Former President, eminent atomic scientist, litterateur, visionary and above all a warm humanitarian striving ceaselessly for social causes, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam is among Sankara Nethralaya’s most esteemed well wishers and a man who has a special place in the hearts of the members of the Sankara Nethralaya family, hence it was only natural that there was excitement in the air and the Sri VD Swami auditorium was packed beyond capacity with Consultants, staff members, students of various Sankara Nethralaya institutions, all geared to get a glimpse of the leader they adore as a role model, when he visited the institution on 7th February 2013.
On arrival at the Kamalnayan Bajaj Institute for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology the distinguished visitor was warmly welcomed by Dr SS.Badrinath, Chairman Emeritus, Dr Vasanthi Badrinath, Director Clinical Services, Dr S.Bhaskaran, Chairman, Dr Kris Vasan, Managing Director and Dr Ronnie George, Director, Vision Research Foundation and escorted to the bio-chemistry and Stem Cell laboratories where he was briefed on the ongoing research initiatives and technology enhancements in terms of equipment acquired by Dr S.Krishna Kumar, HOD of L&T Ophthalmic pathology laboratory, in charge of the Nano-biotechnology laboratory and Radheshyam Stem Cell laboratory and also the Deputy Director-Research, Vision Research Foundation, Dr KN Sulochana, Professor and HOD, Department of Biochemistry and Dr Angayarkanni Narayanswami, Reader in Biochemistry and Dr Ronnie George from where he was led to the Sri VD Swami Auditorium for the day’s proceedings.
Dr Ronnie George extended a most warm welcome to the visiting dignitary adding that his mere presence was truly inspiring; this was followed by the presentation of a very thoughtful memento dedicating the free surgeries performed on the day in honour of the esteemed guest. He followed up the welcome address with a most interesting account on the inception, growth, achievements, collaborative initiatives of the Vision Research Foundation, its proud achievements like the discovery of the DNA macro chip , Sankara Nethralaya’s thrust in education and training, awareness creation on eye donation and eye care through talk shows and events, its revolutionary breakthrough in outreach which is in keeping with the Former President’s passion to take healthcare to the remote regions through Tele-Ophthalmology and the recently developed advanced twin surgical bus. Dr Ronnie George closed his address with a note on the future plans of the Vision Research Foundation and thrust areas planned such as stem cell research, development of artificial cornea, knowledge sharing on Nano-biotechnology and setting up a massive research facility in the Special Economic Zone.
The much awaited Chief Guest’s address on the topic ‘Eye care Research Mission’- Giving Light to the dark is God’s mission” surpassed all expectations and was closely followed word to word by the gathering, the address made it abundantly clear that Science and its effective leveraging to alleviate human suffering remains the former First Man’s first passion. The well researched speech starting with challenges in eye care touching on the entire gamut of ophthalmic care, path breaking initiatives in eye care being made in various parts of the world and his in-depth understanding of the subject made the audience wonder if he was a part of the ophthalmic fraternity. Dr APJ Abdul Kalam touched upon the critical areas of research, role of doctors and suggested that Sankara Nethralaya should consider evolving a world knowledge platform for ophthalmology to bring together the expertise available in eye care in all parts of the world to achieve the following objectives
a. Glaucoma research for evolving innovative and cost effective diagnostic and treatment processes
b. Early diagnosis and effective treatment of retinoblastoma
c. Working out a donor friendly law for organ donation, particularly eye donation so that large numbers of donors will come forward and reduce the gap between the need and availability of cornea for transplants.
The former President of India concluded his address by laying out the ideal role for doctors and social workers for the realization of vision 2020 goals and an oath for the ophthalmic community followed by an interactive Q&A session.