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The ‘Purpose’ Behind Why This Doctor Does Free Heart Surgeries Is Really Moving

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By Alvin Ung and Nur Hamurcu:

“Spending time with Dr Shetty is like spending time with God.” That’s according to half the people we spoke to in the waiting rooms.

dr shettyDr Devi Shetty is one of India’s most well-loved heart surgeons. As the founding chairman of Narayana Health, he runs one of the largest and most affordable health service providers in the world.
In 14 years, the group has built more than 30 hospitals, where 150 major surgeries are performed every day. It has just built a massive hospital in the Cayman Islands that’s aimed at disrupting the US healthcare system.

There’s constant pressure to scale up and sustain profits. But these ambitions are small compared to Dr Shetty’s higher goal: to revolutionise healthcare in India and around the world, by bringing together quality, affordability and profitability.

Since becoming Mother Teresa’s personal doctor decades ago, Dr Shetty has made it a policy for his hospitals not to turn away any patient who cannot afford the price of surgery.

Five Minutes

On any given day, hundreds of people pack into two large rooms, waiting to see him. A typical session with him takes about five minutes.

We see a 12-year-old girl enter Dr Shetty’s room accompanied by three family members. In the first minute, he studies the girl’s file and makes his first decision. “She needs surgery, urgently,” he tells them, adding that the heart bypass procedure costs US$1,500. (A similar surgery at the Mayo Clinic in the US costs north of $100,000).

“How much?” asks the mother, worry etched on her face.

Dr Shetty tells her the amount, even as he glances at their clothing, listens to their rural forms of speech, and notes the cracked ballpoint pen held by the father. By the third minute with the family, he’s made his second decision. “The hospital’s foundation will cover the cost,” he tells them, as he pats the patient, sitting just inches from him, on the shoulder.

The girl starts to cry. The mother gets up from her seat, walks around the table, and begins kissing first Dr Shetty’s hands, and then his feet. The father looks stunned with gratitude.
Then one of Dr Shetty’s three assistants ushers the girl, her parents and her uncle out of the sunlit office. Another assistant ushers in a new family for a new five-minute cycle.

Repeat this up to 100 times a day. Repeat daily. And that is how this man has been living his life since he started his remarkable hospital system.

Purpose Matters

What drives him? “We grossly underestimate the power of purpose,” he says. “When we are sure, when we are convinced, about the purpose of our action, everything else becomes a minor detail.”

He explains that the doctors in the hospital are so committed that hardly any of them leave. “It has nothing to do with the personality called Devi Shetty. It is the purpose for which I stand for,” he says.

What Dr Shetty accomplishes with apparent ease can be extremely hard for many of us. Some of us regret the years we have invested in soul-sucking jobs. We feel that our talents, skills and values don’t match what the organisation requires of us. We work for the pay while silently disagreeing with the company’s aims or products. Or we simply do what we do because our parents told us to.

Some people, like Dr Shetty, seem to know deep in their bones what their purpose is. For others, finding personal purpose is especially tough. But that shouldn’t stop us from looking. On the contrary, we must keep looking.

We can start by asking ourselves such questions as: What are my core values? What is my higher purpose in life?

This could set us off on a journey where we can seek out and work with people and organisations who share a similar purpose and share our values. And if we believe in an organisation’s purpose, we will naturally do what it values most because it affirms what we value most.

That is what we saw at Narayana Health and it is how Dr Shetty and his organisation are attempting to revolutionise healthcare in India and around the world.

This article was originally published here on Our Better World.

You must be to comment.
  1. Jawarilal Lunawat Jain

    Congratulations & my best wishes for all Narayana family. God bless to u & all NH family. Warm regards

  2. Nanda Kumar

    I am wondering as one of an under privileged family with a kid of 1.5yr old has a blockage and a hole in the heart and has to get operated by Jan… it seems when they reached out to Narayana Hrudayalaya Hosur Road, they said it costs abt 4.5 to 5 lakhs. If what I read in the article is true then can someone help this family get that help? Please let me know whom should they reach out.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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