Wharton Global Health Volunteers in India

By Gordon Phillips, WG15

If the purpose of clubs at Wharton is to provide memorable out-of-the-classroom experiences, then the Wharton Global Health Volunteers (WGHV) gets my seal of approval. I guess it is not much of a surprise, seeing as I have been a Board member for one and a half years, but this winter I was finally able to participate in one of the developing country consulting projects the group was created to arrange, working with the Aravind Eye Care System in southern India. While I envisioned the experience as a chance to synthesize everything I had learned on campus, I was surprised at how much the experience made me reconsider the way we do everything back here in America.

Aravind Eye Hospital
Aravind Eye Hospital in Madurai, India

The Aravind Eye Care System was founded in 1976 by Dr. Venkataswamy as a 20-bed hospital in his apartment dedicated to eliminating preventable blindness in India; the first employees were all family members. Growing without debt, donations, or acquisitions, Aravind was able last year to conduct over three million diagnostic consultations and perform 400,000 surgeries in five tertiary hospitals, five secondary hospitals, and 50 rural vision centers. While consultations cost 40 cents and cataract surgeries range from free to two hundred dollars, depending on willingness to pay for comforts, the system posted a gross profit of 69% on $102 million (all numbers purchasing power parity). Peer-reviewed complication frequencies place Aravind’s quality above developed nations’ systems.

Originally published by Wharton Health Care Alumni May 1, 2015

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