This MBBS graduate left behind a career in medicine to reach out to the underprivileged who can’t access healthcare
Much like most other individuals who pursue medicine as a career, Victor Mohan chose to study medicine because of its potential to help one have a meaningful impact on millions of lives.
Yet, after graduating MBBS, when it was time for him to take his NEET exam to specialise with a post-graduate degree, he decided to branch out in hopes of taking an alternate view in healthcare. “The prospect of becoming a highly specialised surgeon attending to a handful of self-selecting patients just didn’t seem exciting to me, not when I would be leaving behind thousands of underprivileged patients who couldn’t reach me,” he says.
Victor Mohan and Senneil Gomes, Founders, Reach Lives
The problem with access to healthcare is well documented. In fact, a study published in the Lancet in 2018 noted that India fared the worst among the sampled 136 countries when it came to preventable deaths — 2.4 million individuals on average die annually due to treatable illnesses. This, according to Victor, is despite the best efforts of the government and health institutions.
“There are too many barriers to accessing quality healthcare, ranging from financial constraints and geographic access to cultural norms and perhaps most importantly, lack of awareness,” he says.
The real effects of these barriers were first felt by him during his medical training. “A question of ‘can he/she afford it?’, was constantly being asked and such questions must simply not be a consideration when deciding to treat someone. So, I decided to play my part and do something about it,” he adds.
Partnerships to reach more lives
Partnering with Senneil Gomes, another student at St. John’s Medical College, Bangalore, he decided to found Reach Lives.
“We created this organisation in order to bring healthcare and health education closer to underprivileged communities,” says Victor.
“Based on my many conversations with senior doctors during my training, I was aware of the fact that doctors wanted to help reach these communities; however, it was just too difficult to identify deserving communities and set up the infrastructure needed to deliver services. Through the Reach Lives platform, doctors and other healthcare providers can volunteer their services at their convenience and leave the logistic preparation and community mobilisation to us,” he adds.
As luck would have it, they were able to skip much of the bureaucracy involved in starting a non-profit by teaming up with Anora Charitable Foundation, an organisation which had been started by his mother, Mini Mohan, to help the poor with financial assistance several years back. Since inception, they have organised over 30 outreach events in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
Volunteers and health professionals during a health camp
“We first contact communities, which range from urban slums and rural villages to underfunded schools and orphanages, and identify their needs. Following this, we approach the service providers including doctors, nurses and other health staff who are able to address those needs, and host them at an outreach camp organised by us with the help of volunteers who work with us,” says Victor.
Reach Lives has also partnered with large hospital chains to set up comprehensive health clinics with multiple specialities such as dental and eye care. According to Victor, it’s a simple model which has worked well.
Efforts to create awareness and accessibility
Reach Lives is currently engaged in the organisation of a large fundraising and awareness campaign in Goa during January – the Cervical Cancer awareness month - to highlight the second leading but preventable cause of cancer-related deaths among women in India.
“We will be hosting a marathon in association with the Goa College of Architecture to raise funds. During these events, we will also be targeting select communities to educate women on the importance of screening for the disease during adult life,” Victor says.
Later in the month, the funds raised from the event will be used to organise an outreach event, where HPV-vaccines, which can prevent 90 percent of cervical cancer cases, but cost over Rs. 4,000 for two doses, will be provided free for young girls, in association with a multi-national pharmaceutical company and the state government.
“We hope that through our efforts, young girls from marginalised communities can also access these life-saving but expensive vaccines,” says Victor.
When asked about the future, Victor claims that healthcare is just the start for Reach Lives. The organisation has recently branched out to launch the ‘Reach Nutrition’ initiative, which is tapping unused food at various levels of the food chain and redirecting it to the urban homeless in Bangalore. Another initiative is ‘Reach Creativity’, which provides vocational training in art to children in orphanages.
Victor says, “I envision Reach Lives to become a platform for any service provider, manufacturer or retailer including hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, restaurants, neighbourhood grocers, supermarkets, etc., to reach out to deserving communities without worrying about the hassle involved in reaching them.”