Sai Prasad Venkatachalam, co-founder of a new hospital in Karnataka, tells the American Bazaar about his passion for healthcare.
By Venkatesh Raghavendra and Payton Souders
In his second year of undergraduate studies, Sai Prasad Venkatachalam suffered cardiac arrest which left him bedridden. After recovering, Sai Prasad took this painful experience and turned it into something inspiring.
Sai Prasad was fortunate to receive top-notch medical care while he was ill, but he knew that for many this was not the case. He took this knowledge and founded Sai Aashraya, a non-profit organization that provides comprehensive and affordable healthcare to underserved communities in Karnataka, India.
Sai Aashraya’s most recent project is the Super Specialty Hospital. This facility will provide cardiac, obstetric and gynecological care free of charge to communities in the Kolar district of southern Karnataka.
Venkatesh Raghavendra and Payton Souders sat down with Sai Prasad, during his recent visit to the US, to talk about his trip, the hospital, and comprehensive healthcare for all.
Read: A Home Away From Home For Overseas Indian Parents (January 19, 2022)
Venkatesh and Payton: Tell us about Sai Aashraya and the mission of this organization.
Sai Prasad: First I will tell you about our impact. In the last five years, eight schools have been adopted, five million fresh and healthy meals have been served (as of June 2022), more than 70,000 patients have been treated and six villages have been adopted in some of the most remote parts of India .
Sai Aashraya’s vision is to bring global harmony and universal peace through selfless love expressed as service to humanity. Sai Aashraya’s mission is carried out through the pillars of food and nutrition, medicare, education and social care.
Through the various Seva initiatives adopted under these four pillars, we aim to achieve Equality, Integrity, Unity and Fraternity. All Sai Aashraya Seva projects bring the highest quality Seva offerings to the doorsteps of people living in some of the most underserved, diverse and challenging places. Loving all – Serving all is Sai Aashraya’s mission.
P&S: What led to your passion for healthcare and the creation of Sai Aashraya?
SP: When I was in my second year of college I went through a series of health problems that left my body broken. At the time I wondered why I was lucky enough to receive this quality treatment from so many doctors and have access to all the medications I needed. Why was it not available to many people not far from where I was?
Our first project (still going strong today) was our Breakfast Seva, providing breakfast to hundreds of children who would otherwise have nothing to eat before school. When we started Breakfast Seva, our daily interactions with people inspired us to enter the field of healthcare.
We started by holding super specialty Medicare camps in Bangalore every month and then expanded by adopting villages in some of the most remote parts of India. Currently, we have treated about 70,000 patients across India.
In some of the places where we work, people have never even met a doctor in their life. Providing them with the most loving and holistic healthcare has become our mission.
P&S: The Superspecialty Hospital is a very ambitious initiative. What phase is the hospital in now?
SP: Construction of the state-of-the-art 220-bed super-specialty hospital specializing in pediatric and adult cardiac care and maternal and child (OB/GYN) care is now progressing rapidly and the first floor of the hospital is nearing completion, as is the first floor of the other service blocks on our campus.
P&S: Who will the hospital serve and what care will be provided to them?
SP: This hospital will serve people from some of the most underserved communities in India. We will adopt about 36 villages around our hospital in addition to the six villages we have currently adopted.
We envision the hospital to bring about a holistic transformation in the lives of all the people who have given us the opportunity to perform Seva and discover our true selves. A research center is also being established to see how we can find ways to prevent the problem rather than just treating and curing the patient.
Much of the hospital’s work will go into making people aware of everyday life, ensuring that we see fewer patients over the years!
P&S: How can those of us in the US who care about equitable access to health care stay connected to you and your work?
SP: Sai Aashraya is also a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization registered here in the US as Sai Aashraya INC. There are daily service activities taking place here in the US, touching the lives of people living on the streets of Oakland, San Jose and Dallas.
By working with them every day, we have been able to transform their lives in the most meaningful way, allowing them to become self-sufficient.
People in the United States and other parts of the world have been incredibly supportive of the work that Sai Aashraya is doing. Many of them have joined us through volunteer efforts, providing technical expertise, financial contributions, etc.
Doctors from the US also want to participate by coming to our hospital and performing surgeries once a year and they have assured us that we will hold training workshops etc. for the nursing staff of our hospital.
It would be wonderful if many more people could join us on the ground or lend their support in any of the above areas (ie helping set things up in areas of their interest/experience, etc.).
For more details on this project please visit:
https://www.saiaashraya.org/saiaashraya-super-speciality-hospital and YouTube channel Episode 7: Sai Aashraya Super Specialty Hospital (SASSH)
(Venkatesh Raghavendra is a Contributing Editor for American Bazaar and a global social entrepreneur. Payton Souders is a young professional and social impact consultant.)