Rupesh’s contributions and how he has been a role model for others of the age group and how he created and drove his vision, managed a team and achieved results.
My husband, Dr Rupesh Agrawal is a selfless and an inspiring and accomplished individual in multiple domains. This guy is super crazy and he works 24x7x365 at the expense of his family; every weekend he is doing one or the other charity activities. This social initiative is in addition to his clinical duties at tan Tock Seng Hospital and his extensive collaborations for numerous research projects. He is associated with National University of Singapore, LKC School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Eye Research Institute, University College London, Moorfields Eye Hospital and numerous collaborations across Asia including India. He goes on non-stop skype or telecon meeting with his research partners and for community projects. Myself and our daughter Mahek, hardly gets to see him and he keep saying “ he want to give back to science and community”. I don’t think anyone else will know him in detail better than myself and I hence thought about writing about some of the many accomplishments from Rupesh – A selfless leader and a true visionary.
Rupesh has been involved in community projects since childhood and since our marriage, we have done many community projects together in India. After coming to Singapore, Rupesh went non-stop doing one after another project and that got him Healthcare Humanity Award in 2011. His never ending satisfaction for the community work, kept him more engaged and he was getting more busy and that’s where he decided to set up a joint initiative with his brother and friends -a non-profit organisation, VIRAJ Healthcare Foundation (VHF). Through this organisation, Rupesh contributes his expertise and time to the destitute population in the world by regularly organising healthcare initiatives both locally in Singapore and overseas mission trips in 3rd world countries. All these projects, have been conducted in partnership with numerous friends and leaders who have bought into Rupesh’s vision of better and quality health for all, helming from organisations such as the non-profit organisation such as Rotary Club of Singapore and other commercial organisation. He achieves all of this with the help of volunteer ophthalmology specialists, doctors, medical students, nurses, optometrists, and others whom he has inspired with his vision. Not only that, my daughter’s school vacation is mostly spent in one of the overseas mission and she has accompanied Rupesh to Sri Lanka and India and Indonesia. He has helped more than 1000 underprivileged Singaporeans and over 5000 underprivileged people in Asia. He is still unsatisfied and he wants to now adopt technology to help him with his mission and vision.
I can just say that, Rupesh is an exemplary role model – A selfless, highly motivated individual who can go to any extent for the community service. He is without a doubt “the role model” for younger generation and also seniors and those who are looking to have a meaningful life and contribute in one way or other for a better world.
Rupesh’s motivation and beliefs.
What motivated Rupesh to start giving, and why did he continue?
The heterogeneity and disproportionate distribution of healthcare resources in the developing nations due to lack of trained manpower and lack of infrastructure in the region motivated and prompted Rupesh to look at providing equitable and sustained healthcare resources in the community.
What was the need/issue that Rupesh sought to address?
Heterogeneity in healthcare resources; lack of infrastructure; lack of trained manpower; lack of financial resources were the issues addressed by Rupesh and his team by adopting the core values of capacity building, integrated care; empowerment and quality healthcare in the community.
How Rupesh’s leadership competencies have shaped and/or influenced in giving by others.
Set up the team of doctors ( including resident doctors, practising consultants); students ( medical, optometry and engineering students); philanthropists and social volunteers to conduct numerous projects. The objectives envisioned and achieved under Rupesh’s leadership were:
- Understand how to work with both local and overseas eyecare professionals
- Appreciate the difficulties associated with language barriers in communication for delivering eyecare
- Understand the effect of diseases on one’s livelihood and well-being and how patients cope with it
- Identify barriers (e.g. social, economic, political) to access to quality eyecare in rural communities
- Appreciate the difficulties associated with conducting surgical camps in rural areas (both planning and execution)
- Perform basic health screening routines such as eye tests, and taking basic history from patients
- Brainstorm ideas to address various issues identified as potential challenges in sustainability of healthcare provision
- Inspire the students to give back to the community and lead other medical service trips later in their career.
What approach did Rupesh choose to address the need/issue?
