A Mentor and Miracle Worker
India's Dr. Asim Sil
Dr. Asim Sil is a gentle, compassionate and knowledgeable eye doctor who serves as medical director for Vivekananda Mission Asram Netra Niramay Niketan (VMANNN), a hospital system operating in rural West Bengal, India. He has dedicated his life to helping others through the provision of top notch, sight-saving eye care.
Though Dr. Asim is a humble man, his devotion to preventing blindness has been instrumental in creating what is today a state-of-the-art eye hospital in an isolated rural area.
Along with his team, Dr. Asim provides sustainable, comprehensive eye care to a region of over 10 million people. This past year, VMANNN provided nearly 19,000 sight-saving surgeries to people in need. The hospital is the only facility in the region with a pediatric ophthalmology unit. Their Low Vision Project, in partnership with the Indian Government, is working to provide eye care to 15,000 children.
Dr. Asim began his career studying under Seva co-founder Dr. Venkataswamy. He proudly shares, "I was very fortunate to have had Dr. V as my teacher. It was while working in Aravind that I came to learn about Seva."
Dr. Asim followed in Dr. V's footsteps, becoming a regional leader for Seva's Global Sight Initiative. Under his stewardship, VMANNN now serves as a mentor institution working to build the capacity of six mentee hospitals throughout India and Bangladesh. His team's work has resulted in a 25% increase in the number of cataract surgeries performed by mentee hospitals in his area.
This impressive achievement is helping Seva's Global Sight Initiative reach its goal of providing 1 million additional sight-saving surgeries annually by 2020.
"Seva's Global Sight Initiative is a marvelous initiative for the eradication of blindness in the developing world," says Dr. Asim. "We work with partners and where we find that they could do better, we share our own experience as we work together for the common cause."
Through Seva's Global Sight Initiative, Dr. Asim has initiated a mentoring and training process with surrounding eye hospitals who show a potential to improve productivity.
With strong local expertise and awareness, Dr. Asim understands the challenges these hospitals face. "You must learn not only the skills, but also the culture," Dr. Asim explains. "The topmost priority in the selection of successful mentees is the attitude of the decision makers - are they willing to change? If they are willing to change, it is possible." Seva then serves as the catalyst, providing the targeted support and funding the mentors need to be effective.
Perhaps the most valued role that Dr. Asim plays is as an advisor. In this capacity, he provides individual counseling to mentee hospitals, focusing on their most critical areas for improvement. As a mentor, he draws on insights and experience from his own hospital.
Dr. Asim shares, "The more we interact the more we benefit, even here at our own hospital."
His philosophy is centered on the idea of service as education. Under his leadership, VMANNN has developed a robust training facility. Their Institute of Ophthalmic Training runs dozens of clinical programs throughout the year. He invites mentees to attend these trainings with financial support from Seva. "Training is the most important part of the mentorship," said Dr. Asim.
Dr. Asim explains that his goal is to increase the efficiency and sustainability of mentee institutions through training so that they can provide vital eye care to even more people in need throughout India and Bangladesh. Dr. Asim regularly invites mentees to visit his hospital and observe how things operate, enabling them to adopt key practices in their own hospitals."
He notes that he also learns from these partnerships: "What we have learned most is the art of introspection. When you try to analyze someone else's systems you have to analyze your own." This "art of introspection" has served VMANNN well. His hospital staff have been able to look at their own systems to identify weaknesses and respond quickly to fill gaps.
Seva's Associate Director of Innovation and Sight, Heidi Chase, notes, "When I think about Dr. Asim, two characteristics come to mind - his commitment to teaching and his commitment to reaching patients in need of eye care. He still actively seeks out patients who don't have regular access to eye care, traveling for hours to make sure that all have good care. He also looks to turn every situation into a learning opportunity, whether it is for a resident learning eye surgery or a mentee hospital learning about how to determine the prevalence of a blinding eye condition in their area."
This year, Dr. Asim celebrates 20 years of service with VMANNN. The Seva team is proud to support his life's work and to celebrate his dedication to helping others.