‘If children are the eyes of the nation, what greater responsibility do we have than ensuring the well-being of their eyes’ seemed to be the underlying theme of the IXth Nagamani Dharmapuri Endowment Lecture at the Sri VD Swami Auditorium on 22nd December, 2011. The day’s proceedings got off to an auspicious start with an invocation song by Ms Vidhya Poodham from Yodhaka, after which Dr. Akila, Fellow in pediatrics welcomed the distinguished guests to the dais.
Delivering the welcome address Dr. Sumitha Agarkar, Deputy Director, Department of Pediatric Ophthalmology expressed that the Nagamani Dharmapuri Endowment was a sign of the deep involvement of Dr Nagamani Dharmapuri and her husband Dr. Vidyasagar Dharmapuri in prenatal, natal and post natal well-being of new born babies and their benevolence. Dr. Agarkar expressed that it was a great honour to have a man of the stature and accomplishments as Dr Rajvardhan Azad to deliver the endowment lecture of the day and added that it was Dr Azad’s high regard for Dr SS.Badrinath that made him make his presence in the midst of his highly busy schedules. Dr Sumitha Agarkar set the tone for the evening with her observation that factors like better understanding and improved neonatal care, while improving infant mortality rates have placed a bigger challenge to pediatrics in the form of increased instances of ROP.
Speaking next Dr. Sandeep Mark Thirumalai, Consultant, Department of pediatric ophthalmology recalled that it was Dr SS.Badrinath, Chairman Emeritus, Sankara Nethralaya who realized the critical need for an exclusive pediatric ophthalmology department and how Dr TS.Surendran currently the department’s Director was its one man army for a long time after its inception, until Dr Sumitha Agarkar and Dr S. Meenakshi currently the Director – Academics, joined him. He highlighted the formation and achievements of the Sankara Nethralaya-ORBIS training center and how the pediatric ophthalmology department was very thoughtfully given a child friendly look and feel as a first step in keeping the children who come for treatment feel at ease and relaxed
Dr. Tarun Sharma, Director, Vitreo- Retinal Services Department introduced the Chief Guest of the evening Ms Jennifer McIntyre the US Consul at Chennai and her active involvement in health care projects in the third world countries.
Introducing Dr Rajvardhan Azad, Dr TS.Surendran, Director, Pediatric Ophthalmology and Vice-Chairman, Sankara Nethralaya remarked jovially that highlighting the learned professor’s achievements, distinctions and credentials would be a daunting task due its sheer volume and range and he would prefer that the audience read all of it from the scrolling screen behind. He recalled the sunny days spent together with him back in the 80’s in New Delhi and the lively discussions over mugs of coffee at the Medical College cafeteria. Dr TS.Surendran remarked that heavy fog and mist had seriously disrupted flight landings and departures at the New Delhi Airport but Dr Rajvardhan Azad’s passion for Sankara Nethralaya made it a trivial issue and he has made his presence as promised.
Chief Guest for the evening Jennifer McIntyre observed that rapid strides have been made by India in health care, she congratulated India for having the highest number of Fulbright scholars outside the USA and the highly successful joint efforts between the USA and India in combating diseases like HIV-AIDS.
The high point of the evening undoubtedly was Professor Rajvardhan Azad’s well-researched and in-depth lecture on pediatric ophthalmology on the topic ROP- Prelude, Pursuit and Perceptions. Professor Azad started by expressing his life long admiration for Dr SS.Badrinath and gave a slightly different definition to ‘Sankara Nethralaya’ as the ‘Temple of Ophthalmic learning’. His lecture traced the occurrence of ROP in infants back to war torn Europe of 1942 and took listeners to the latest learning, developments, his real-time experiences and specialized fields like Flouroxin Angiography and Neo-Vascularization. His address came as a treasure trove of knowledge to the doctors and students, especially to those pursuing pediatric ophthalmology. The audience registered their appreciation with a thundering, standing applause. Dr Azad finished his address with a Sanskrit couplet which summed up the evening’s deliberations succinctly and it simply translated into ‘All Must see”
The evening concluded with a vote of thanks by Dr Kavitha Kalaivani, Consultant, Pediatric Ophthalmology Department.