The visionaryDr Sanduk Ruit comes from Olanchungola in Taplejung district, a remote part of Nepal that has often been a metaphor to describe the rusticity of the country.
Dr Sanduk Ruit comes from Olanchungola in Taplejung district, a remote part of Nepal that has often been a metaphor to describe the rusticity of the country. The rugged geography, however, did not stop Dr Ruit from pursuing medicine and his interest in ophthalmology, and eventually becoming a leader in his field by giving the gift of sight to more than 100,000 people.
Dr Ruit’s efforts to cure people suffering from treatable blindness have been an exemplary effort in innovation and philanthropy. One of the major innovations that Dr Ruit pioneered in the 1980s was small incision cataract surgery and a lens that significantly reduced the treatment cost while restoring the eyesight of people across the globe.
The intraocular lens he developed is now supplied to over 30 countries and cost $3
(approximately Rs 300) each. The same type of lens developed in other countries
costs more than $100. Dr Ruit has received numerous awards across the globe, and was recently felicitated with the prestigious Padma Shri Award in the field of Medicine which is awarded by the government of India.
Dr Ruit would describe multiple times the emptiness he felt inside when his sister passed away at the age of 16 due to tuberculosis. This tragedy in the family unleashed a determination within Dr Ruit to pursue a career as a doctor. Later, he chose ophthalmology only to revolutionize several surgical techniques.
A world-renowned cataract surgeon, Dr Ruit became interested in eyecare after being part of a national eye survey in the 1980s. Later, he began mulling over a more innovative and cheaper solution to cataract surgery that would help hundreds of thousands of people across the globe.
Dr Ruit ran into Prof Fredrick Hollow who had visited Nepal as a consultant to the World Health Organization in 1985. The two doctors quickly developed a strong friendship and later worked to establish the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology and the Fred Hollows Intraocular Lens Laboratory, Kathmandu that produces cheaper lenses.
Although Hollow had passed away by the time the Tilganga Institute and the laboratory materialized, Dr Ruit never misses a chance to thank his good friend for being part of the team during the initial phase of the conceptualization of this noble project.
The laboratory housed at the Tilganga Institute with the Fred Hollows Foundation produces over 100,000 lenses annually that cost around Rs 300 each. Each year, Dr Ruit along with his medical teams, some of them including trainee doctors from various low and middle-income countries, set up camps in remote parts of Nepal. This renowned doctor travels to the homes of patients and gives them treatment so that they can see again.
Dr Ruit wishes to establish an eye bank and promote voluntary cornea donation after a person’s death. The corneas will be transplanted to restore the eyesight of people who cannot see.
“It is really hard to convince people. But things are changing rapidly, and I am glad that people are willing to donate their corneas,” said Dr Ruit.
— By Manish Gautam