Bob Walker

Bob Walker

A group of University of Iowa students will leave this weekend for an extended field trip — to India. Bob Walker, a lecturer in the UI College of Business, is among the faculty members who will shepherd the 13 undergrad and graduate students as they visit and study an eye surgery hospital in Maduri.

Clinic officals want to expand and help more low-income people receive the vision care they need. Walker says, “We’re going to take a look at Aravind Eyecare and the efficiencies they have on a public health standpoint and telemedicine and then also with our creative entrepreneurial students, look at ways to improve.”

The UI students are from several different schools, with diverse majors ranging from business to engineering to public health. They’ll work in teams over two weeks in India studying the work flow and logistics of the hospital. “Our goal is to have students really roll up their sleeves and get dirty with entrepreneurs in these different countries,” Walker says, “and learn as much as they can about the culture and doing business in different countries.”

The Aravind Eye Hospital is a “world-class” facility, according to Walker, who says a factory-like system has been developed. As many as one-thousand surgeries are performed there daily, mostly for cataracts. Walker hopes the UI students will be able to suggest further improvements that will reduce costs, so more people can undergo the surgery.

“We will take a look and use our creative minds to see what we can see and if there’s any efficiencies we can spot, whether it be with the telemedicine,” Walker says. “I’m interested at how they build trust with villages outside the area to get people to really see the benefit of what they can do.”

Though easy to fix, cataracts are a big problem in India because so few poor people have access to decent health care. The UI delegation will leave for India on December 27th, returning to Iowa on January 17th. The students are paying their own way for the for-credit trip, which is expected to run each student between $3,000 and $4,000.