News & Events
The ‘Temple of the eye’ takes a giant step in its journey of ‘Service to Mankind’
The 23rd of April 2018 was a ‘Red Letter Day’ for an institution that came into existence with one simple objective ‘Serving mankind and alleviating suffering of the masses through quality eye care’ it was the day the institution made an auspicious and blessed step towards fulfilling a long time dream, a most cherished dream and also a very ambitious dream. The institution started on the principle of serving eye care totally cost free and with a personal touch to poor patients, had over the 4 decades of its service reached a position of pride wherein it treated 50% of its out patients and performed 35% of its surgeries totally cost free, its cost free eye care initiatives had also recorded magnificent outreach, with quality eye care being dispensed to poor patients in inaccessible, remote regions like the deep interiors of the Sunderbans in West Bengal, Vellimalai Hills in Tamil Nadu and more recently in the tribal regions of Singhbum in the State of Jharkand. Building and operating a large, well equipped and easily accessible community hospital, dedicated exclusively to cost free treatment to indigent patients remained a collective dream of the institution. The idea was to have a State of the Art facility which would cater to a large number of walk-in patients, serve as a referral base hospital to patients screened at the outdoor camps, where they could be brought provided boarding, lodging and free treatment, a place where the institution’s community outreach vehicle including the MESU (MOBILE EYE SURGICAL UNIT) could be parked between their trips.
The biggest and first challenge in starting such a large facility, the availability of a large tract of land, in an accessible part of the city was solved when in a most generous and thoughtful gesture Mrs Kausalya Appukutty, Volunteer- Sankara Nethralaya Auxiliary Services (SWAN) made available the same totally cost free at the Dr VG. Appukutty Campus, named in honour of her late husband and generous supporter of Sankara Nethralaya, from where the CU Shah Sankara Nethralaya and the Elite School of Optometry function. The Bhumi puja for the facility was held with traditional piety with the chanting of mantras, vedic hymns and Homam at the proposed site, in the presence of a large number of friends, well wishers and employees. Srimathi Anuradha Narayan, lecturer at the ESO extended a warm welcome to the attendees and expressed the institution’s deep gratitude to Ms Voltas, Ms Infosys, Ms Trent Ltd, the Rahm Sitaraman family, USA and long time friend and supporter Shri Iravatham Mahadevan for their generous donation which would serve as the critical ‘Seed’ capital for the new initiative. Speaking on the occasion Col Raghavan, Director-Projects and chief architect of the initiative observed that the institution was able to embark on a ‘not for profit’ facility with such a high capital outlay only because corporate houses and individual donors open their purses generously when Dr SS.Badrinath the institution’s founder makes an appeal for support.
In a moment that captured the spirit of the day, special guest of the event Shri Iravatham Mahadevan expressed that if only he had been 10 years younger he would have visited every home in the locality to mobilize funds for the noble endeavour, the fact that the octogenarian had already made an appeal to the families in his apartment complex became apparent when a co-resident from the complex expressed that every family in the complex would donate towards this noble cause. This was followed by presenting of donation cheques by Srimathi Surekha Mehta, on behalf of SWAN and by Mr Sanjay who operates the staff canteen at the VG Appukutty campus.
Greeting the gathering on the occasion well known Litterateur and Editor of popular Tamil magazine ‘Amudhasurabhi’ Shri Thirupur Krishnan, a friend and well wisher recalled the glorious days when he served under Shri Iravatham Mahadevan, a highly principled civil servant, he observed that as a hospital which would be serving the masses it would only be appropriate that it is funded by donations from the common man, he drew a parallel of the same by narrating how Swami Vivekaanda wanted his trip to the World Congress of Religions in Chicago, to be funded by small donations from the common man and not by a few wealthy donors, as he was representing the entire nation.
Speakng on the occasion Dr SS.Badrinath, Chairman Emeritus and Founder, Sankara Nethralaya expressed his thanks to all who had assembled and the team working on the project, he had a special word of thanks to Srimathi Kausalya Appukutty, member SWAN for making available the land, without which the project could not have been envisaged. He welcomed and expressed his thanks to special guests Shri Iravatham Mahadevan and Brigadier VS.Joon, Station Commander and President Cantonment Board, for his critical role in obtaining the necessary sanctions and permits for the proposed building, from the Army authorities.
