Mr. Susan Nakarmi is a tremendous asset of our eye care program in Nepal. He has been working as the Opthalmic Assistant (OA) in charge of the Community Eye Centre (CEC) in his home district of Pyuthan since his completion of the Ophthalmic Assistant Training Program in 2004. Susan earned a Seva scholarship to the training program.
Parami Dhakhwa, Seva Nepal Program Manager, had the opportunity to interview Mr. Susan Nakarmi and his father about his training and work in eye care.
"My father is my inspiration. The feeling of social work in me developed because of my father." - Susan
Seva: Tell us a little about you, including your family and your job?
Susan: My name is Mr. Susan Nakarmi. My home is in Khalanga, Pyuthan. Currently I working as an Ophthalmic Officer at the Narendra Gayatri Eye Hospital, Pyuthan.
Seva: Can you tell us a bit about the Pyuthan District?
Susan: Pyuthan is a hilly district in the Lumbini Province situated in the mid-western region of Nepal with a population of 226,796. The district covers an area of 1,309 km2.
Seva: How and why did you start working in eye care?
Susan: After 10th grade, I was studying science in Kathmandu, dreaming of becoming an engineer. One day I was informed that Seva was sponsoring two candidates for Ophthalmic Assistant (OA) training for the Pyuthan District. I liked the medical field and with my father's encouragement I applied for the scholarship and got it!
Seva: How has Ophthalmic Assistant (OA) training improved the lives of your community? How does it make you feel to be able to help your community?
Susan: A lot of things have changed in the Pyuthan district. Initially, there was no eye care program in the district. There was a district hospital it did not have an eye care department. At the time, even for minor treatments or a pair of glasses, people would have to travel to for at least 3 days to the Lumbini Eye hospital or the Rapti Eye Hospital. Now that we have the Community Eye Centre (CEC), most services are available locally - glasses, medicine, eye screening - everything is here. We also hold three to four surgical camps a year so even patients in need of cataract surgery no longer have to travel to Lumbini or Rapti. Now anyone in the entire Pyuthan District can come to our CEC for eye care and within half a day people can return to home. I feel proud of this fact!
Seva: Do you ever regret that you did not pursue your engineering degree?
Susan: I do not regret at all that I did not pursue engineering. If I was an engineer I might not be working in my home district. The fact that I am working for the people of my own district and serving them makes me very happy and proud. In Nepal, there is a big respect for people working in the medical sector. It is a very respected profession. I was born in the Pyuthan District and my whole family lives here. The respect from the community is not only towards be but to my parents and my family as well. This gives me immense pleasure.
"The fact that I am working for the people of my own district and serving them makes me very happy and proud." - Susan
Seva: Can you share one of your first patient experiences with us?
Susan: During the OA training program we examined lot of patients but we were not allowed to treat the patient. When I started to work as a fully-trained OA and in charge of the clinic, I could examine and treat the patients. This not only built my confidence but also gave me the satisfaction of curing a patient.
Seva: What motivates you to work hard and help people with eye problems? Do you think your work will inspire younger generations to serve people in need?
"My inspiration is my father. My family very much supported me in my life." - Susan
Susan: My inspiration is my father. My family very much supported me in my life. During our OA training course we also had a very good and strict trainer, Dr. Khadga Bahadur Khadka (Dr. Khadka) who made us very disciplined. Dr. Khadka is also one of my inspirations and I also credit, Dr. Khadka with my success He was a very good guardian and not only taught us the clinical aspect of the job but also the human components of examining patients.
It won’t be nice for me to be talking about myself but in general people love my work and they like me. Patients sometimes express their gratitude saying that you are working on my eyes, a very sensitive part of my body and they give blessings and encourage me. In that sense, I guess youngsters might be inspired by my work.
Seva: What is one of the most memorable work-related events in your life?
Susan: There are many memorable moments. I will tell one incident which I still remember frequently. During our OA training course one of our friends fainted while working in the hospital and we took him to the medical college. There he remained unconscious for a long time and doctors said that he must be taken to Kathmandu as soon as possible. The will and strength we had to help him was so intense that we immediately got an ambulance and took him to the airport. There we were able to get him on a plane to Kathmandu. We were in such rush that we made the airlines to take him without a plane ticket! I will never forget that incident. I am happy to say that he is now healthy and working.
Seva: How do you think your work is recognized by the people of Pyuthan District?
