February 2017

Inaugural of massive eye care facility in the East of India marks a giant step in Sankara Nethralaya’s battle against blindness!

Sankara Nethralaya launched its second major offensive against vision impairment in the East of India with a sprawling 67,000 Sq ft, 5 storied, State of the art ophthalmic facility at ‘Rajarhat’ the burgeoning satellite ‘New Town’ located at the north of 24 Parganas at the north eastern periphery of the city. The facility would offer world class ophthalmic care to both paying and non-paying patients from the State and neighbouring countries of Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal, it would also engage in India centric ophthalmic research and high level knowledge dissemination in the region by way of teaching and training initiatives.

Sankara Nethralaya launched its second major offensive against vision impairment in the East of India with a sprawling 67,000 Sq ft, 5 storied, State of the art ophthalmic facility at ‘Rajarhat’ the burgeoning satellite ‘New Town’ located at the north of 24 Parganas at the north eastern periphery of the city. The facility would offer world class ophthalmic care to both paying and non-paying patients from the State and neighbouring countries of Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal, it would also engage in India centric ophthalmic research and high level knowledge dissemination in the region by way of teaching and training initiatives.

Sankara Nethralaya chose Kolkata as its preferred destination when it chose to expand its services outside of the Southern region back in year 2007, as a mark of its gratitude to the people from the Eastern part of the country who had reposed their faith and confidence in its services right since its inception. Setting up a unit at Kolkata was to save them the time, money and long travel down South, especially in their state of visual impairment. The first unit named Aditya Birla Sankara Nethralaya had reached its full capacity and hence the need for an additional unit in the region was felt. The Kamalnayan Bajaj Sankara Nethralaya is named in honour of the highly principled businessman, visionary and philanthropist in acknowledgement of the large grant made towards the facility by the Bajaj family. The second Sankara Nethralaya unit in the city of Kolkata was dedicated to the people by the Honourable Chief Minister of the State Ms Mamata Banerjee at a grand inaugural function held at the hospital premises on the 27th of February 2016. The function was graced by Panchayat Minister Shri Subrata Mukherjee, Chief Secretary to the government Shri Basudeb Banerjee, Shri Debhasish Sen, Chairman of the Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation (HIDCO) which had demarcated an area in Rajarhat exclusively as a health block, Ms Minal Bajaj, Honourary Director, Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation, Maj Gen (Retd) Gautam Kar, Head- Infrastructure and administrative Services, L&T and many more friends and well wishers.

Welcoming the Chief Guest, dignitaries and invitees Dr KS.Vasan, Managing Director, Sankara Nethralaya began his talk on an emotional note that the institution’s entry to West Bengal was not just an expansion of its services but an expression of its gratitude and concern to a people who had reposed their utmost faith on it, he had a high word of praise for the Chief Minister of the State who was presiding over the function and her government for the support and assistance which made the Kamalnayan Bajaj Sankara Nethralaya a reality.

A mellifluous rendition of Guruji’s timeless lyrics ‘Anondo Loke, Mongola Loke, Biraja Sotto Sundaro’ seeking universal happiness and peace, by Sankara Nethralaya Kolkata members Ms Mausami Shaw, Ms Mukta Chanda, Ms Gargi Sengupta, Ms Rama Debdas and Ms Shalini Dam gave an auspicious beginning to the function. Underlining the day as a ‘Red Letter Day’ in the annals of Sankara Nethralaya’s Kolkata operations Dr Sujata Guha, Medical Director, Aditya Birla Sankara Nethralaya gave an absorbing account of how Sankara Nethralaya stood as a great example of Public-Private partnership, she took the opportunity to express the institution’s gratitude to the Bajaj family and all the philanthropic donors whose generous support made the facility a reality, speaking on the occasion Dr Suchetna Mukherjee, Deputy Director, Aditya Birla Sankara Nethralaya, highlighted that the institution set aside a good portion of the revenue generated through paying patients and screened 45-50% of out- patients and performed 30 to 35% of its surgeries totally cost free, adding that the new unit would have an entire floor dedicated for cost free community service.