|Approach chosen||Description and reasons|
|Providing human services (e.g. befriending, mentoring, running errands)||Doctors; Nurses; Clinic assistants; Medical students; Philanthropists; Industry partners; engineers; volunteers – by getting them on the same platform to provide healthcare services in Singapore and in Asian countries.|
|Providing professional and managerial services (e.g. legal, finance, communication/ PR, event management, IT, management)||Providing healthcare consulting services to the organisations ( NGOs) to provide quality healthcare in the community.|
|Providing education related services (e.g. tuition, reading, life skills, library services, parent-teacher associations)||Tele-consultation and conducting education courses to provide healthcare education to the healthcare professionals in the community.|
|Providing health related services (e.g. nursing, therapy)||Eye care service – consultation and surgery and training young surgeons. This was done in Gorkha (Nepal); Vavuniya ( Sri Lanka); Phnom Penh (Cambodia); Wachet (Myanmar) and different regions in India. Set up eye hospitals in Western India through rotary club of Singapore|
|Fundraising||Through rotary club of Singapore and VIRAJ Healthcare Foundation, raised funds to set up eye hospitals in India and also provide capacity building to existing hospitals in India, Nepal and Cambodia.|
|Co-ordinating volunteers (e.g. train, brief, lead volunteers in activity)||Coordinated team of doctors; healthcare professionals; students to different regions in the Asia including Singapore. Conducted numerous healthcare projects in the community.|
|Sitting on boards, sub-committees, or advisory panels of non-profit organisations||Advisory board of The Vision Mission; Khmer Sight Foundation and Director, International Community Service for Rotary Club of Singapore. Founding director of VIRAJ Healthcare Foundation Ltd.|
|Providing skilled trade services (e.g. carpenter, electrician, hairdresser)||Skilled services by operating on cataracts and other complex eye surgeries.|
|Others, please specify||Setting up teleconsultation platform for providing integrated healthcare in the community.|
What was the biggest challenge Rupesh faced in this work and how did he overcome it?
- Changing the mindset and the practice pattern in the community – constant dialogue and working with the team and creating SOPs ( Standard Operating procedure)
- Lack of time and immense need in the community – by working over the weekend, after office hours and through application of technology.
- Team building – by working with like-minded individuals and delegating the specific tasks to the individuals.
What was the result or impact of Rupesh’s work on the community served
|International service: Setting up eye hospitals in India, eye projects in Cambodia, Surgical Eye Camp in Gorkha, Nepal and spectacle distribution in Philippines.||1. Provide necessary surgical intervention for patients who suffer from eye ailments (applies specifically for doctors only – Eye surgeon) 2. Increases accessibility of surgical eyecare to rural communities 3. Advance retina care and expert care in the rotary eye hospitals in India.|
|Vocational service: Teaching Basic health screening routines, Basic history taking to medical students and other healthcare professionals||1. Understand how to perform basic health screening routines 2. Appreciate the difficulties associated with language barriers in communication|
|Youth: Engaging students from medical school and other young volunteer surgeons on different projects both locally in Singapore and also overseas in Cambodia, India and Nepal.||1. Interact with the patients in different settings. 2. Provide education to the general public about eye diseases and prevention.|
|Community service in Singapore: Conducting screening camps locally in Singapore with various community clubs||1. Assist the underprivileged in Singapore. 2. Provide spectacles to the needy individuals. 3. A complete eye assessment to rule out potential causes of visual morbidity.|
|Sustainable impact: Talk and publications at the different levels on prevention of blindness.||1.One day joint certificate training program was performed with club in Gorkha for healthcare workers in the field/ community. 2. Numerous talks on prevention of blindness at different settings. 3. Publishing an article in Nepal journal of ophthalmology on role of NGO in prevention of blindness.|
How many people benefited from the project? >5000
Who were the beneficiaries of the project? People in Singapore, Philippines, India, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka
What was the impact of the project on the beneficiaries? Improve eye sight and education and awareness about eye disease.
INFLUENCE & MULTIPLIER
Who else did Rupesh engage in the volunteer/ philanthropic work that you do? What have Rupesh done to influence them to take on the cause?
|Engaged parties||Details of engagement|
|Relatives and family|
Dr Rohit Agrawal (Consultant Anaesthetist at NUH) – Dr Agrawal’s brother was inspired to conduct community projects both locally in Singapore and overseas. Both, Dr Agrawal and Rohit set up a not for profit organisation; VIRAJ Healthcare Foundation after appropriate approval from the respective organisation. Rohit helped Dr Agrawal’s initiatives in all the local community projects and also went to Dahod, Gujarat for a week to work at Drashti Netralaya and assisted the local team with anaesthesia care and planning for surgeries.
Our daughter, Ms Mahek Agrawal (now 15 years old) accompanied him in number of mission trips including the trip to Vavunaya, Sri Lanka and assisted the local team of doctors for escorting the patients and talking to the people in the community. For local projects, she took care of dispensing the frames and took charge of spectacle station along with medical students from LKC and NUS. Mahek also went for help the child project in Malang, Indonesia and that project was to look at Orphan child and helping them with education.
|Friends||Rotarians lead by Dr Agrawal were engaged in planning the projects, executing the projects both locally in Singapore and overseas. Dr S L Chan went for voluntering work along with Dr Agrawal in Gorkha, Nepal. Number of rotarians went to India from 16th-20th Feb 2018, to inaugurate rotary eye hospitals and provide their assistance for gift to sight project. Locally in Singapore for community eye care projects, rotarians volunteered their time and actively assisted during the eye screening camps.|
The numerous medical and non-medico friends are now part of one or many projects in the community. The friends are continuously engaged in pro bono work with Dr Agrawal for any social cause. Those are numerous friends to be listed and each one of them have provided massive morale support to help me with the social activities. Its indeed a team effort.
|Colleagues||Dr Agrawal’s colleagues from Tan Tock Seng Hospital – Dr Roy Tan, Dr Vivian Lee, Dr Aera, Dr Sandy have supported him immensely for the local and overseas projects.|
The hospital staff – patient service associates and ophthalmic technicians helped Dr Agrawal for all the four local projects, he conducted in Singapore in 2017-18.
|Relevant companies||Zeiss – industry partner supporting with instruments. They provided the instruments in kind for the four local community projects.|
Essilor – industry partner supporting the glasses. They are providing with the free spectacle frames for each of the local eye camps, till date more than 250 glasses has been distributed in 2017-18.
