(MyStory006): An Optometrist who blends in with the society

My Story Episode 006 || © Vision Club 2020

Optometrist Suresh Awasthi, Nepal

Hello, Namaste everyone.

Hope you have been doing well all this long. This time in "MyStory" section, we are presenting the story of Suresh Awasthi, who is a 2006 graduate of Maharajgunj Medical Campus, Institute of Medicine. Later he got his Master's degree from University of South-Eastern, Norway. Wherever you are brought up from, you tend to follow your own path valuing your instinct and anchoring yourself where you find the ultimate bliss. When you are happy you can fuel yourself to make others happy. Our respected Suresh dai recounts his story how he now complements his society and so, he is proud to be a part of people's journey from darkness to light. He articulates, "You are made up by your family and society, it's a boon to be with them and serving them with real-life knowledge after acquiring professional skills. And I cherish what I do because it was all I wanted to."   

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Optometrist Suresh Awasthi writes -

One evening, when some foreign body got into my friend’s eye, we went out looking for eye care. However, it was late in the evening and all the clinics in that area were already closed. Tears came rolling down his cheeks and he could hardly open his eyes. For the first time, I realized how essential primary eye care is. This motivated me to join Bachelor of Optometry in 2002. The environment of the campus and the hostel at Maharajgunj Medical Campus were pleasant and soon I became part of it. During clinical postings, as I walked in the hospital with white apron, people looked at me, perhaps with a feeling of respect.  I completed my final year project work in visual status of Nepalese civilian pilots. This project was challenging in terms of its implementation. Peripheral posting at Sagarmatha Choudhary Eye Hospital and Community diagnosis at Gajuri village enabled me to understand community services which became valuable skills later in my professional life.

After graduating in 2006, I decided to join Geta Eye Hospital. I returned to my hometown Dhangadhi, after living in Kathmandu for 14 years. It was a good feeling for me to be back home where my childhood memories were. Most of all, I enjoyed less busy traffic and green paddy fields swaying in the gentle breeze on my way to work. I felt excited and motivated to see people, who looked handicapped due to blindness, walking on their own after treatment. The hospital is a center of hope for hundreds of people visiting every day. I travelled to almost all districts of the Far West during eye camps and blindness surveys. Eye camps were both adventurous and tiring. In some places we walked for hours before reaching our destination. We cooked our own food and slept on a mattress in schools and health posts. I was happy to be a part of the life changing process.   

I decided to further my education so that I can be better in changing people’s lives. I applied to a number of universities and finally got an opportunity to study vision science at University of South-Eastern Norway. It was a full scholarship from Norwegian government and everything was arranged well. It was a new experience for me as I had never lived outside Nepal. I landed in Oslo Airport in September 2008. It was colder than I was used to. However, I gradually became habitual with the cold climate. There was not anyone from Nepal in the town I lived in. Loneliness was really depressing especially in winter. Soon, I mixed up with Norwegians enjoying social and sports life, and that's when life increasingly became easier. Though most people could speak English, the bulk of the conversations were in Norwegian at social gatherings. I learnt Norwegian so that I could follow conversations at social gatherings. Cooking was another challenge for me as I had never cooked my food while I was in Nepal. I had to learn it on my own. Gradually life became easier when I met Nepalese friends in Oslo. I graduated in 2011 with my work on refractive error among school children. I enjoyed living in Norway with its kind-hearted citizens for 3 years.

Though Iife was good in Norway, I did not want to be there for long. All my life, I stayed away from home learning skills and knowledge essential for life. I wanted to spend some time with my family and society that helped me become who I am today. It was the right time; I could give back to the society. I feel I can contribute to complete the gap in eye care by making optometric services available in the region. I re-joined Geta Eye Hospital in 2011 which is a community based hospital with extensive outreach services. At Geta, I worked for a number of eye care projects that not only supported the hospital financially but also helped in improving the way we provided eye care.. I worked for HelpMeSee project and trained other project sites in Nepal, India, Vietnam and Myanmar. I wrote more than 300 life changing patient stories and worked with professionals in making short videos for some of them. I had a great learning experience working as Optometrist and Project Manager for 4 months in an eye hospital in Myanmar.

In the process of developing an academic program at Geta eye hospital; I worked as a member for curriculum development subject committee of BOptom and MOptom programs. Optometric services were not organized, so I contributed in establishing an Optometry unit at the hospital which is helpful in delivering optometric services. To stimulate the academic and research culture, I have conducted research studies, some of which have been published and presented at conferences.

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If you have got stories as a vision care professional and you think it's worth sharing, please feel free to write us at [email protected] or [email protected]. We want to develop the culture of caring through writing and sharing what we think and experience, of course in a positive way.

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