Inaugurating the facility to the thunderous applause of the large gathering Ms Mamata Banerje the Honourable Chief Minister expressed her pleasure in welcoming a new unit of Sankara Nethralaya, a favourite institution of the people of the State. In a spontaneous expression of her appreciation for the Bajaj group for their contribution and service to healthcare, the Chief Guest most magnanimously draped the ornamental shawl meant to honour her, back on Ms Minal Bajaj the Chairperson of the Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation who was representing the Bajaj family on the occasion. The Chief Minister took the opportunity to lay down strong guidelines and ethics that should govern the functioning of a healthcare institution, she underlined that while healthcare cannot be dispensed totally free it should not be run like other commercial ventures and should ensure that its services made people smile, assuring that her government will not interfere in the internal affairs of a private hospital she expressed her hope that the new institution would live up to the expectations that the people had reposed on it.

The momentous event came to an end with a Vote of Thanks by Shri Rajib De, General Manager, Sankara Nethralaya Kolkata operations.

Welcoming the Chief Guest, dignitaries and invitees Dr KS.Vasan, Managing Director, Sankara Nethralaya began his talk on an emotional note that the institution’s entry to West Bengal was not just an expansion of its services but an expression of its gratitude and concern to a people who had reposed their utmost faith on it, he had a high word of praise for the Chief Minister of the State who was presiding over the function and her government for the support and assistance which made the Kamalnayan Bajaj Sankara Nethralaya a reality.

The momentous event came to an end with a Vote of Thanks by Shri Rajib De, General Manager, Sankara Nethralaya Kolkata operations.

A guest lecture on a most common present day malady – ‘Addiction to Gadgets’

While the prediction that a day would come when machines would rule man may be a figment of imagination fuelled by popular science fiction of the Spielberg type, what is very real and alarming is that machines have indeed come to rule and dominate man’s ‘Time’– a grim precursor to dominating him??

The Elite School of Optometry (ESO) the academic arm of Sankara Nethralaya organized a guest lecture to address this most common and growing malady of the present times ‘Addiction to Gadgets’ by Dr. M.Vasuki Mathivanan, city’s leading counseling psychologist on the 22nd of February 2017. Welcoming the speaker and the audience Dr. Anuradha Narayanan, Lecturer, ESO gave a lively start to the proceeding with her remark that she had deliberately placed her hand phone back in her work station, in keeping with the spirit of the day’s talk on staying away or being independent of gadgets and would be relying on her memory to introduce the guest speaker, her credentials and achievements, the fact that she did as good a job as one would do if one were reading off from a smart phone/palm top screen rang an optimistic note to the day’s talk exhorting the audience to avoid the dependence on gizmos.

Speaking on the occasion the leading counseling psychologist cautioned that while usage of modern devices is inevitable in a fast paced world, one should know to distinguish the difference between using and abusing gadgets. Highlighting that excessive preoccupation with gadgets like the mobile phone, computer or the TV could impair a child’s cognitive powers, she advised parents to observe if their children exhibited traits like being withdrawn from friends, uncomfortable in face to face interactions, staying in their room when visitors drop in at home etc, as these were indications of addiction to gadgets. She observed that a good way to keep the children away from such addiction would be by setting a good example wherein elders at home do not spend long hours with gadgets, but read a book, engage in conversation etc, playing an outdoor/indoor game would be a great way to wean oneself away from gadgets she added. Dr Vasuki exhorted the audience to subject themselves to a an impartial and objective self assessment to ascertain if they were already addicted to gadgets or in the way to becoming addicts, by asking themselves

  1. Do I feel irritable if my favourite gadget is missing/not functioning
  2. Do I feel upset if there is no response to an online post I made in a social media platform
  3. Do I feel bored or lost in the absence of technology
  4. Do I often suffer from pain or discomfort in the back/spine

The renowned psychologist cautioned the audience that excessive preoccupation with electronic gadgets could result in ‘social jetlag’ and made an earnest appeal to them to avoid upsetting the ‘Circadian Rhythm’ or natural sleep cycles and not to disturb one’s biological clock except in the most rare and unavoidable occasions as irregular sleeping schedules could be harmful to the body.