A blend of traditional and contemporary music creates awareness for social causes
Sankara Nethralaya OM Trust presented a captivating and outstanding performance by Carnatic music maestro Shri T.M. Krishna (TMK) on Sunday, April 9th at the Shri Bhakta Anjaneya Temple, Ijamsville in the Greater Washington DC Metro area. TMK was accompanied on the violin by Chi.Kamalakriran and on the mridangam by Kum.Rajna Swaminathan - two local young music talents. Supporters of SN and Carnatic music lovers and fans of TMK not only from the Washington DC Metro area but also from nearby states spanning over 200 miles showed up in large numbers and completely filled the auditorium . The program started with an invocation by Smt. Geetha Bhat. SNOM Trust Treasurer Shri S V Acharya gave the welcome address where he spoke about the Sankara Netralaya’s activities and fundraising efforts. This was followed by artist introductions by SN OM trustee Shri Ramarao Mysore. Krishna did not disappoint his fans and enthralled them with his zestful and eclectic music. The veteran singer moved the heart and soul of the large audience with a repertoire of ragas delivered in his inimitable style. He deviated from the traditional to give a lively folk song with strong messages in the protection of the environment and a united society not divided by caste or creed. This was followed by an eight minute video on Sankara Netralaya’s service to society. The program concluded with SN Om Trustee Shri Krishna Raj Bhat proposing the vote of thanks followed by a sumptuous dinner. Overall it was a great concert and Sankara Natralaya was also able to reach its message across to a wide array of people and the SN OM Trust received a major boost in its fund raising initiatives, thanks to the efforts of all the trustees, volunteers and well-wishers.
Bubbly youngster from Maryland exhibits amazing compassion and concern to Sankara Nethralaya's cause!
Age 12 is a phase in life when music and music instruments simply mean good fun and entertainment to most, little Jay Kannan proved that he was a little different, in a rare exhibition of maturity and understanding the little boy showcased that music can be the language of the soul. A video on Sankara Nethralaya's cost free community service to the poor and needy and the change it brought in their lives, that he happened to watch at the university of Maryland, had a deep impact on him, it triggered a deep resolve that he should do something for them. Shri Amudhan Kannan and Srimathi Vidya Thirumalai the noble parents of a worthy son put their energies together to fulfil their son's dream, their request to families in the neighbourhood evoked a spontaneous response and soon their home in North Potomac became the venue for a wonderful musical fund raiser for the cause of the poor visually impaired in India, with budding musicians playing instruments of every kind, for a noble cause. The event helped in creating awareness on Sankara Nethralaya and its services in the minds of the little musicians, their parents and the audience and raised a significant donation towards the cause that moved little Jay Kannan's heart.
Sankara Nethralaya's overseas Ambassadors pay a courtesy visit to their cherished institution
Nothing gives more pleasure and pride to members of the Sankara Nethralaya family and its head than to receive the institution's overseas ambassadors, the members of the Sankara Nethralaya Ophthalmic Mission Trust, engaged in spreading awareness and raising funds for its cause in the USA. It was a moment to cherish for members of the institution, when long time friend, supporter and former member of the SN OM Trust Shri KG.Venkataraman and Srimathi Banumati Ramakrishnan, Treasurer, SN OM Trust accompanied by her husband Shri Ramakrishnan visited the institution recently and spent some quality time with them.
A passionate account of SN by Keshav Parthasarathy from Palatine, Ilinois
My name is Keshav Parthasarathy and I am currently studying to be a doctor in the United States. This summer, I was given the opportunity to work as a volunteer for Sankara Nethralaya. During this period, I chose to spend much of my time at the Jaslok Comunity Ophthalmic Clinic (JCOC) the free clinic that SN provides the impoverished. At the free clinic, I would work closely with the secretaries in helping direct the patients to where they needed to go to get the procedure they needed done. I would also observe in the slit lamp room, and the presiding doctors would explain how the instruments and procedures were performed. I really appreciated the time the doctors and staff gave me throughout my time at SN as well. Although they were almost always busy due to high influx of patients coming into the clinic, they all made time to answer my questions and teach me as much as they possibly could. This was incredibly beneficial to me because there are a lot of intricacies to the system employed at the free clinic. With the secretaries’ help, I learned how best to answer patients’ questions and how to log certain procedures in the computer. With the doctors’ help, I learned how to syringe patients and observe the eye using the slit lamp. This willingness to help no matter the situation was a characteristic that I found abundant in both SN’s employees as well as SN as an organization. Every person that I interacted with during my time at SN was extremely humble and respectful of me.