Susan: I am sure they recognize my work. Sometimes it is expressed and other times it may not be. Perhaps when I leave Pyuthan the gap will be felt and it may be expressed to me. But since everyone is so supportive of my work and new initiatives, I feel everyone respects me and my work.
Seva: How do you think is your work recognized by the eye care community?
Susan: Yes, everybody encourages me! They say that I am doing good work. We started in two rooms of a district hospital and now we have a three-story building on its own land. We have a fully equipped operation theatre, plenty of space for eye examinations, glasses and medicine dispensaries. We have enough space for post-op cataract surgery patients as well. All of this became possible because we were doing a good job and were able to build trust in our community.
Seva: Can you tell us explain the gradual growth of the Community Eye Care Centre?
Susan: In the beginning we started with just three rooms in the district hospital. We were there for three years. We were looking for land so we could expand and were lucky to find a local donor, Mr. Narendra Raj Shrestha. With his support, along with Seva and the district development committee, we we able to build the first two floors of the Community Eye Centre in 2008 and later, we added the third floor. When we ran out of space to accommodate the surgical eye camp staff and to run training programs, we used profits from the Community Eye Care Centre and another donation from Mr. Narendra Raj Shrestha to fund the addition of a fourth floor. This also ensured we have enough space for an operating room as well.
Seva: How would you like to ensure the people of Pyuthan District continue to get eye care?
Susan: We have been serving the community for 17 years now and we want to extend our services to more remote places in the Pyuthan District by establishing new Community Eye Centres (CEC) and have developed proposals. In the long run I would like to have three to four CECs in the Pyuthan District and eventually turn our CEC into an eye hospital.
Seva: What are your plans for future?
Susan: From the very beginning of my career I have been working in the Pyuthan District. My dream is to convert our Community Eye Centre into an eye hospital. I would like to have an Ophthalmologist based ihere so that we can serve the community better. My dream will be fulfilled when the people of the Pyuthan District no longer have to go to other districts to get eye treatment, when our centre will be able to handle all the ophthalmology-related cases.
Seva: Do you have any hobbies?
Susan: My hobby is to play games especially badminton. I play in tournaments of various levels including at the district level and zone level.
Seva: What is your favourite food?.
Susan: Regular Nepali food -dal bhat and tarkari. (Rice lentils and vegetables)
Seva: Who inspired you?
Susan: My father is my inspiration. The feeling of social work in me is developed because of my father. After that in relation to work, the one who taught me discipline in work is Dr. Khadka, our teacher at the OA training program. He was strict and taught us to be disciplined. He built confidence in us. I have great respect towards him.
Seva: Is there anything else you want to share with us?
Susan: To conclude I would like to say that I am happy that I selected the eye care field. I am very thankful to Seva. I received help from Seva from the very beginning of my eye care journey, from the scholarship to the Ophthalmic Assistant Training Program to the opportunity to go to Hyderabad, India to take the Diploma in Community Eye Health course. I would also like to mention that I am also associated with the Seva-supported Lumbini Eye Institute which has helped me every step of the way.
Interview with Mr. Susan Nakarmi’s Father
Seva: Can you tell us a bit about Susan's childhood?
Mr. Nakarmi: Susan studied in a boarding school in Pyuthan. He was quite a healthy child and went to school regularly.
Seva: What dreams did you have for him?
"He is happy and as parents, we are also happy with what he is doing." - Mr. Nakarmi
Mr. Nakarmi: Like all parents, I wanted him to study hard and get a good job. After grade 10, he was studying science and at that time there was an announcement of an Ophthalmic Assistant (OA) scholarship and I encouraged him to apply. He applied and was accepted. He did well in his OA training and is working well. He is happy and as his parents, we are also happy with what he is doing.
Seva: How do you feel that your son is serving the people of your community?
Mr. Nakarmi: Pyuthan is a remote hilly region and people with knowledge used to go to other districts for eye treatment. There was lot more who were not aware that eye problems could be treated, they just remained blind for the rest of their lives. But now that a Community Eye Centre is here, regular eye care service is available throughout the year. Susan working at the CEC and treating patients makes me feel proud. I think he is doing exemplary work serving the residents of Pyuthan District. To date, from what I have heard, patients are very satisfied with his work.
In the Pyuthan District I have earned my own identity through various social works, but now people have started to recognize me as Susan’s father. I hear from community that Susan is serving well in the community
In the Pyuthan District I have earned my own identity through various social works, but now people have started to recognize me as Susan’s father. I hear from community that Susan is serving the community well. - Mr. Nakarmi