiring ophthalmologists?

I personally opine, it is fortunate and blessings to be in the field of Ophthalmology and such precious opportunity should not be looked just with its professional outfits

As I always feel, a compassion, which care the person in totality, is of greater importance in today’ context and I could see gradually, that feeling is coming across, even with many challenges of today

Dedicating some work years for the underserved and rural will be of a great advantage in igniting such passion and helps in living a contended materialistic life by an ophthalmologist

As I could interact and witness with such many young ophthalmologists, these solid exposures and involvement to rural uncertainties, need of the underserved and joy of positive impact ( occurs to the patients) with quality care provided together, brings a lot of confidence and meaningfulness to their practice which can be maintained throughout, irrespective of the place they are working.

 

  • Could you tell us your views on current academic pattern for ophthalmology and how different is that what is being followed at DNB courses at Chitrakoot?

With the rapid progressing scenarios of ophthalmology, updating the learning environment and approaches requires enormous attention. At Saduguru, our value based training systems are with international standards of teaching. Holistic development of the candidate is always our priority in training and teaching

I think the expertise and dedication of trainers, infrastructure, facilities and exposure/involvement to real patient care is the crucial in this regard. We are fortunate to have such home-grown expertise trainers supported by an international level training infrastructure. The high volume of patient care services with humanity in focus, create an apt environment for the aspiring ophthalmologists at our institute

 

This interview is an inspiration to me. While we still slog to finish 5.5 Years of MBBS, we must go on. While we wonder about the scams and unethical practice creeping into this godly field of medicine, the life of Dr. BK Jain sir is an example that with a will to do good, no one has the power to stop you.

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