Mr. RamG Vallath, Lead-Pandemic Response Strategy, Azim Premji Foundation
Speaks on personal battles, lessons learnt from them; he speaks about resilience & the importance of positivity
The video is a detailed account of a conversation with him. Below is an excerpt…
Can you share any personal motivational incidents to help those involved in the frontline battle against Covid feel better?
The enormous load that frontline warriors are holding up to help the country, is beyond remarkable. I can share some incidents from my own life that may help assuage these worries. After getting into an IIT with sheer determination, I began to get distracted and struggled to maintain a passing GPA. With increasingly poor academic performance, I was under extreme distress and depression. At this moment in time, I moved in the right direction of reaching out to my parents and talking about my situation. In the long run, that time of distress made me a more resilient human being.
Later, while holding an esteemed but demanding job in the telecom industry, I became afflicted by an autoimmune disorder called CIDP. This disorder caused my immune system to attack my nerves. At the age of 41, I experienced a debilitating viral fever and my condition worsened substantially. Soon after, I lost my job in the midst of the physically and financially draining illness. This period of sickness and unemployment made me channelize my inner strength. I decided to not let my problems overrun my life, and adopted a solution-oriented approach. I tried to cheer myself up, and those around me. Positivity creates a virtuous cycle – the more joy you bring to others, the more you also experience it. Another important lesson I learnt was to move beyond denial or anger and accept reality at face value. It is only after the point of acceptance that one can start maximizing every moment of joy in one’s life.
The combination of stress and uncertainty about one’s own safety can be very distressing for HCWs. How can frontline warriors feel better while working in a continuously draining environment?
What we must realize is that tough times never last forever; but the lessons they teach us can be permanent. If we focus on maintaining strength and determination during these times, they can become great skills for life. Many HCWs may be experiencing more stress than I ever did, but the choices remain the same – you can either be negative or reach out to your loved ones. Do not dwell on negativity and make sure to share your worries with others.
The more positive actions you undertake, the better you will feel. Set small personal goals and perform small tasks that make you feel happy. Focus on your strengths and on the things in your control. It was positive action that allowed me to get my body back in shape after my treatment in the USA, and it enabled me to become a bestselling author. Smile at others and show kindness to everyone, as this kindness will reflect back on you.
You have been involved in Pandemic Response Strategy at the Foundation. What are the takeaways from that journey?
The first thing to understand is that even scientists do not have the perfect knowledge about corona. Questions like: whether the virus will die out or become deadlier, remain unanswered. This lack of certainty itself is scary and stressful. As healthcare workers, stress about personal safety can also be accompanied with guilt about not being able to save all lives. This leads to a feeling of dejection.
We, as humans, are a sum total of our experience and each difficulty we go through, adds to this experience. Challenges enhance our personality. While you should accept the feeling of guilt to be able to process it better; it is equally important to look at the bright side. As frontline warriors, you may have saved and touched countless lives. Do your best to help whoever you can, but as mortals, you have to accept the margin for error that always exists.
As someone who has worked extensively with technology, what do you think is the role of automation and technology in patient care?
Technology has allowed us to multiply our reach to a great extent. If we have tangible infrastructure in hospitals like machines, but no senior, experienced doctors are present – we can still use technological innovations to deliver patient care. Here, interactive technology can allow video interface and constant communication, where experienced doctors from central locations can give advice or supervise other doctors remotely. Even in remote villages with poor connectivity, healthcare workers can help the local community by setting up tele-consultations with doctors who are miles away.
The ability to use technology is also an indicator of our privilege. For a sizable proportion of rural India, all healthcare, whether it’s a PHC or telemedicine, is inaccessible. This can be due to transportation or geographical issues or even general maladministration. Acknowledgement of privilege can make us more proactive towards reaching out and helping those with access to poor quality services.
How is the Azim Premji Foundation reaching out to remote areas for patient care?
Our team is involved in trying to reach remote locations, and help local authorities set up facilities for oxygen supply, testing kits or in educating populations on COVID-19. Digital health will be more useful if it addresses these populations that are almost completely excluded from the healthcare system right now. We need to hold multi-stakeholder discussions on how technology can be used to support people in areas of poor connectivity and low digital literacy.