I heard about Sankara Eye Hospital for the first time, 18 hours before my counselling. I thought Coimbatore had a nice beautiful beach, through some quirky imagination of mine. I had no clue about Tamil. I was not even particularly interested in Ophthalmology. And then, much to my distress at the time, I took admission here. My first few days in Sankara Coimbatore were a din and daze. Din because I did not understand a word of what anyone was talking! Fortunately all my seniors and colleagues weren’t Tamil, and with their help I started picking up what was being spoken around. Dazed because of various factors. The sheer volume of work, about a thousand patients coming in and out every week, which is akin to fully functional government medical college. And this is just an ophthalmology centre!
I was extremely fortunate to have really good, skilled and knowledgeable seniors. After having been through the systems and processes of medical colleges, it is interesting to note that Sankara has a unique system of its own. The most important of these is that every single resident here has a fixed assigned duty and set of responsibilities. Of course, there is hierarchy and a chain of command, but despite that no one can shirk their work or dump it on some poor helpless junior. There is an excellent system of accountability in place. What is more interesting is this system has become a part of culture amongst the residents, and the culture is to be responsible and do your share of work sincerely. In case one doesn’t, he/she is automatically detected by the checks in the system in made aware of their sloppiness. This culture I believe is the root for the general bonhomie amongst all the residents despite different hierarchies. There does not seem to be any room for developing professional grudges.
On the other hand, I experienced a completely contrary situation to what other post-graduate students suffer. My seniors went out of their way to teach us, pull us up to mark, and train us for surgeries and all other work. From them I learnt for the first time how to approach, understand and study a subject. And this is how I developed interest in ophthalmology, after having spent a month into my post-graduation! Coming to Tamil Nadu from a non-dravidian region can be a huge cultural shock. It can be unnerving. But I presume everyone in the hospital – all the staff and doctors – were sensitive to this fact. All the residents and consultants were extremely pleasant to be with, which comfortably eased us in this new society. The hospital staff especially, were kind and cheerful about our goofiness. Going to camps was a mixed experience. We were unleashed into an unknown society, but luckily we had a very cooperative team who made sure we were comfortable.
In hindsight I realise that going to camps really taught me a lot. I learnt Tamil, started watching Tamil films and since it gave me an opportunity to interact with thousands of different people for various purposes, I started enjoying Tamil Nadu. My excitement has risen to an extent where now I feel like visiting and spending time in various different places so as to experience fascinating cultures. The core of a good educational institute is its teachers and the opportunities it provides its students to hone their skills. In this regard Sankara leaves no stones unturned. The management made sure regular and timely lecture were taking place. The best of teachers were made available to guide us, and it has been one of my most gratifying experiences to be their student. The institute made sure to arrange regular lectures in various different faculties of ophthalmology, from pathology to oculoplasty.
Another healthy culture in Sankara, bunking classes is seriously frowned upon. Although classes cannot be enforced compulsorily, students usually attend all classes, in fact the classes are organized and scheduled by the students themselves. It is also one good system. One of my seniors had declared that Sankara is a goldmine, and it proved true. When my peers and colleagues from other institutes hear about our surgical feats, they just cannot help wondering how this could be true. But it is, and it is very simple. With hundreds of cases being operated every week, that too most by residents, where is the lack of opportunity? All these cases were evaluated and operated by residents which took care of developing our clinical and surgical skills. Even in the OT there is a culture, the culture of promoting newer surgeons to develop skills, all this without compromising patient care. Here again I have been extremely fortunate to have seen excellent surgeons operating and train under their aegis. In fact, it would be foolish to expect this hospital to be a utopian abode.
But what pulls Sankara apart from all the other places is its drive and sincerity. Everyone there has it and seems to unknowingly acquire it. This drive makes everyone there do a better job and deliver the best patient care. It is addictive. Through a freak decision, I landed in a god-forsaken country, in a god-forsaken branch and in a god-forsaken hospital. And I ended up loving it all. Coimbatore is a nice big city with many laurels to its name, but no beach.