HPC Fellow: Megha Seehra, Operation Smile

Megha Seehra is a current Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow with Operation Smile Megha worked closely with the Patient Recruitment team and  oversaw hospitality for medical and non-medical volunteers visiting the mission site in Raipur, Chhattisgarh. In her blog, Megha talks about the power of partnering with local organizations.

Patient Recruitment Techniques
By Megha Seehra

Operation Smile was introduced to me by our very close family friend when I was in the second year of my college.  A medical mission for cleft lip and cleft palate patients was being held in Panskura, West Bengal. As students play a very vital role during missions, I joined as a translator for our international volunteers and attended my very first medical mission. While attending this mission, I realized how a small effort of mine could bring a smile to a kid and their family. My whole perspective of serving our society changed. Though I had attended several medical missions in India, it was my role and responsibilities as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow that exposed me to patient recruitment process that I never imagined pursuing before the fellowship.

With a vision to express my thoughts in the most creative way possible, I obtained my degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. During my fellowship, I learned that reading communication is one thing, but actually applying those skills is an art, just as theory is different from practicality. Though I was aware of some pre-screening camp techniques with local nonprofit organizations prior to my fellowship, working from the very beginning of the patient cycle helped me to understand the mind-set of every patient. I was able to see situations they go through in their daily life.

Operation Smile Patient Recruitment and Patient Motivation Team at mission site.

According to Operation Smile research, more than 35,000 patients are born each year with cleft lip and cleft palate in India alone. The estimated number of untreated patients is more than a million. Raipur, Chhattisgarh, is a new site where Operation Smile is working, so one can imagine how many patients are still waiting to have access to their safe surgery. The most difficult aspect of working in a new site is that most of the local charitable organizations and community clubs are currently unaware of this deformity. They were quite unsure how they could help us.

When Operation Smile opened in Raipur, the Patient Recruitment team took the responsibility of not only explaining what is cleft lip and cleft palate is to these local organizations, but the team also trained. Equipped with a full strategy plan to follow, these organizations can now help us in reaching more patients. One of the most challenging parts of this strategy was to motivate patients and their families as they were afraid and unaware about the pros of having a safe surgery, but this collaboration allowed us to have a broader community reach. Local organizations paved the way and explained to their people how Operation Smile came in Raipur to help those in need.

For my fellowship, I had to conduct area mapping, identify partner selection, assist pre-screening camp setup, and motivate patients. Similarly, I actively participated in maintaining logistics and documented the non-medical part of the patient care, which includes patient transportation, accommodation, patient food, and scheduling  announcements. Due to patient situations constantly shifting in the field, my mentor, Soumen Dey Malakar, Program Manager , Operation Smile India, taught me to look for and understand patient sensitivity, community member’s mind-sets, as well as work culture and work techniques. While most of our plans went as we expected, at times we had to make last minute changes, keeping in mind the sensitivity of the region we visited. Though my main responsibility was assisting Patient Recruitment team I also took care of the hospitality for our medical and non-medical volunteers visiting the mission site.

I am grateful for the Hilton Prize Coalition and Operation Smile for investing on me. This opportunity and constant support from both organizations throughout my fellowship helped me to develop a passion towards this field. Leaving this fellowship, I’m ready to utilize my improved knowledge in NGO field work.

About The Hilton Prize Coalition

The  Hilton Prize Coalition  is an independent alliance of the 22 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the  Fellows Program, the  Collaborative Models Program  and the  Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat,  Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit  prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact  prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow  the Hilton Prize Coalition on  Twitter and  LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

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