Dr. Asim Kumar Sil in a boat

© National Geographic

“The world is invisible to the blind people, but at the same time the blind people withdraw themselves from their surroundings and make themselves invisible. Unless the people who are sighted actively try to find them, they will remain in the dark.”
                                                                 – Dr. Asim Kumar Sil

Dr. Asim Kumar Sil has served for over 22 years as the medical director of Vivekananda Mission Asram Netra Niramay Niketan (VMANNN), a hospital system operating in rural West Bengal.

He is a modest man whose devotion to preventing blindness and restoring sight has been instrumental in creating a state-of-the-art eye hospital in an isolated, rural area that provides care to a region of over 10 million people. The hospital, which features the only pediatric ophthalmology unit in the region, is working with the Indian government to provide eye care to 15,000 children.

Dr. Asim began his career studying under Dr. Venkataswamy (Dr. V), founder of Aravind Eye Care System in India and founding member of Seva. "I was very fortunate to have had Dr. V as my teacher. It was while working at Aravind that I came to learn about Seva,” shares Dr. Asim.

Dr. Asim Sil with other eye care workers on a small boat

© National Geographic

Under his stewardship, VMANNN now serves as a mentor to eye hospitals in India and Bangladesh. Asim’s team's work has increased the number of cataract surgeries performed by mentee hospitals in his area by 25%.

With strong local expertise, Dr. Asim understands the challenges hospitals face. "You must learn not only the skills, but also the culture," Dr. Asim explains. "The topmost priority in the selection of successful mentees is the attitude of the decision makers - are they willing to change? If they are willing to change, it is possible." Seva then serves as a catalyst providing targeted support and funding that the mentors need to be effective.

Perhaps the most valued role that Dr. Asim plays is as an advisor and mentor. In this capacity, he provides individual counseling to mentee hospitals, focusing on their most critical areas for improvement. He draws on insights and experience from his own hospital.

Dr. Asim shares, "The more we interact the more we benefit, even here at our own hospital."

Under his leadership, VMANNN has developed a robust ophthalmic training facility, running dozens of clinical programs throughout the year. Mentees attend courses with the financial support from Seva. "Training is the most important part of the mentorship," said Dr. Asim.

Dr. Asim explains that his goal is to increase the efficiency and sustainability of mentee institutions through training so that they can provide vital eye care to even more people in need throughout India and Bangladesh. Dr. Asim regularly invites mentees to visit his hospital and observe how things operate, enabling them to adopt key practices in their own hospitals.

Dr. Asim Kumar Sil with a female patient

© National Geographic

Dr. Asim, with the support of Seva donors, is helping to create a network of high-quality, sustainable eye care providers serving entire communities now and into the future.

Come meet Dr. Asim Kumar Sil in person at our Annual General Meeting on Dec. 1st.  

Watch a moving video by National Geographic on Dr. Asim’s work "Helping the Blind to See in India’s Hard-to-Reach Villages” 

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