Sankara Nethralaya shares its knowledge at CME organized by a like-minded institution

The Comtrust eye hospital is a pioneering eye care institution in the Malabar region of Kerala started by the Commonwealth Trust India Ltd, run by German Missionaries. A non-profit organization recognized by the ‘National Program for Control of Blindness’ the nation’s premier eye care initiative and accredited as a ‘Sight First’ hospital by Lions International, the institution is governed by the principles of ‘quality, affordable eye care to paying patients’ and ‘totally cost free eye care to the poor and needy’ and ‘dissemination of knowledge for the common good’ through quality academic initiatives, the same lofty principles which govern Sankara Nethralaya.

The institution held a ‘Continuing Medical Education’ session (CME) on ‘Dioptrics’ the branch of optics that deals with the impact of refraction of light on visual acuity and evolving corrective solutions, titled ‘Dioptricom’ at Kozhikode on the 12th of February 2017. The event witnessed talks on a wide array of topics and debates like refreshers on refraction, binocular vision, commonly debated eye care practice issues and updates on cataract surgery, by eminent eye care professionals from across the country. We take great pleasure in sharing that Ms Jameel Rizwana Husaindeen, In-Charge-Binocular Vision Clinic, Sankara Nethralaya and Lecturer of General Anatomy at the Elite School of Optometry was invited to participate as a keynote speaker in this high level topical meet. Ms Rizwana gave an in-depth talk on the critical area of Dioptrics namely ‘Solving Convergence Excess’ and also delivered an interesting keynote address on the topic ‘Binocular Single Vision Decoded’ covering the critical need for binocular vision care, the disturbingly increasing prevalence of binocular vision issues among school children and ways to combat the same with quick and innovative screening tools which was extremely well received by more than 100 Ophthalmologists attending the CME.

We take this opportunity to compliment and congratulate her on keeping up the institution’s avowed philosophy of disseminating knowledge for the common good and to enable better eye care for all.

The Corneal Services Department at the Sri A Sivasailam Block assumes the name of a great friend and supporter

The 14th of February 2017 witnessed a glorious exhibition of compassion, generosity and the spirit of giving as the members of the SriSrimal family which owns and operates Medisales Corporation, among the most well known pharmaceutical manufacturers and distribution chain in the country gathered at the second floor of the Sri A.Sivasailam block housing the ‘Cornea Services Department’ being named after their founder Shri Parasmal SriSrimal an entrepreneur with a spirit to give back to society; honouring the late philanthropist and visionary by naming an entire floor housing a critical facility at the new block was Sankara Nethralaya’s gesture of gratitude and reciprocation to his son Shri Narendra Srisrimal and his family’s generous donation made towards supporting the creation of the same. A solemn function was organized in the divine presence of His Holiness Gachapathi Jainacharya Sri Nityananda Surishwarji Maharaj to mark the event. Sankara Nethralaya was represented in the function by Dr KS.Vasan, Managing Director, Srimathi Akila Ganesan, Director-Administration, Dr Ananth Badrinath Senior Principal Scientist and Associate Professor, Lens Biology Department, Shri Ashok Mehta, member of the MRF board, Consultants and employees gathered in large numbers.

The auspicious function began with the rendering of the Mangalcharan by the spiritual Guru which was followed by a melodious invocation by members of the Srisrimal family Smt Vanitha Srisrimal and Smt Preethi SriSrimal. Speaking on the occasion Dr Ananth Badrinath, expressed the institution’s humble pranams and extended a cordial welcome to the Saints on behalf of Dr SS Badrinath, Chairman Emeritus, Sankara Nethralaya. He captured the spirit of the function with a quote from the Bhagvad Gita that when a person is totally devoted and has complete faith in his noble objective, the elements of the universe will join hands in making his dream a reality, he described the support from the Srisrimal family as a perfect example of giving at the right time, right place and to the right person (entity).