Flagship of Sankara Nethralaya’s community ophthalmology receives high praise from the State’s ‘First citizen’
The setting for the celebration of a significant milestone of a service meant to serve patients in the deep interiors of the country was most appropriate. The valedictory function of the 50th surgical camp by the Mobile Eye Surgical Unit (MESU) was not being held in an auditorium/ hotel in the city but at a simple highway motel on the tiny hamlet of Sappanipatti, on the Krishnagiri – Salem highway in the State of Tamil Nadu. The highway and tiny hamlets after all had become their home away from home for the MESU team and crossing milestones on the road everyday on the way to setting new ‘Milestones’ in vision revival and blindness prevention in remote regions of the country had become their noble quest for the past 6 years. ‘Swami’s Cafe’ the venue of the event, provided pro bono by Shri KM.Swaminathan, friend and well wisher of Sankara Nethralaya and a prominent personality of the locality, was milling with jubilant, happy beneficiaries who had got back their vision, right from the morning, they had assembled in large numbers to see and thank the noble souls who had brought the light of vision back into their lives.
Among the earliest to arrive at the venue Dr SS.Badrinath, Chairman Emeritus, Sankara Nethralaya got the event started on an impromptu note even before it began formally. He engaged in a friendly interaction with the villagers assembled, explaining to them in simple terms the ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘how’ of MESU, he thanked them for their faith in Sankara Nethralaya which made them turn up in good numbers and for the opportunity to serve them. A man to whom quality was everything, he enquired with concern to the beneficiaries if they were happy with everything about the camp or if there was scope for improvement.
The relevance of MESU in combating rural blindness could be gauged by the fact that none other than the Governor of the State, His Excellency Shri Banwarilal Purohit, was presiding over the function as the chief guest and the district collector, senior bureaucrats from the health ministry, a senior official from the District Blindness Prevention Program (DBCP), a Dean and Head of the Department, from the IIT-Madras and Head Human Resource and Corporate Social Responsibility - L&T Technology services, were in attendance, at a function being held not in Chennai but in a village 5 hours away by road from the city.
The program started with an introduction of the illustrious Chief Guest of the day with a highlight of his credentials and roles by Dr PS. Rajesh, Senior Consultant, serving at the MESU and proud recipient of the ‘Mayan Award’ for service to society, from the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry, for his role in taking eye care to poor patients in remote villages. This was followed by Dr KS.Vasan, Managing Director, declaring that it was a ‘Red letter Day’ for Sankara Nethralaya, he expressed his sincere thanks and extended a most warm welcome to the Chief Guest, the Governor of Tamil Nadu, Shri C.Kathiravan, IAS, Collector, Krishnagiri District, Dr K.Ashok Kumar, Joint Director, Medical and Rural Health Services, Dr.P. Priya Raj, Deputy Director, Health Services, Dr S.Manoharan, Project Officer, District Blindness Prevention Society, Dr Jagdish Kumar, Professor &Dean, Department of Electrical Engineering, IIT-Madras, Sankara Nethralaya’s technical partner in developing the MESU, Shri Paneesh Rao, Chief Human Resource Officer and Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, L&T Technology Services whic was sponsoring the camp and Shri KM.Swaminathan, educationist, philanthropist and a great friend and supporter of Sankara Nethralaya and proprietor of Swami’s Cafe, the venue of the function. Dr Vasan had a special word of praise for Shri KM.Swaminathan for his deep commitment to the camp from day one and for extending support and involving himself with dedication and offering his hotel totally cost free for the function and referred to him as the ‘Host’ of the function. The senior Sankara Nethralaya official followed this with a quick recap of his institution’s inception, growth and achievements, he highlighted its philosophy as laid down by the founder and Chairman Emeritus Dr SS.Badrinath, which governs it to this day and finished his welcome address with sincere thanks to the beneficiaries of the 50th MESU camp who had given Sankara Nethralaya an opportunity to serve them.
