Happy International Women’s Day from Madurai, India!

Happy International Women’s Day! It is only fitting to spend today in India with a team of women who know how to get things done!

I’ve been at Aravind Eye Care System in Madurai for the past few days and it has been a whirlwind of visiting the hospitals, meeting with Aravind staff, and attending a weekly “journal” session where staff share new research via web conference with the different hospitals across Tamil Nadu. Today I was able to attend an eye camp outside Madurai with 10 “sisters” (nurses) and 1 doctor. We piled into a bus at 6:15 in the morning, stopped for breakfast around 8 am and by 9 the camp was set up and receiving patients. 136 patients came today and this was considered a “light day.”

Patients are greeted outside the camp and receive their initial paperwork. They then rotate through the six or seven stations depending on their diagnosis. Many receive glasses on the spot (I could have photographed the team measuring and grinding the glass all day long). Those who need cataract surgery receive a wristband indicating which eye is to be operated on. The patients heading for surgery wait in the back of the camp, eat lunch, and then return with the Aravind staff to the hospital in Madurai. Today 22 patients returned with us on the bus. They will spend the night at the hospital and tomorrow morning will go in for cataract surgery. By the end of tomorrow the surgeries will be completed and they will be taken back to their village. In a few weeks they will receive a follow up visit from an Aravind team so there is no need for them to return to the city.

The process is smooth and works like a well oiled machine. Last year there were 1,507 regular comprehensive eye camps organized by Aravind; 339,416 patients were examined; 73,698 advised glasses; 61,540 glasses ordered; and 46,562 glasses delivered on the spot (the rest are received by speed post). The sisters are trained in their speciality – customer service (meeting, greeting, and paperwork), diabetes testing, refraction, glasses fitting, patient records and more. I’m including a few photographs in the slide show below that attempt to illustrate just how neat it was to be there today!

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In other news, it’s been a blur of a few months at CASI and we are well on our way to announcing our 2015 CASI interns! We had a full team of support from alumni readers, committee chairs, and former CASI interns leading interviews this year! Feeling so thankful all around.

I could write forever but I have an early morning tomorrow with our 2014-15 Sobti Family Fellow Vignesh Selvakumaran!

More coming soon!

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About Aparna Wilder

Associate Director, CASI Student Programs and Outreach After graduating from Penn, Aparna spent six years living and working in India. She volunteered with Indicorps and started her own production house, global rickshaw, that makes short films in collaboration with NGOs and non-profit organizations. Aparna is a TED India Fellow and holds an MPA from Columbia University.