The retina is commonly understood as a part of the eye that transmits the light to the brain as images or information, even by those uninitiated into the science of ophthalmology or optometry. Retina Summit 2016 the annual topical seminar on this most critical part of the eye started quite aptly with great deference to the ‘Gurus’ or Teachers/Mentors who just like the retina let the ‘Light’ of knowledge and wisdom into our lives. The institution which came into being as the fulfilment of the holy command of a ‘Guru’ and the institution with great deference to the centuries old glorious ‘Guru-Sishya’ Parampara, held the three day ‘Retina Summit 2016’ on the week of Guru Purnima, a period marked by reverence, adulation and acknowledgement of Teachers, with the theme ‘Guru Devo Bhava’ which exalts the Guru to the status of the creator.
The day’s proceedings got off at the packed Rajendra Hall of the ITC Grand Chola, Chennai with the lighting of the lamp by the distinguished dignitaries and the hosts Dr. SS.Badrinath, Chairman Emeritus and Dr. Vasanthi Badrinath, Director-Clinical Services, Sankara Nethralaya and a soulful invocation to Saraswathi, the Goddess of learning and knowledge, by Dr.Pradeep, Senior Vitreo-Retinal Consultant. This was followed by a most spirited introductory talk, touching topics as diverse as the retina being an electro physical wonder, his mentor Dr. SS.Badrinath, the unique financial model of his institution and how it was a shining example of public-private partnership beneficial to both, his institution’s impact on research, academics and patient care, by Dr.Pramod Bhende, Director, Medical Affairs, Sankara Nethralaya and Program Director-Retina Summit-2016. Dr. Bhende underlined that a meeting on the retina assumed great significance as retinal and vitreo-retinal care accounted for the highest percent of patients treated at the institution, he added that the Bhagwan Mahaveer Vitreo Retinal services performed 200 cost free retinal surgeries on an average per month, has 566 publications to its credit and offered long and short term Fellowships on the specialty, it accounted for 1/3rd of all activity at the institution and touched on all the 4 founding pillars of Sankara Nethralaya. Following the in-depth introductory speech Dr. Tarun Sharma, Director, Bhagan Mahaveer Vitreo Retinal services gave a wonderful note on the qualities that made the ‘Guru’ the most important person in one’s life, he underlined that as the Teacher he taught and as the mentor he brought out the best in his Sishyas. He followed his definition of a true Guru with a query to the audience in general if they knew a Guru who met all these parameters, which was answered with a thunderous one voice response resounding the name ‘Dr. S.S.Badrinath!!
Speaking on the occasion the man whom the gathering adulated as the perfect Guru gave a profound interpretation to the word ‘Guru’ he explained that a Guru is not a person who had influence only on the knowledge and learning of his sishyas but a person whose ideals, philosophy and personal example had a significant impact on their beliefs, values and moulded their life. Underlining the fact that the Guru will always take care of his disciple he gave a most touching and poignant example of how his Guru Chandrasekerandra Saraswathi Swamigal sacrificed a 2,500 year custom, by refraining from a head bath after Amavasya as this could jeopardize his post operative recovery and have an adverse impact on the reputation of his Sishya who had performed the eye surgery on him. He explained that Sankara Nethralaya was founded as an ‘Alaya’ on the principles inspired by his Guru who is also the Jagadguru and treats 40% of its patients totally cost free.
A magnificent highlight of the day was the recollection of the Gurus who moulded their life by the veritable Gurus of the retina, assembled on the day, they shared their experiences with their guru, the impact they had on them and the values for life they imbibed from them. It was most heart warming to note that some of them recalled their teachers who taught them back in elementary school. Introducing his Guru to the audience Dr. Lingam Gopal, Senior Consultant and Member of the Board, Medical Research Foundation started his talk with the statement that he was taking the liberty of assuming the role of a self appointed representative for a large number of people who had gathered at the venue as his Guru was also the Guru for all of them. He described his Guru as an exceptional teacher who moulded their knowledge and character, a teacher who held their hands, a teacher who was meticulous, unwilling to compromise and a teacher who was also their philosopher and guide. Dr. Lingam Gopal observed that one of the essential qualities of a Guru was being an example to emulate but the Guru he was referring to was too multifaceted, a man who was a philosopher, disciple, doctor par excellence, adept fund raiser, institution builder, administrator and visionary, a mixture of virtues which made it very difficult for anyone to emulate him. He added that his Guru’s success which reflected in the Saga of Sankara Nethralaya was too big an achievement to replicate and he was happy that he could emulate just a part of him; he added in lighter vein that the man who remains the Guru to a large number of people in the gathering including himself, Dr. SS.Badrinath can be emulated only if he lowered his expectations on his sishyas.
The organizers had a most novel and pleasant surprise for the senior dignitaries in the form of portrait specialist Shri Vilas Nayak, whose magic strokes with the painting brush brought their adorable Gurus right before them just as each of them finished their heart warming account of them. The joy and tears in the eyes of the men and women who had reached great heights and glory in their careers, as they stood gazing with respect, love and a strong sense of nostalgia at the portrait of their Gurus, was the ‘moment of the day’ and captured the saying ‘Guru Devo Bhava’ in its true spirit!
The following two days witnessed high level exchanges, real time knowledge exchanges, debates and discussions on the latest research findings and processes in the field of vitro-retina by participants from across the nation and the globe.