Image Credits: Times of India.

On an average, she sees 60 patients a day. She starts consulting by 8 in the morning and continues until 5 in the evening, which makes a total of 9 hours of consultation! This is the story of Dr. Vibha Augustine, a gynecologist, who is the only hope for the underprivileged women in the interiors of Uttar Pradesh.

Retaining the Legacy

Dr. Vibha is not the only one among the kin who dedicated her life to serving the downtrodden. She was born into a family of doctors, whose parents also dedicated their lives to helping others. Dr. Vibha spent most of her early years’ in the interiors of Uttar Pradesh, which is mostly a drought and a dearth area. Her parents started rural development there. Remembering the early life, 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.
“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.” she adds.
But there was an incident that strengthened the belief in this profession as a doctor which happened when she was visiting her mother’s hospital after completing house surgency. Dr. Vibha recalls that incident. “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 gynecology and since I was not a Post-Graduate, was not authorized 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 neighboring villages as well, asking for help.”

This incident has stirred her mind. At that point, she decided to serve in rural areas and help the needed.

The journey as Dr. Vibha

In the early years, she wanted to be a nurse rather than being a doctor. She always wanted to help those in need. But a conversation with her mother changed her mindset. One evening after dinner, Dr. Vibha was telling her mother how she wanted to become a nurse and not a doctor. She remembers her mother’s reply. Her mother said that being a doctor, she could always do the work of a nurse, but as a nurse, she would never be able to make any diagnosis. 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 that stayed with Dr. Vibha.
Dr. Vibha now works in Banwasi Seva ashram in Govindpur of Sonbhadra district in Uttar Pradesh. 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. This ashram is the only hope for the expecting mothers of the area. In the past one year, she has helped over 200 women deliver babies. For decades, and even today, the ashram is the address of rural tribal needs of health, education, skill development, and livelihood.
For her selfless contribution, Union ministry of Health and Family welfare appreciated her by presenting the Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan (PMSMA) achiever award.

Source: Times of India, The Better India.