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A gift of sight



MIN BAJRACHARYA

Sandak Ruit, ophthalmologist, was pleased, but not surprised to receive the Ramon Magsaysay Award this week.

The soft-spoken 52-year-old doctor sees the award as an honour for every Nepali, and most particularly his team at the Tilganga Eye Centre.

"Deep down, I always knew that someone somewhere in the world would recognise the work we have been doing," he says. While personally gratified at receiving the award Ruit hasn't decided what he will do with the $50,000 prize money, but assures us the money will be put to good use.

Tilganga's ophthalmologist team under Ruit is small, but it does big work. The clinic is one of the world's best places for cataract surgery and intraocular lens transplants. The team travels around the world for eye surgery camps and training programs.

In fact, Nepali doctors are even making North Koreans see. Tilganga doctors travelled twice to the virtually closed country, but Ruit is careful not to say too much. "The work we are doing is not related to any political ideology. I am not bothered about what political system any one country has," he says, "I care only about blind people everywhere in the world."

Tilganga's eye doctors also go to less controversial countries such as Pakistan, India, China, and Bangladesh. Recently a team of 100 Thai doctors visited the clinic to learn about how their Nepali counterparts have managed to grow so much in 12 years.

Since Tilganga was established in 1994, it has helped tackle rampant corneal blindness caused by vitamin A deficiency, by running regular microsurgical eye camps in remote parts of Nepal. "Wherever we go, Nepal or North Korea, local communities are thankful and we really feel like we make a difference in their lives," Ruit says proudly.

The Tilganga centre is also renowned internationally for its production of world-class intraocular eye lens which are used to replace damaged natural lenses. The centre's Fred Hollows Foundation Intraocular Lens Factory in Kathmandu is Nepali-run and produces 1,000 lenses every day for export to over 50 countries.

Even as a child in remote Olangchungola, Sandak Ruit felt that he had to do something about the deplorable health conditions he saw around him. Now he's set that ball rolling, he says, "We should be working towards uplifting the image of Nepal and we've already done that to some extent."

The Magsaysay certainly helps.

Naresh Newar



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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