Dr Sanduk Ruit is a Nepali ophthalmologist who is literally working on a war footing against blindness.
Dr Ruit at an eye camp at a remote Nepali location. Tilganga
Over the last 30 years, his treatment has helped restore sight to more than one lakh people in Asia.
That in itself is a historic achievement. WHO reveals that 285 million people are visually impaired worldwide, of which 90% live in developing economies such as India, Nepal, Bangladesh, etc.
Here Dr Ruit is treating patients in Myanmar. CNN
He treats patients with cataracts using a method that takes just 5 minutes and helps a patient see from the next day after surgery.
In just five minutes, the doctor makes a small incision in his patient’s eye, removes the cataract, and replaces it with an inexpensive artificial lens.
The 60-yr-old doctor’s pioneering microsurgery is so effective that it is now being taught in US medical colleges.
A Nepali patient before and after his surgery. CNN
He has restored sight in eyes that have been blind for 30 or 40 years.
He did his schooling on scholarship from St. Robert’s School in Darjeeling and completed his medical education from AIIMS in New Delhi.
Dr Ruit performing an eye surgery. CNN
In 1994, he founded the Tilganga Eye Centre (now Institute of Ophthalmology) in Kathmandu.
It now has hospitals, outreach clinics and training programs and an eye bank. The hospital charges only those patients who are better-off. That money helps meet the expenses incurred on impoverished patients which can be upto INR 12,000.
The cost is very low because of a revolutionary innovation done by the doctor himself: a tiny lens costing just INR 180. The same kind of lens comes at a price of INR 12,000 in the West.
A board announcing an eye camp of Tilganga at a remote region in Nepal. AFP
The new corneal tissue is of a quality higher than those available to patients in the US.
The intra-ocular implant developed by Dr Ruit is now available in around 50 countries.
People from all over Nepal flock to the hospital or any of the countless camps organised by Tilganga all over the country.
Over 3000 patients are treated every week at the hospital alone.
A Tilganga eye camp at a remote location in Nepal. Tilganga
It was Dr Ruit and his associates who in 1997 convinced Pashupatinath Temple priests to allow them to procure tissues for the eye bank from the dead.
By 1999, the Nepal Eye Bank had collected five times the number of corneas, while the number of corneas distributed in Nepal had tripled. Tilganga Eye Hospital had performed more than double the number of corneal transplantations. He has been assisted ably by Shankar Narayan Twyana, Director, Nepal Eye Bank.
Shankar Narayan Twyana performing a cornea extraction from a dead near the pashupatinath temple in 2000. CNN
Palzin Tsomo, 80, is all thanks after a successful treatment that made her able to see her granddaughter (left) at the Leh Hospital. Phelps Sam/Daily Telegraph
Such is Dr Ruit’s international fame that he even treated patients in North Korea – a country no one dares step in.
Dr Ruit treating patients in North Korea. CNN
It was only after he successfully treated a North Korean diplomat at the embassy in Kathmandu that he was able to persuade the North Korean authorities to allow his team to conduct the 2006 surgery and training session in the south-eastern city of Haeju.
Dr Ruit holding a training session with North Korean ophthalmologists in Pyongyang. CNN
He has treated people in Malaysia and Indonesia, too. Most of his work is in developing countries, where they cannot afford costly cataract surgery.
Tibet, Bhutan, and Burma are other such countries where the doctor has been treating patients. Some 5,000 doctors from around the world have learnt Dr Ruit’s procedure of treating cataract and curing blindness.
A recuperating patient in Indonesia praying ahead of his turn for a final check-up. CNN
With US ophthalmologist Dr Geoffrey Tabin, Dr Ruit co-founded the Himalayan Cataract Project or Cure Blindness.
The project has been a tremendous success since they focus on training doctors in home countries with the method perfected by Dr Ruit.
Ruit (L) and Dr Tabin (R) checking a patient’s eyes at one of their collaborative camps.Himalayan Cataract Project
Ruit was born in a very remote village in Nepal. Due to the lack of health facilities, he lost his sister to tuberculosis when he was 17.
That was what pushed him into medicine.
Patients getting treatment done in Myanmar. CNN
It was his meeting with the legendary Australian-Kiwi eye surgeon Fred Hollows that turned him into what he is today.
Hollows became Ruit’s mentor. From Hollows the Nepali doctor developed the conviction that people in developing countries deserve access to the same quality of care and technology as people in the developed world.
The iconic Fred Hollows. Hollows.org
Dr Ruit has been conferred with many awards and honours including the 2006 Ramon Magsasay and 2010 Ujjwol Kirtimaya Rastra Deep Award.