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Critical reviews and a differing view point mark prestigious endowment lecture at Sankara Nethralaya

The 13th edition of the annual Dr. Nagamani Dharmapuri Endowment Lecture held recently at the Sri V.D.Swami Auditorium assumed great significance on account of 3 factors, the August presence of Dr. Vidyasagar Dharmapuri  the founder of the endowment and his wife Dr. Nagamani Beligere Dharmapuri, in whose honour it was created, an interesting curtain raiser on the topic of the evening, titled ‘Nystagmus Decoded’ by Dr. Sumitha Agarkar, Deputy Director, Paediatric Ophthalmology and her team and a thought provoking lecture by Professor Richard W. Hertle, Chief, Paediatric Ophthalmology, Director, Children’s Vision Centre, Akron Children’s Hospital, Akron, Ohio, known for his radically different views and revolutionary approach to the subject. The lecture organized by the Paediatric Ophthalmology Department of Sankara Nethralaya and Madras Ophthalmological Association (MOA) opened to a full capacity audience awaiting the guest lecture on a most critical field of ophthalmology.

Extending a warm welcome to the gathering, Senior Consultant, Paediatric Ophthalmology Department, Dr.R.Srikanth, paid glowing tributes to the selfless service rendered to the field of Neo-Natal care in the country by Dr. Vidyasagar Dharmapuri and Dr. Nagamani Dharmapuri whom he described as good friends of Dr.SS.Badrinath, Founder and Chairman Emeritus, Sankara Nethralaya, he had a high word of praise for the commendable work being done by the Paediatric Ophthalmology department at Sankara Nethralaya. Introducing the distinguished Chief Guest of the evening Dr.S.Geethalakshmi, Vice-Chancellor, Tamil Nadu Dr.MGR Medical University, Dr.S.Meenakshi, Senior Consultant Paediatric Ophthalmology Department and Director, Academics, Sankara Nethalaya described her as an academician par excellence, a wonderful guide to young researchers and an inspiring role model.

Speaking on an emotional note Dr. Vidyasagar Dharmapuri expressed that the uniqueness of Sankara Nethralaya never failed to inspire him and his wife, adding that it was not only in terms of medical excellence but an exclusive spiritual quality, thanks to the vibrations of Sankara felt through his ardent disciples Dr. SS.Badrinath and Dr.Vasanthi Badrinath. He gave a brief on what inspired him to establish the endowment and Dr. Nagamani’s critical contributions to the field of pre and post natal care. He highlighted that the objective of the Dr. Nagamani Dharmapuri Endowment was to disseminate knowledge on paediatric ophthalmology which he felt could be best achieved by supporting an institution like Sankara Nethralaya which does great work in the field. He referred to the Sanskrit quote ‘Vidyartham Maha Dhaanam’ which translates as ‘providing knowledge is the greatest of all charity’ adding that it was his small token of support towards supporting paediatric ophthalmology, the globally renowned paediatrician and philanthropist  closed his talk with a hearty thanks to his friend Dr. SS..Badrinath for ‘Keeping up the glorious tradition’.

Recalling her visit to Dr. Professor Richard W. Hertle’s clinic at Ohio several years ago, Dr. Sumitha Agarkar, described the speaker of the day as a slightly controversial but highly acclaimed doctor and researcher who has done groundbreaking work in the field of Nystagmus, she also highlighted his association with the teaching and training initiatives with a community hospital at Rajahmundry. Speaking on the occasion Dr S.Geethalakshmi, Vice-Chancellor, the Tamil Nadu Dr.MGR Medical University described Sankara Nethralaya as a premium ophthalmic institution; she expressed her deep respects to Dr SS.Badrinath for serving the poor and needy of the State and his service in the field of education. She described Nystagmus and paediatric ophthalmology as the most relevant fields of study to prevent congenital blindness especially in a country with a high prevalence of consanguineous marriages. She expressed that a collaborative study is the need of the hour to prevent neo-natal blindness; she underlined the need for special training in paediatric ophthalmology and encouraged Sankara Nethralaya to go ahead with a new course in the field.

Delivering the endowment lecture on the title ‘How and what we learned from studying Nystagmus in infancy and early childhood’ Dr. Richard W.Hertle expressed that he was humbled by the compassion that he saw all around him. What followed was an interesting exposition of his radically different views, tracing the history of Nystagmus he expressed his surprise on how even ‘Science’ a rational subject found it difficult to break old beliefs, he gave an in-depth account of the subject, touching on the different manifestation of Nystagmus namely pathological and physiological, 11 broad types of the ailment, ambylopia, inflammation etc. He also touched upon Nystagmus in the womb. The veteran doctor cited interesting illustrations and real-time case studies to question generally accepted norms in the subject and present his own interpretations.

The most engaging and informative event came to an end with a vote of thanks by Dr.Akila Ramkumar.

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