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SankaraNethralaya’s quest for a solution to ocular surface disorders reaches far beyond the surface!

The Ocular Surface and Keratoprosthesis Conference (OSKON-2018) the international conference to debate and discuss the challenges faced by the ocular surface of the eye and Keratoprosthesis, conducted from the 27th to 29th of July 2018 had all the elements that make a Sankara Nethralaya event, in a well balanced proportion.

If the 3 day, high power conference attended by national and international expertson the field from the world over went into the depth of the ocular surface, unravelling new facts,questioning old theories,throwing light on new technology, sharing new approaches and real time experience through case studies,the valedictory function held at the packed to capacity Ball Room of The Taj Coramandel on 29th of July 2018,was a giant step towards creating awareness on the gravity of the issue among the political dispensation, seeking political will, mandate and legislation, to give teeth to preventive measures discussed in the meet; another element that gave the conference a distinct Sankara Nethralaya flavour was the fact that it was held as a ‘Thanksgiving’ and ‘Honour’ to the ‘Gurus’ in keeping with the institution’s avowed Guru-Sishya Parampara, to Professor Giancarlo Falcinelli whose revolutionary process Modified osteo-odonto Keratoprosthesis (MOOKP) brought new hope to those suffering with extreme ocular surface issues and Dr G.Sitalakshmi who steered the concept in India.

Extending a warm welcome to the Chief Guest Shri Venkaiah Naidu the Vice President of India, Guest of Honour Shri Bhanwarilal Purohit, the Honourable Governor of Tamil Nadu, Shri C.Vijaya Baskar, Health Minister and Shri D.Jayakumar, Minister for Fisheries, at the grand valedictory session, Dr Prema Padmanabhan, the veteran cornea specialist from Sankara Nethralaya observed that the conference was something beyond an academic event confined to acquisition and dissemination of knowledge, she highlighted that it was a collective assertion of the moral responsibility of the cornea fraternity against ocular surface disorders especially those caused by human misconduct and folly, a multi layered approach to a multilayered challenge. Dr Prema Padmanabhan expressed that the presence of the Vice-President of India Shri Venkaiah Naidu a dynamic statesman who was unflinching in his beliefs, as the Chief Guest of the event filled everyone with the hope that the entreaties made at the conference will get the right political direction. Her sentiments were echoed by Dr GeethaIyer, Senior Consultant and Organizing Secretary, OSKON 2018, who described ocular surface disorders, especially the ones caused by external factors like accident, careless handling of hazardous substances and planned assaults which disfigured the victim’s appearance as a physical, psychological, social and economic problem impacting the career and marital prospects of the victim. Simplifying the MOOKP process to the non-ophthalmic section of the audience, Dr Iyer added interest to the proceeding with a highly absorbing and emotional short movie of the grandmaster of the art and science of MOOKP, Professor Giancarlo Falcinelli, capturing not only his genius but the warm human being in him. If the short movie capturing their experience in terms of revival of vision, by victims of acid attack and their physical presence at the event came as a real time testimonial to Sankara Nethralaya’s expertise in the process, Dr Geetha’s observation that 70% of MOOKP processeswere done totally cost free at Sankara Nethralaya highlighted the service orientation of an institution, which took the most advanced ophthalmic processes and technology totally cost free to  its indigent patients and drew loud applause from the large national and international gathering

One of the primary objectives of OSKON-2018 was to sensitise the ruling dispensation, seek political will and legislation to give teeth to the resolutions passed at the conference. An institution known for spearheading key initiatives like making it mandatory for maternity hospitals to check expecting mothers for the presence of galactose in the blood since it could result in the babiesbeing born with cataract, an institution which succeeded after a lot of persuasion and presenting of real time evidence in convincing the Union Health Ministry to permit cataract surgeries to be performed in a mobile OT far away from the base hospital, in a remote village and more recently an institution whose study on classroom illumination and seating pattern have been accepted as a blue print by the State’s Directorate of school education, as a guideline to regulate classrooms across the State, Sankara Nethralaya joined hands with likeminded institutions like the All India Institute for Medical Science, New Delhi, Government Eye Hospital, Chennai, LV Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad, Arvind Eye Care, Madurai and NGOs like MEER Foundation and ASFI to present a memorandum to the Vice President for passing a legislation prohibiting the sale of slaked lime or ‘Chuna’ in plastic pouchesas well as implement the ban on sale of acids

The event marked the launch of a national campaign towards prevention of corneal blindness due to Chemical Injuries. Speaking on the occasion Dr Shwetha S.Agarwal, Consultant, Cornea Department and member of the OSKON 2018 organizing committee,  made a strong case for making it mandatory for chemists and stores to dispense acid only to customers furnishing an ‘Aadhar Card’ to keep track of buyers and avoid its misuseIf the 3 day scientific session shed new light on the diagnosis and treatment of Ocular surface disorders, the successful treatment of vision loss and damage to the ocular surface caused by the most vitriolic substances including molten metal, the valedictory session succeeded in its objective of reaching out to the ruling dispensation represented on the dais by the Vice president of India, the Governor of Tamil Nadu and two senior Ministers of the state. The leaders in their address expressed high admiration for Sankara Nethralaya’s pioneering role in battling blindness, the one of its kind ‘Mobile Eye Surgical Unit’ (MESU) and its revolutionary outreach, its self sustaining financial model, its role in knowledge dissemination, the OSKON 2018 being a good example of the same, they raised their voice in favour of eye donation, advocated state-private partnership in healthcare, outreach programs benefiting the rural poor etc, everyone of them had a high word of admiration for the visionary spirit of founder and Chairman Emeritus Dr.SS.Badinath.

Acid attack survivors being presented with a plaque in admiration of their courage and fighting spirit and the presentation of a plaque of honour by the Vice President of India as a tribute to the grandmaster of MOOKP Professor Giancarlo Falcinelli a humanitarian doctor and simple human being, which was received by rof Christopher Liu in the presence of Mr.Sauro Mezzetti the Italian Consul in Pondicherry, were important highlights of the day.

The highly charged proceedings came to an end with Dr Bhaskar Sinivasan coorganizing secretary OSKON-2018 expressing his sincere thanks to the dignitaries and delegates and everyone who had contributed to the grand success of the event.

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