The nurse who inspired our start 4 years ago joins Noora Health as Director of Training

Anand Kumar and Shahed Alam (co-founder of Noora Health) in 2012 (photo courtesy Jessie Liu)

4 years ago, Noora Health was laughably improbable, and the co-founding team was just 4 randomly assigned graduate students from Stanford on our first trip to Bangalore, India over spring break as part of an epic class at the called ‘Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability.’ In the first hospital we visited, we met a nurse name Anand Kumar. At the time, we had no idea how ridiculously lucky we had just gotten.

Anand Kumar in April 2012, when we first met him, teaching patients about what to expect (photo courtesy Jessie Liu)

Anand had recognized that there was a gap at the hospital between what patients knew (almost nothing, sometimes not even what condition they had) and what they needed to know in order to have a positive experience (as much as is possible during open heart surgery). So, he took it upon himself, in his spare time, to design a presentation that he could use to walk pre-operative patients through what to expect by showing them pictures of patients at different stages, and by explaining every step of the process with care. Since baseline understand was so low, he covered everything from explaining their underlying conditions, what treatments actually are, how they happen, and what the recovery process could look like. Then, he would patiently and openly respond to all of their questions.

Not only had he designed this curriculum in his spare time, but he also lobbied the leadership at the hospital to let him teach official courses to the patients daily, and to allocate time from his nursing hours so that he could take on this added responsibility. Instead of folding to the strong pressures of status quo in hospital environments, he acted out of a duty to change a system that he saw wasn’t working.

We thought…if Anand could run a program like this for patients with little resources, that he pulled together in his spare time (as a nurse, “spare time” is virtually nonexistent), imagine what we could do if we built Anand better tools?

Imagine if instead of walking patients though their treatment, we could run skill-focused courses for members of the family that wanted to help? What if we could make it easier for nurses and doctors to convey this important information to patients and their families before they go home? That just might fill some of the gap we were witnessing between what people needed to know to be successful when returning home after surgery and what they actually knew (again… very, very little) when returning to their villages. The leap wasn’t too far and getting prototypes off the ground wasn’t as challenging as the chaotic Indian hospital environment would suggest, because of one critical thing. We had the world’s best advocate and trainer — Anand Kumar — solidly on our team.

Ananda in August 2012 teaching our first prototype course (photo courtesy Jessie Liu)

So, it was natural that the first launch of the program was carried out by Anand. The first prototypes of what would eventually become our model…he executed entirely by himself. We would send him new materials, videos, curriculum and have long conversations, late at night over Skype from our Stanford cubby, while he was at the hospital.

Anand August 2012 leading first hands-on training session (photo courtesy Jessie Liu)

Deploying prototypes of a service in a chaotic Indian hospital remotely should NOT have been that easy and probably not even possible…it wouldn’t have been without him. He was our rock. He was the only way we were able to make iterations so quickly and with such high fidelity, so early on.

Anand leading our first ‘care community’ where caregivers further workshop what they have learned. (photo courtesy Jessie Liu)

He partnered with us from our first prototype until our first full-scale launch.

Now, if you are sensing a mild obsession with him, you are completely correct. In a lot of ways, what our team has spent the last several years attempting to do is replicate the type of compassion and care that Anand provides to each and every patient, family and person he comes into contact with. How often do you find someone with an effective bias-towards action mentality towards systems failures AND unbridled compassion towards everyone they meet? I know this is sappy, just bare with me, it is all very true.

Simply put, the world needs more Anand Kumar.

Anand spending time on rounds helping answer questions (photo courtesy Jessie Liu)
“Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow-men.”
— Mahatma Gandhi
Anand helping a wife understand the medications she needs to administer to her husband (photo courtesy Jessie Liu)
Anand teaching a group of patients in the ward (photo courtesy Jessie Liu)

So, that brings us to now. Last week, Anand joined the team as our Director of Training. This is probably one of the most exciting things to ever happen at Noora Health. We have a missing piece back on the team and just in time for big things.

We aim to be in 200+ hospitals by 2018, impacting more than 1 million families a year. This is ambitious, sometimes daunting, always exciting and with Anand on the team we have every confidence that it will be truly amazing.

Anand teaching a group of nurses at Jayadeva Hospital in Bangalore on FRIDAY! (photo courtesy Anubhav Arora)
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