Madurai: “The City of Temples”: Training at Aravind
By Zubair Ansari MD
Born in the “City of Temples,” Madurai, India there is an eye hospital that serves as a model for healthcare delivery and inspiration to anyone in global medicine. That model is Aravind Eye Hospital. Established in 1976 by Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy, Aravind was conceived as a facility to serve the needs of a small rural community in southern India. Over the years, however, the Aravind network has vastly expanded to serve the needs of not only Madurai but the entire world through multiple facets.
The first, through the creation of multiple tertiary, secondary, and primary centers aimed at reducing blindness through screening and referrals of communities throughout India.
Second, through the development of state-of-the-art laboratory that produces thousands of ophthalmic surgical products (such as intraocular lenses) at a vastly discounted price point compared to American or European prices, making surgical care affordable and accessible to everyone in the world.
Lastly, through education and leadership. Education to Aravind is not just relegated to its ophthalmology residents and fellows in India, but also available to any ophthalmic technician, optometrist, or ophthalmologist around the world. It also has a vast “sister” program that hires and trains women from nearby villages and communities to be surgical technicians, access care, and optometric technicians, empowering them with the necessary tools for any job in the real world when the opportunity may not have existed otherwise.
As a global ophthalmology fellow, Aravind was an exceptionally formative experience for me. The relationships I made here, and the experience of seeing this incredible model at work is one that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Pictured here are a few photos of my trip to Madurai, including a photo with Dr. Vel Balaji, a comprehensive and cataract specialist at Aravind who was an incredible host and friend to me. Also included is a picture of the Chief of Medical Education of Aravind Eye Hospital, Dr. N. Venkatesh Prajna, at his book release “Aravind FAQs in Ophthalmology” (A MUST read for any resident or fellow preparing for board examinations around the world).