There are some doctors who embody the spirit of service above self. This article is about one such doctor.
Born into a family of doctors, Dr Vibha Augustine grew up seeing her parents dedicate their lives to helping others.
One such incident that strengthened her belief in the profession took place when she was visiting her mother’s hospital after completing her house surgency.
Dr Vibha speaks to The Better India about her inspiration and mission.
She says, “The mess in-charge at the hospital came to our house one night and was standing outside, seeking help. In those days, most of the deliveries took place at home with the help of midwives. His daughter was pregnant and was being treated at home. From what he was saying, I could gather that she was experiencing fits. Unfortunately, they had all assumed that her fits were because of some unnatural condition, and had kept her in isolation and were treating that.
“When I reached the place, the patient was in a coma because of the ‘treatment’ being administered to her. I had just returned after completing my house-surgency in gynaecology and since I was not a Post-Graduate, was not authorised to conduct a C-sec. I watched my mother do the needful. Once we managed to save the child, many calls started coming in from neighbouring villages as well, asking for help.”
For Dr Vibha, this was perhaps the point in her life when she decided that being in rural India and helping those in need was the way forward.
Growing up years
Most of Dr Vibha’s childhood was spent in the interiors of Uttar Pradesh. Her father, Prem Bhai moved there in 1956 and her mother, Dr Ragini followed him in 1958 and started rural development work. A drought and famine-prone area, it needed a lot of help.
She says, “I have grown up amongst the Adivasis and the local people. My parents inspired me – they dedicated their entire lives to the upliftment of the rural people. My school was yet another inspiration, I met many freedom fighters who took the path of development work rather than go into politics.
Dr Sushila Nayar was another great influence in my life. She was also Gandhiji’s physician until his assassination.
Dr Nayar developed the medical college where I studied and slowly she developed a rural medical college.”
She continues, “The other lady who influenced me was Dr Kaushalya, whom everyone called ‘Amma’. She was from a well-to-do family and came into this sector to voluntarily serve the underprivileged. Her smiling face will always inspire me.”
From wanting to be a nurse to becoming a doctor
“Having grown up watching many movies, I always wanted to become a nurse. I remember I would take my mother’s white gown, wear it and pretend to be a nurse. I always wanted to help those in need. Some would call me ‘didi’ and ask for my help and counselling on various occasions,” she shares.
One evening after dinner, Dr Vibha was telling her mother how she wanted to become a nurse and not a doctor. This conversation changed her perspective.
She recalls, “I remember my mother saying that being a doctor I could always do the work of a nurse, but as a nurse, I would never be able to make any diagnosis. That, my mother said, would leave me feeling very frustrated.”
A doctor would always be able to nurse but as a nurse, one would never be able to diagnose and prescribe medicines.
The situation in rural India was so bad that no doctor wanted to be there; in such a situation, being a nurse would have only left her frustrated because she would never have been able to diagnose and treat the patients – this is a lesson has stayed with Dr Vibha.
Current work and daily schedule
Dr Vibha is now in Sonbhadra district, in UP. She works in Banwasi Seva Ashram where dedicates all her time.
Speaking about her daily routine, she says, “The patients who come to see me, come from far and wide. They come with the belief that they will not be cheated if they come here. It’s faith that brings them to us. Since that is the case, it becomes difficult to sit only for a scheduled period,” she says.
On a regular day, she starts seeing patients from as early as 8 a.m. and continues until 5 p.m. On an average, she sees about 60 patients each day.
Dr Vibha has dedicated her life to the people of the district. For her contribution, she was recently presented with the Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan (PMSMA) Achiever Award.
Doctors like Dr Vibha are a rare find. We wish her the very best and hope that many more are inspired to follow in her footsteps and provide their services to those who are unable to afford it.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)