Starting the Chief Guest’s address on a highly emotional note that his joy knew no bounds on seeing quality eye care being made available in a remote part of the State, Honourable Governor of the State Shri Banwarilal Purohit went on to highlight how the MESU travelled vast distances, offering uncompromising eye care to landless labourers and other needy people who did not have the financial affordability or access to quality eye care, which he termed as ‘Paropakaram Punyam’ which translates as ‘Helping others is the most meritorious act’ in keeping with the highest Indian tradition. He closed his talk with a high word of praise for Dr SS.Badrinath, the senior state and corporate officials assembled, Sankara Nethralaya and L&T technology services the camp sponsor and expressed his sincere desire to preside over the 100th MESU camp which he hoped would take place soon.
Shri C.Kathiravan, IAS, District collector, Krishnagiri District expressed his gratitude to Sankara Nethralaya and L&T for the invaluable healthcare services to his district following which Dr V.Jagdish Kumar, Dean & HOD, Department of Electrical Engineering, IIT-Madras gave an interesting account of how the MESU was the fruit of labour, of specialists from diverse fields motivated at every stage by Dr SS.Badrimath, the driving force behind the project, he expressed that IIT-Madras was proud to be engaged in offering their technical co-operation and an innovative solution bringing quality eye care to the villages of Tamil Nadu and India.
Dr SS.Badrinath the man whose brainchild and passion the MESU is, spoke with natural felicity and great authority and passion on every aspect of the medico-engineering marvel he had envisioned and made a reality, he touched upon its need, relevance, its impact thus far, its functioning, technical details etc. He had a high word of praise for the MESU team, for maintaining a ‘0’ infection rate, which was a great achievement, considering that the MESU operated in the vast outdoors and for the impeccable record of not having a single case of post operative complication in all its 6 years of operation.
A highlight of the event was the spirited expression of their deep gratitude to Sankara Nethralaya, its founder and the MESU team by the beneficiaries of the MESU camp at Krishnagiri which had brought vision and joy to their doorsteps.
The momentous event ended with a Vote of Thanks by Dr. Gajendra Kumar Varma, Consultant serving at the MESU who had been honoured with the ‘Mayan award’ for ‘Service to Society’ by the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry for his long and sincere service to patients living in remote regions of the country.
The ‘Temple of the Eye’ celebrates the ‘spirit of giving’ with great aplomb!
Founder & Chairman Emeritus Sankara Nethralaya, Dr SS.Badrinath shares his thoughts
There could not be a more momentous occasion to an institution and its Founder ingrained with the quality of gratitude and reciprocity than acknowledging the deeds and honouring the great men and women who have empathized with its cause and made it what it is today. The Sankara Ratna and Dr MS.Subbulakshmi awarding ceremony being held at the stately Rajendra hall at the ITC Grand Chola on the 27th of Janary 2018 reflected this in no small measure. The high profile of the awardees and the Chief Guest conferring the awards had quite naturally raised a lot of expectation and made it a most keenly awaited event within and outside the institution. If the smooth flow of the proceedings were a testimony to the excellent planning that had gone behind the event, the spirited observations and spontaneity of the awardees and the Chief guest made it exceed all expectations, keeping the filled to capacity hall absorbed, informed and entertained.
The close to 3 hour program turned out to be an epic of sorts, little wonder that it did so, given thefact that the achievements, name and fame of the man and woman being honoured had assumed epic proportions and the award was being conferred by a legend. Srimathi Akila Ganesan, Director, Administration, Sankara Nethralaya set the tone for the evening with a succinct note on the awards, as the gesture of gratitude and honouring by an institution created for the people and by the people, to the great men and women who had empathised with its cause and supported it in its journey of providing quality eye care to those who could pay and those who could not!
Shri Deepak Parekh, Chairman, HDFC receives the ‘Sankara Ratna’ award from Chief Guest Shri AM.Naik, Group Chairman, L & T
Dr KS.Vasan, Managing Director continued the Sankara Nethralaya saga where Srimathi Akila Ganesan had left, with a most interesting account of how the institution had grown from its humble beginnings to a world class, tertiary ophthalmic centre encompassing clinical care, research,teaching and training and community eye care within its fold. He traced the inception of facilities in the city and other parts of the country, the steady growth of an institution committed to reaching out its services without diluting its quality, principles and philosophy. The senior Sankara Nethralaya official touched a chord in every heart with his emphatic account of how the Founder and Chief steward of the institution Dr SS.Badrinath was seized by a single idea, dream and mission and how it controlled his life,brain,muscles as advocated by Swami Vivekananda and how it became a reality in the form of Sankara Nethralaya. Dr.Vasan closed his talk with a strong emphasis on the social and economic impact of the innovations and service rendered by the institution and a strong appeal to join its mission.
