Dr. Harminder Singh Dua, an ophthalmologist in Nottingham, England, is the recipient of the 2012-13 Rotary Foundation Global Alumni Service to Humanity Award. The following is an excerpt of his acceptance speech before the Rotary convention in Lisbon, Portugal.
As a young trainee doctor in the city of Nagpur in India, all those many years ago, I had made a trip to a city called Vijaywada to be interviewed for the Group Study Exchange team selection. I was one of about 103 young men who had descended on a hotel in Vijaywada. Each of us had been picked from amongst several others by the local Rotary clubs.
I don’t remember much about the interview other than that there were about a dozen interviewers sat around a large impressive table asking a lot of questions. It was a very long day. When my name was announced as one of the five lucky ones selected I was absolutely thrilled even though I did not know then that my life was about to change forever, for better.
Here I am, 32 years later, reflecting on the journey on which my life and career have taken me. If I were to pick one defining period from amongst all the years it will have to be, without any doubt my trip to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as a Rotary Group Study Exchange team member.
It is impossible to put in words the experience and the exposure that the GSE programme and other Rotary fellowships provide to young men and women. Words like ‘life changing’, ‘eye opening’, ‘inspirational’, ‘awesome’ come to mind, each individually hopelessly inadequate but collectively perhaps just enough to give an idea. To me it was all of those and more. At that age it was certainly “The experience of a Lifetime” that had a profound positive influence on my thinking and actions, my thoughts and deeds, and I would like to believe, through me to so many others, students, patients and colleagues, whose lives I have touched.
On my return, I wrote an article for a medical teachers’ conference magazine, which I titled “Visiting America the Rotary Way”. The opening sentence was something like this. Describing our flight from Bombay to New York I had written “Traveling with the sun we had 24 hours of daylight. Isn’t that a wonderful thought ‘let there be no darkness’. I had unwittingly captured, at least in part the spirit of Rotary and the spirit for which I would work for, for the rest of my life as an eye doctor.
As an eye specialist it is natural and expected of me to work on alleviating blindness. I have had the good fortune and pleasure to work in many eye camps organized by Rotarians and other charities not only to treat and cure blindness but to help those who are incurably blind. I am always amazed at the fortitude and courage with which these individuals serve the communities they live in. Perhaps subconsciously inspired by my opening sentence in the Teachers’ magazine article ‘let there be no darkness’ in a different context I wrote, as recently as last month, “in our zeal for political correctness, we fail to see that BLIND could be, an acronym for Bring Light in Darkness. As a professional, on behalf of my profession I would like to thank Rotary International for the enormous contribution it makes towards eradication of blindness and supporting those less fortunate.