Smt Surekha Mehta, Trustee, Sankara Nethralaya Women’s Auxiliary (SWAN) extended a warm welcome to the Gurus, the members of the Srisrimal family and the gathering, quoting the scriptures she highlighted that wealth acquired by a person becomes meaningful only when it is given in charity to the deserving.

Speaking on the occasion Smt Akila Ganesan, Director-Administration, Sankara Nethralaya highlighted the fact that Sankara Nethralaya endeared itself to people from all walks of society and received their wholehearted support, she illustrated her point by sharing the touching story of a poor woman named Lakshmi from Urakai village in Tamil Nadu who had contributed the entire sum that she had saved for offering to the Tirupati temple to Sankara Nethralaya, with a most touching observation that after seeing the services rendered by the institution, especially to the needy she felt that supporting the cost free community services of Sankara Nethralaya is like offering prayers or donating to a temple. Gratefully acknowledging and thanking the generosity of Sri Narendra SriSrimal family, Srimathi Akila Ganesan highlighted the philosophy of the institution, its missionary spirit and how it was regarded as an Alaya and serving there as worship by its employees. She gave a detailed account of  the current expansion projects at Sankara Nethralaya aimed at serving the visually impaired across the country, underlining that Sankara Nethralaya was run for the society and by the society and hence it became imperative to seek funds to support its growing needs, she highlighted the ambitious 140 bedded community ophthalmology hospital project coming up at St Thomas Mount, with 10 operation theatres with a goal of performing over 20,000 cost free surgeries a year to benefit the indigent and a new unit coming up at Thane in Maharashtra.

Dr Ananth Badrinath spoke in detail on the India centric research being carried out by the Vision Research Foundation, stressing that it was critical for research to translate into patient care, he underlined that many findings developed at the institution like the ‘Rapid Diagnostic kit’ have already translated to real time benefits. He pointed out the Leber Congenital Amaurosis research project involving studies on RPE65 modules today greatly enhanced gene therapy for clinical support as a good example of the same. He thanked Shri Ashok Mehta for his generous grant to support research and appealed for support to the institution’s research endeavours aimed at the common good.

Dr Nivedita Narayan, Senior Consultant at the Cornea Department at the Sri A Sivasailam Block being named on the day detailed the world class services/facilities that would be available at the department and the role of the CU Shah Eye bank in supplementing its services in cornea transplant. An old friend, supporter and member of the Board, Medical Research Foundation Sri Ashok Mehta, expressed his wholehearted thanks to the Srisrimal family for the large grant, he introduced Sri Narendra SriSrimal as a young entrepreneur and dynamic philanthropist who rose to great heights in his profession as a Pharma Distributor, by sheer dint of hard work and imbibed the noble idea of “Giving back to society” from his illustrious father Sri Parasmal SriSrimal.

Addressing the gathering, Sri Narendra SriSrimal said he rejoiced being at Sankara Nethralaya, he expressed in all humility that it was his privilege and pleasure to serve such a renowned institution like Sankara Nethralaya doing enormous work towards making the nation blindness free and rendering yeoman services to the poor visually impaired all over the country and that he happily grabbed the opportunity to be a part of this great endeavour. He expressed his desire to be hand in hand with the institution in its future endeavours in this direction and gave a pleasant surprise to the gathering with his announcement that the family would also donate towards setting up the optical shop at the ground floor of the Sri A Sivasailam Block.

Dr Gyan Jain, a senior member at the Jain Samaj, lauded His Holiness Gachapathi Jainacharya Sri Nityananda Surishwarji Maharaj as an epitome of truth and an icon of non-violence, who took to the ascetic order in the path of self realisation at the tender age of 9. He added that the Swamiji through his perseverance and motivation was instrumental in establishing several educational institutions and hospitals to benefit the poor at the birth place of Lord Mahaveera.

