Young doctors should never lose their fascination for the profession or stop dreaming because it will make all the difference in their professional life in the years to come, according to Sanduk Ruit, eminent ophthalmic surgeon from Nepal and 2006 Magsaysay award winner for his mission to provide sight to millions through affordable cataract surgery.
Dr. Ruit was addressing a gathering of students and faculty at the ongoing Erudite Conclave, organised by the 2005 batch of MBBS students of the Medical College Hospital, Thiruvananthapuram here on Tuesday.
Dr. Ruit spoke about how he had taken the complex cataract surgery, modified and simplified it so that it could be performed easily, with excellent results, even in the most rustic of settings.
In the late 80s most cataract surgeries in developing countries were performed without the implantation of the intraocular lenses (IOLs). It left the patient with very thick lenses, which were practically not very functional because there was no peripheral vision and several other complications. The cost of IOLs – about $100 — was one of the main factors which made cataract surgery unaffordable to most.
Along with Fred Hollows, an Australian surgeon and Dr. Ruit's mentor, he dreamt of producing inexpensive IOLs in this part of the world. It took them seven years and in 1992, they set up the first unit for manufacturing IOLs in Nepal, managing to bring the cost of the IOLs to just $15. With the increase in volume, the cost of the lens could be brought down to under $4. In 1994, he started ambulatory surgeries (surgeries which do not require overnight hospital stay by the patient). In the late 90s, he initiated the small incision cataract surgery.
“In the late 90s, I had a good offer from Australia. I decided to stay back in Nepal. It was a great choice. While working in the North East, watching the joy of a woman who had seen her baby for the first time after the eye surgery, I realised that this joy I could give others is what keeps me going,” he said.