Creating something new

So much has happened over the past ten weeks, from enjoying the Pondicherry beaches, to goofing off in dance class, to playing carom with co-workers, to seeing the Taj Mahal. However, the true reason I came to Madurai was for the privilege of working for Aravind Eye Care Systems. My co-interns have already written about the incredible work done by the people at Aravind. I’ve loved seeing the way this organization works, with all its ups and downs. To be entirely frank, I came into this internship unsure of how much I could actually give back. Aravind is such an impressive organization, unlike any other. However, I was excited, flattered, and motivated by the amount of agency the people there gave us. We took part in structuring our own projects, and these ideas were respected and considered by management. Aravind stays true to its values, including a philosophy of constant innovation. I was somewhat taken aback at first by how open people were to change if you could prove it would significantly help.

For my project, I re-structured an employee training course and moved it online. Aravind must train all its employees on quality and safety standards for the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH). Throughout their employment, employees are re-trained every few years. Right now, HR runs six sessions over the course of several months to teach this material. Attendance and assessments are taken by hand then processed by HR to show NABH auditors that training occurs. Since there are over five thousand employees, manually checking for signatures is logistically difficult, as is training and retraining employees every year with material that is, frankly, somewhat dry. That’s where my project comes in.

To create the content to put on the site, I sorted through the variety of materials currently used and re-structured the organization of the course to better target the interests and needs of doctors. I also organized that content into a database. Then, I took this content and created animated videos, films, and text files accessible year-round by the doctors. For each section I also created a pre and post assessment. HR has gradebook and course completion dashboards where they can view staff results in groups filtered by hospital and department. 52 weeks after completing the course, the system sends an automatic email reminding employees to be recertified. Sadly, I did not finish all the content materials before leaving, so I trained some residents to use the software and upload the rest of the content.

We hope to have the full self-learning course with all the content up by September 30th. Until then employees will be taking the online assessments after in-person training sessions. Eventually, the administration wants to expand this training course to over 5,000 of Aravind’s employees, as well as to open the course to other interested hospitals. I really respect Aravind’s policy of sharing their knowledge and materials to focus on stopping needless blindness, instead of on having a competitive advantage. They have already received requests for this type of system from other hospitals, and I am excited to see its progress in the future.

I am very happy with this project. Coming into this summer, I was expecting to learn more than I gave back. I still feel this way, but I now feel as though I made more of a tangible impact than I expected. Admittedly, I do not think I want to continue to pursue making learning management systems or working with the same material. However, I’ve really enjoyed the feeling of creating something from scratch with a visible product at the end. I’ve also really enjoyed being in charge of my own work. Since there are so many complementary parts of this project, I did not have a head person working on the same project as me, I instead coordinated between all the different stakeholders. Although it was sometimes frustrating not having one single point person, I learned a lot from handling these differences on my own, and getting to see people in many parts of the hospital.

This project was an excellent mix between what I already know and what I want to know. Most of my work so far has been in coaching and tutoring, so I have a generally good understanding of which educational organizational strategies that work better than others. I also really enjoy behavioral science, so it has been interesting thinking about how to make the information as engaging and effective as possible. However, I also really enjoy learning about the technical side of creating platforms like this one. Although I did not get to code this summer, I now know I can teach myself how to use confusing programs and figure it out eventually.

Overall, I feel like I contributed while also learning a lot, from both my project and from trips to places like eye camps, vision centers, and the operation theater. I’ve left this summer feeling capable of creating something and motivated to keep pursuing the more technical side of future projects.



The course completion page HR can use to keep track of students.


The primary vision center we visited. Each of these centers has their own spectacle shop, as well as a telecommunication system that connects patients with doctors in the tertiary hospitals.



Cards used at the eye camp

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About Madeleine Grunde-McLaughlin

Class of 2020, majoring in Cognitive Science and minoring in Computer Science and French. Summer 2018 intern at Aravind Eye Care Systems in Madurai, Tamil Nadu.