Giving his divine lecture the Swamiji said he was overwhelmed to be present at the Jyothi Mandir – ‘Temple of Light’ – Sankara Nethralaya, which brought back the light of vision to all, especially the underprivileged of society. Eulogizing Dr SS Badrinath’s yeoman services that were incomparable just as the heavenly bodies Sun and Moon, he pointed that he was a classic gem among mankind. He remarked that the “La – bha”(Profit) earned through one’s profession or business would blossom into “Bha – La” (Strength) only when one generously donated his earnings for the welfare of the community.

Delivering the vote of thanks Dr KS. Vasan, Managing Director, Sankara Nethralaya, expressed the institution’s gratitude to the munificence of the SriSrimal family and that he looked forward to a long term partnership in service with them.

Sankara Nethralaya’s Genetics department conducts an in-depth symposium on testing and diagnosis

The ONGC Genetics department at the Kamalnayan Bajaj Institute for Research in Ophthalmology, the research arm of Sankara Nethralaya conducted the 4th Genetics Symposium at the Sri V D Swami Auditorium on February 10, 2017 on the critical and highly relevant area ‘Genetic Testing and diagnosis of diseases’. The meeting was addressed by leading academicians, scientists, geneticists from all over India. The growing significance of molecular genetics and cyto-genetics in diagnosis as well as management of various cancers were discussed in detail at the meet.

Welcoming the gathering Dr N Soumitra, Associate Professor at the Sankara Nethralaya  ONGC Department of Genetics observed that the symposia being held is the fourth in a row of such meets, the first one being held in commemoration of the 20th year of  the department. She underlined that the purpose of these meets is to help in better diagnosis, counselling and alleviation of suffering through a better understanding of genetics.

Dr Ronnie George, Director – Research, Kamalnayan Bajaj Institute for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology gave an interesting account on the research activities in the areas of basic and clinical sciences being carried out at Sankara Nethralaya and their impact, he underlined, that the genetics department had grown from research on karyotyping, molecular methods to next gen sequencing. He proudly announced that the department had several firsts to its credit, including path breaking research on Leber’s congenital amaurosis that included tests on RPE65 gene modules to identify therapy for Retinitis Pigmentosa.  The first gene for angle closure glaucoma a very important discovery in the treatment of the disease was made by a large consortium of which Sankara Nethralaya was a part he added.

Dr S Krishnakumar, Deputy Director – Research, introduced the Chief Guest Dr Nallasivam Palanisamy, Associate Scientist, Department of Urology, Venkutti Urology Institute, Henry Ford Health System, Associate Professor (Adjunct), Michigan Centre for Translational Pathology, with a Ph.D in Genetics from University of Madras. He added that the distinguished Chief Guest had won many honours including the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Grant awards, by National Cancer Institute; He highlighted that the distinguished Chief Guest is a member of several prestigious bodies like the American Society of Human Genetics and Cancer Genetics and had over 100 publications to his credit and three Patents granted with a H index of 47.

Delivering the plenary lecture, the Chief Guest started on a cautious note that technology currently available to understand genome complexities was limited and thus any study on genomes will raise more questions than it can answer. Dr Nallasivam Palanisamy gave an interesting account on genetic testing for health care including predictive and pre-symptomatic, pharmaco genetic testing, prenatal and carrier testing and its application status. He spoke in detail on advancing precision medicine for prostate cancer through genomics, the current status of cancer therapy, mutations, melanoma, mitochondrial disorders, progress in cytogenetics that were special fields of interest in his study.

The expert on Genetics observed that while leveraging on techniques on genome analysis like next gen sequencing technology, Gene regulation, transcriptome sequencing were aimed at yielding results for translational therapy, deeper study and research were necessary in the field of genetic engineering.

The symposium saw several eminent speakers from all over India making in-depth lectures on a wide range of topics including non-invasive Cell free DNA testing in Fetal Medicine & Clinical Oncology, Genetic testing in clinic: The Indian Milieu, Whole genome sequence of bacteria – experiences with human clinical isolates of pseudomonas aeruginosa and genetics in pediatric neurology and solid tumour diagnostics going molecular.

It was a day of in-depth learning and knowledge acquisition and left a deep impact on the attendees.