This article is an interview with Harvard Developmental Psychologist, David Harris, about his book called Trusting What You’re Told (2012). The main message of his book is that children learn best from testimony of those around them whom they deem are reliable sources of information.
This book and Harris’ work intrigued me because it speaks I agree that whether we are conscious of it or not, what we know and how we engage with the world is largely shaped by the ideas (people) we are exposed to.
Part of what fuels this idea for the Living Proof Project is to gain access to stories and people who are sharing what they do just to give you a glimpse into how they think (and how their thinking has gotten them to where they are). The hope is that by having access to a library of different ways of thinking and engaging with the world, your world view will reflect such exposure.
However, this book only speaks to a piece of the value behind the LP Project. Tied into this project is my personal interest in systems and groups.
So much of our life is defined by the people we meet, the ideas we are exposed to, the community we grew up in, etc. Yet what connects us all below those differences are common underpinnings of human nature and the emotions we experience. While not everyone can relate to the details of a story, often, you’ll find that others will identify with parallel experiences in their own life and how it made them feel. The hope is to find stories that speak to you. And although you may never meet the people on this site in person, the hope is you will see a part of yourself in them. Let them be the teacher you never got to meet in school, the social system you may not have had exposure to growing up, and the fellow citizen who cares enough to let you into their stories to show you that you too can do the same.
Today, I share with you the following article: The Perfect Vision of Dr. V by Harriet Rubin (Fast Company)
Earlier this year, a friend sent me a copy of the above article. And I am happy to now share it with you.
It’s about an Ophthalmologist in India whose story moves me every time I read it. He may have passed away in 2006, but he is very much living proof of a life that I trust will challenge your conventional notions of what it looks like to lead, to live, and to be successful.
At the age of 58, Dr. V. opened a network of eye hospitals that has since served 32 million people, the majority of whom cannot afford his services. Some facts taken from this article that give you an idea of why his model has been the focus of numerous case studies:
- The free patients, whose medical services (including food and room) are covered entirely by the hospital, have a separate building. Paying customers are charged 50 rupees (about $1) per consultation and have their choice of accommodations: “A-class” rooms ($3 per day), which are private; “B-class” rooms ($1.50 per day), in which a toilet is shared; or “C-class” rooms ($1 per day), essentially a mat on the floor. Paying customers choose between surgery with stitches ($110) and surgery without stitches ($120).
- There is no qualification for the free hospital.
- Aravind’s surgeons are so productive that the hospital has a gross margin of 40%, despite the fact that 70% of the patients pay nothing or close to nothing, and that the hospital does not depend on donations. Dr. V. has done it by constantly cutting costs, increasing efficiency, and building his market.
- It costs Aravind about $10 to conduct a cataract operation. It costs hospitals in the United States about $1,650 to perform the same operation. Aravind keeps costs minimal by putting two or more patients in an operating room at the same time. Hospitals in the United States don’t allow more than one patient at a time in a surgery, but Aravind hasn’t experienced any problems with infections. Aravind’s doctors have created equipment that allows a surgeon to perform one 10- to 20-minute operation, then swivel around to work on the next patient — who is already in the room, prepped, ready, and waiting. Post-op patients are wheeled out, and new patients are wheeled in
I could not be more grateful to Harriet for doing an excellent job of capturing why he is very much living proof. What he is living proof of for you, may not be the same for you, but my guess is our reasons won’t be so different. Here are some other highlights of the values and principles that were the drivers behind his tremendous success in realizing his vision:
- “For Dr. V., leadership begins with the pursuit of self-knowledge and a vision bigger than any that can fit in the prospectus of a single corporation. All his life, Dr. V. has resisted smallness. Yet there is nothing egotistic about him. He asks himself, “How can my work make me a better human being and make a better world?” That question is at the heart of the mystery of leadership. And to answer it is to seek perfection.”
- “He came to believe that man has not reached the highest level of evolution, but that evolution will continue for several more stages until a higher intelligence is created. ‘Even the body has to be more perfect so that a new creature will result,’ says Dr. V.”
- “I ask Dr. V. a simple question designed to get him to talk about his unique vision: ‘What are your gifts?’ I ask him. Dr. V. replies, ‘People thank me for giving them sight.’ This is no error of translation, no slipup of English. Dr. V. considers his gifts to be the things that he has given others, not what he possesses.”
- “Part of Aravind’s service package includes love, courage, and total care. ‘You identify with the people with whom or for whom you work,” says Dr. V. “It is not out of sympathy that you want to help. The sufferer is part of you.'”
- “‘Consultants talk of ‘the poor,’ ‘ he says. ‘No one at Aravind does. ‘The poor’ is a vulgar term. Would you call Christ a poor man? To think of certain people as ‘the poor’ puts you in a superior position, blinds you to the ways in which you are poor — and in the West there are many such ways: emotionally and spiritually, for example. You have comforts in America, but you are afraid of each other.'”