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Updated: November 17, 2009 02:20 IST

Ophthalmologist Jaiveer Agarwal passes away

Ramya Kannan
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Dr. J. Agarwal, a file photo.
The Hindu Dr. J. Agarwal, a file photo.

Jaiveer Agarwal, renowned ophthalmologist and founder of Dr. Agarwal’s Group of Eye Hospitals, died here on Sunday. He was 79.

While he kept good health right through, the death of his doctor wife of 50 years, Tahira Agarwal, in April this year affected him badly, his family members said. Both his corneas were removed on Monday morning for being used on two adults with trauma-induced vision loss. His son Amar Agarwal removed the corneas and transplanted one on a 20-year-old youth. The other was implanted on a 55-year-old woman by Atiya Agarwal, his daughter-in-law. It was fitting that a man whose greatest passion was eradication of blindness could enable, even in his death, two persons to see.

Son of Dr. R.S. Agarwal, Dr. Jaiveer Agarwal was born on September 24, 1930. He came to Chennai with his wife — and Rs. 60 between them. He used that money for setting up a clinic in the city. Initially, patients were only a trickle. But that was not for long. Soon patients started trooping in, and the small clinic has now become a group of 30 hospitals, where 150 doctors work.

Apart from running the hospital in Chennai, he went from village to village around the city, screening lakhs of patients, treating them and operating on them. Among his achievements remembered even today were hard-nosed campaigns for eye donation to treat corneal blindness, and correcting refractive errors among schoolchildren.

A pioneer

Straddling research along with hectic practice, Dr. Agarwal ensured that his Dr. Agarwal’s Eye Hospital was at the cutting edge of developments in ophthalmic surgery. He pioneered refractive keratoplasty with the cryolathe in India. He was also the first to start cryoextraction, say his colleagues. The hospital too has been credited with many ‘firsts,’ including the Phakonit, 700-micron cataract surgery, no-anaesthesia cataract surgery, and more recently, the glued IOL.

In 1992, Dr. Agarwal became president of the All-India Ophthalmological Society. He also headed the Tamil Nadu Ophthalmic Association and the Madras City Ophthalmological Association. Among the awards he received were lifetime achievement awards from the All-India Ophthalmological Society and the Tamil Nadu Ophthalmic Association.

Cherished award

While international honours came pouring in, including those from the Singapore National Eye Centre, the Eye Donation Society, Sri Lanka, the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, Miami, U.S. and Barraquer Eye Institute, Bogota, Colombia, it was the Padma Bhushan that Dr. Agarwal cherished much, his associates recall.

Leaders pay homage

Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, Deputy Chief Minister M.K. Stalin, Union Minister for Shipping G.K.Vasan, Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment D. Napoleon and Nationalist Congress Party leader Tindivanam Ramamurthy were among the leaders who paid homage to the departed surgeon.

Dr. Agarwal is survived by Dr. Amar Agarwal, and daughter Sunita Agarwal, who run the hospitals.

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