The awarding ceremony was a spell binder with interesting, inspiring and amazing glimpses of the day’s awardees and the celebrities assembled to honour them flowing as a steady stream. Less known, inspiring, moving facts like Shri AM.Naik the hero of corporate Indian folklore bequeathing 75% of his wealth to charity and how the Naik and Nirali trusts founded by him were revolutionizing the countryside with their trailblazing health and education initiatives. The deep commitment of Shri Deepak Parekh, the voice of corporate India,to the values of humility, accessibility, accountability and transparency and his simple logic and conviction that ‘corporate giving’ was a natural concomitant to ‘corporate earning’. The memorable day when legal legend Nani Palkhivala summoned Shri Deepak Parekh to his home and in a gesture of boundless generosity and faith requested him to divest his life savings in the form of shares and other holdings and transfer the same to Sankara Nethralaya, after just one visit to the ‘Temple of the eye’. The Sankara Ratna awardee’s invaluable role in bringing illustrious members from the nation’s business capital to empathize and support Sankara Nethrlaya, of whom was Dr BR Barwale, the father of India’s seed industry, whose company contributedto the setting up of the clinical care block at the SN main campus named after it as Mahyco block (Maharashtra hybrid seeds company). A touching account of how this key player in India’s green revolution donated the entire prize money he received with the ‘World Food Prize’ to research in agriculture. Srimathi Vani Jairam’s warm note on her experiences with MS Amma after whom the award she was receiving is named, the rich compliments she received for her manner of singing from the immortal, legend. Touching accounts of how the ‘Meera of Modern India’ had toured large parts of rural Maharashtra, propagating social values and causes through her golden voice, travelling all the way to Iowa to render the invocation at the function honouring Dr.Barwale with the ‘World Food prize’ known popularly as Norman Borlaug award.
Shrimathi Vani Jairam being honoured with the ‘Dr MS.Subbulakshmi award’ by Chief Guest Shri AM.Naik
The evening marked a giant leap in leveraging technology for better dispensing of eye care by the two times winner of the prestigious NASSCOM-KPMG awards for ‘Best IT adoption on the healthcare sector’ and ‘Best Electronic Medical Record (EMR) solution’ with the dedication of the Dr BR Barwale centre for ophthalmic technology and innovation, which would focus on developing and implementing technologies to enhance reach and quality of eye care to the masses. Speaking on the occasion Chief Technology Officer Shri Chandramouli explained on how the new centre will endeavour to make the enormous data available with the institution actionable for practitioners and stakeholders.
Speaking with a strong sense of nostalgia a visibly overwhelmed Dr SS.Badrinath recalled that he came to India with just four dollars and times have been indeed been very good and eventful and he considered himself very blessed to have been able to give shape to his dream of starting a world class eye care institution, he expressed that the past has been very good and the present is also very promising and hoped that the future will be good too. He thanked his colleagues for the hospital being rated as the best in its kind and went on to highlight a few major Sankara Nethralaya landmarks like the success of the MESU which reported absolutely no complications, being the only eye care institution providing technology support to 9 eye care institutions, the impact of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) process aided by artificial intelligence developed by the institution. He recounted with gratitude Sankara Ratna awardee Shri Deepak Parekh’s rare gesture of sanctioning a huge loan from the HDFC to Sankara Nethralaya by instructing his officials from the USA, when it was negotiating for the acquisition of the erstwhile lady Willingdon Hospital.
Shri Raju Barwale, Chairman, MAHYCO and sponsor of the Dr Barwale Centre for Technology and Innovation addresses the gathering
While it was natural that the evening resonated with the greatness of the great personalities whom the ‘Temple of the eye’ had chosen to honour on this momentous occasion, the inspiring and laudatory references on the host institution, the detailed account of its services and achievements and the need to support it, made by the awardees and the chief guest and the guest of honour made one wonder if even the representatives of Sankara Nethralaya could have made such a strong case about themselves, as its friends and well wishers gathered on the occasion had done. The spirited references to the institution in their acceptance speeches by the awardees and the chief guest’s address made one wonder if SankaraNethralaya was felicitating its friends and supporters or was being felicitated by them on this memorable day! A glorious example of the Bard’s immortal lines ‘The quality of mercy is twice blessed; it blesseth him that gives and him that takes’.