Forus Inc – It’s a company in India manufacturing the low cost fundus camera. Through Dr Agrawal contact with them, they have set up three fundus cameras ( free of charge) in India and that will help us in setting up teleconsultation centres in the rural community.
Alcon – Ongoing discussion with them to set up a cataract surgery training centre in Cambodia.
Zeiss – Ongoing discussion with them to set up a cataract surgery training centre in Sambalpur, Odisha.
|Relevant non-profit or grassroots organisations||Rotary Club of Singapore – fund raising, volunteer philanthropist. Humanitarian with Love: for manpower and other instruments required for refraction.|
Describe the most significant collaboration that Rupesh have undertaken with other stakeholders (e.g. non-profit organisations, companies, donors, volunteers etc.) that resulted in them giving more or taking on the cause themselves.
The most significant collaboration is with ROTARY CLUB OF SINGAPORE ( Non-profit organisation) and also setting up his own non-profit organisation – VIRAJ Healthcare Foundation in December 2016/ January 2017. Both this platforms of Rotary club and VIRAJ Healthcare Foundation, has allowed Dr Agrawal to engage numerous stake holders ( and volunteers) in working under the same umbrella for a unified social cause with long term sustainable impact. Numerous projects have been carried out and are planned to be carried out and details of the past projects.
Project Aasha – is a good prototype example of such collaborative project:- details of project Aasha:-
The main objective was to execute a surgical eye camp for members of the rural communities near Gorkha, Nepal. Cataract is the leading cause of preventable blindness in Nepal. Cataract surgery is a relatively simple surgery that provides a significant improvement to the quality of life of patients. However, in Nepal, surgical camps that reach out to rural community members that suffer from cataract are infrequently conducted due to lack of monetary and manpower resources. For the region of Gorkha, they are currently conducted by the Himalayan Eye Hospital (HEH), an established hospital that has been providing eyecare to rural communities in Nepal since 1993. We worked with HEH to execute a surgical eye camp to reach out to communities around Gorkha, assisting by providing monetary support to purchase the required materials and equipment and manpower support in the form of our Singaporean ophthalmological team led by Rtn Dr Rupesh Agrawal, a consultant ophthalmologist from Tan Tock Seng Hospital.
As students, their main roles during the surgical camp was administrative work, performing basic health screening routines, taking basic history from patients and observing surgical procedures and outpatient examinations. The team was be led by Dr Rupesh and the 2 M2 students: all of whom participated in a similar surgical camp with Project Aasha in December 2016. Prior to the arrival, HEH assisted in broadcasting details of the surgical camp to neighboring communities. The surgical camp was conducted at local Eye Care Centre in Gorkha. HEH purchased all the required materials and equipment using sponsorship money provided through our team.
The project was started with the service in Gorkha with a day of pre-operative work, involving a mass briefing with the staff of HEH, and the necessary set up for the operating theatre and outpatient clinic. In terms of manpower, we were supported by the local volunteers and the hospital staff from Himalaya Eye Hospital. In addition, the LKC medicine school medical students has been expanded to include include optometrist from SNEC and nursing students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic. Surgeries and outpatient examinations were conducted for two to three days where the students were trained how to work with healthcare professionals, and assist in providing logistical and administrative support for the doctors running the clinic and the OT.
On the 11th March 2018, a morning trip to Sree Saraswathy School for the visually impaired in Gorkha was organised. The objective of this visit was to interact with the staff and students of the school, and provide basic first aid training for the staff. The training was executed by one of the students who is a certified first aid trainer with the Singapore Red Cross. On the 12th March 2018, a visit to Amppipal Hospital in Gorkha, located in Northern Gorkha was conducted under Dr Chan. They pride themselves as being the hospital in the mountains: providing medical services to an ever-expanding base of rural villages in Gorkha district. This hospital is supported by a German NGO, and they have contributed much to the nearby villages by building roads, power supply and clean water to those homes. The students appreciated the challenges that the hospital faces when trying to service a sparse population in mountainous terrains. In addition, the students hope to assess their facilities and protocols, and formally explore areas of future collaboration.
The youtube video link will demonstrate the execution and impact of the project Aasha: