September 2018

An ascetic from the Ramakrishna Order inspires and educates members of SN on the nation’s 72nd Independence Day.

The Sankara Nethralaya family celebrated the nation’s 72nd Independence Day with great patriotic fervour, the presence of Swamy Vimurthananda, an eminent spiritualist and speaker from the Ramakrishna Order as the chief guest added to the nationalistic spirit of the day. The celebrations started with a soulful rendering of Muhammad Iqbal’s timeless patriotic song ‘Saare Jahan Se accha’ by students of the Sankara Nethralaya Academy. It was a day of great learning and retrospection for members of the Sankara Nethralaya family as the accomplished speaker from the Ramakrishna Mission, Chennai, well known for his role in bringing out the in-house journal of the Mutt and his exhaustive relief work among leprosy patients, gave a spirited talk touching on the worldly and spiritual aspects of life, in the true tradition of the Ramakrishna Order. The Swamiji observed that being a part of the Independence Day celebrations at Sankara Nethralaya was always a great pleasure as the institution observed it as a day of national importance and a day of acknowledging and rewarding the quality and service orientation of its employees.

The Swamiji compared Sankara Nethralaya as a large tree with strong roots in terms of its ethics, tradition, service and quality, well embedded into the nation’s psyche which made it a strong tree that will not fall easily. Underlining Swamy Vivekananda’s lines for renunciation from worldly pleasures and exhorting every citizen to be a giver and a contributor, he observed that he saw Sankara Nethralaya as a ‘Celebration of sacrifice’ with the spirit of service exhibited by everyone from the senior most doctor to the sweeper who kept the place clean. Complimenting the institution on its consistent overall growth he highlighted the Master’s emphatic call to realize one’s spiritual strength as the only way to realizing one’s goals and reaching greater heights in worldly and spiritual growth.

The Swamiji recalled the historic speech of Swami Vivekananda at the ‘Parliament of the World’s Religions’ at Chicago in year 1893 where he most poignantly addressed the gathering as ‘brothers and sisters of America’ which had an electrifying effect on the audience, his prophetic address in year 1897 where he referrd to the great change that would come after 50 years which was proved right with India gaining independence in year 1947. Swami Vimurthananda highlighted that Swami Vivekananda’s soul stirring speeches and the Bhagvad Gita became the clarion call and guiding words for the great men and women who fought for the nation’s freedom. The erudite scholar and orator concluded his absorbing and educative talk with a fervent appeal to the Government of India to honour Dr SS.Badrinath with the nation’s highest civilian award the ‘Bharat Ratna’ in recognition of the selfless service that he and his institution have rendered to society.

The day witnessed the honouring of the ‘Best employee’ (Man) and ‘Best employee’ (Woman) of the year and acknowledging and rewarding  of employees for their period of service, good performance, awards for the best department, sports awards, educational grants for children of employees etc.

A very special facility for a very special group is inaugurated by a very special person!

Special Children ClinicThe 1st of August 2018 marked yet another critical step towards better ophthalmic diagnosis and treatment of children for an institution which could be credited with starting an exclusive paediatric ophthalmology unit and extending specialized diagnosis and treatment to this delicate segment. The day marked the inaugural of the ‘Special Children Clinic’ a special facility with suitable infrastructure and processes within the department to effectively examine a large sub-group among this category of paediatric patients. Broadly termed as ‘Special Children’ they consisted of children with vision problems effected by various mental and physical disabilities, children who cannot express themselves the way normal kids do and hence cannot be subjected to regular paediatric ophthalmic examination that work for normal children, children who need special attention and functional assessment.

The ‘Special Children Clinic’ being opened had been a long time dream of the institution and having the facility inaugurated by Professor Peter Allen made it a case of ‘right man in the right place opening the right facility’ to quote the words of Dr. Jameel Rizwana Hisaindeen, HOD – Binocular vision/ Vision therapy clinic, Sankara Nethralaya,  a key architect of the facility. Dr. Viswanathan S. HOD, Optometry and Optical services, Sankara Nethralaya, an expert in Myopia and another moving force behind the formation of the clinic introduced the star speaker of the day Dr Peter Allen, Professor of Optometry and Visual Sciences, Head of Visual Function and Physiology Research Group, Anglia Ruskin University, UK

The chief guest’s oration on the topic ’Management of Visual issues in Dyslexia & Sports Vision’ proved to be a cascade of facts by the unrivalled expert in the field. Dr Allen explained the difficulties faced by ‘Special Children’ in reading, writing and spelling, he spoke in length on conditions like dyslexia which is neurological in origin, phonological issues that make recognizing letters difficult, the expert spoke on the causes, prevalence and care giving to such patients, adding that such challenges were often misinterpreted as a sign of low IQ while intelligence had little to do with it and often such ‘Special Children’ were quite intelligent. He underlined that while in the UK such conditions were screened/diagnosed by a psychologist, the same could be better managed if perceived as a multi factorial issue which needs a multidisciplinary approach combining the expertise of a child psychologist, special teacher, paediatric ophthalmologist and optometrist. He explained that while Binocular stress and visual instability could be typical optometric manifestations among the effected segment other typical symptoms could be reading difficulty, eye fatigue, constant rubbing of the eyes by the child, need to bring the written matter close to the eyes while reading and poor concentration, he added that such patients often exhibited optometric anomalies like absence of strabismus, squint, lack of evidence of decongested heterophoria, absence of convergence insufficiency, hence the issue needed an individualized, evidence based approach involving clinical optometry and clinical trials.

Speaking on the occasion Dr. Rizwana acknowledged the role of world famous Geneticist Dr Kumaramanickavel and Ms Kalpa Negiloni, Senior Research Optometrist at Sankara Nethralaya and lecturer at the Elite School of Optometry in the inception of the clinic. She recalled that the deliberation at EIVOC 2010 and 2016 laid the early seeds to the formation of the facility.

Dr Namita Jacob working with several national & international organizations in the areas of sensory impairments, multiple disabilities & early childhood development was the special guest of the function, hailed the new initiative as a ‘Fantastic Thing’ describing it as a boon for kids with autism, down’s syndrome and other conditions, she said that the facility being inaugurated was her dream since year 2003 and it was her good fortune that she met people like Dr. Kumaramanickavel and Dr Krishna Kumar, Principal, Elite School of Optometry who empathized with her cause and shared her concern for this group’s special needs. The critical role of Dr Meenakshi Swaminathan, Senior Consultant, Paediatric Ophthalmology dept, Sankara Nethralaya as the guru and guide to the forming of the institution and the person who raised the necessary funds for starting the facility were recalled with gratitude at the inaugural of the special facility where paediatric ophthalmologists and paediatric optometrists would join hands in dispensing ‘special eye care’ to ‘Special children’

The queen of expressions captures a 40 year saga of touching and transforming lives, with great intensity

The pleasant evening of Thursday the 6th of September 2018 being celebrated as the 40th Foundation day of Sankara Nethralaya began with a soulful invocation to Lord Ganesha by Srimathi Gomathisri. Extending his warm welcome and thanking the attendees for their presence, Dr Girish Shiva Rao, Medical Director, Sankara Nethralaya began his talk on a note of caution that the institution has traversed a period of time (40 years) in its life when men and women are prone to a common age related eye ailment called ‘Presbyopia’ which makes it difficult to see objects at a close distance and reading fine print, the observation was a call to avoid a short sighted approach and take the right steps for the institution to stay relevant in today’s changing world, as it was when it was started 4 decades back.

Starting her address on a lighter vein that she enjoyed reaching her Presbyopic age along with the institution, Srimathi Akila Ganesan- Director, Administration gave a most poignant account of the four glorious decades by emphasising Sankara Nethralaya’s story of giving, bonding, ethical practice without disparity to paying and patients treated cost free, knowledge dissemination for the common good through quality educational institutions, a highly supportive board of directors and committed and dedicated doctors and abundant blessings from the Guru without which none of the above would have made sense.

The institution had the divine fortune of being blessed by His Holiness Vijayendra Saraswati Swamigal the Pontiff of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam on the momentous occasion. Hailing the institution as a very special entity which was blessed by both the Periyavas, the Seer lauded Dr SS.Badrinath’s work as a ‘Himalayan Service’. He had a high word of praise for the institution’s holistic approach to treating blindness, combining clinical expertise and cost free care, a case of the heart meeting the brain and its propensity to acquire knowledge from the world over to benefit its patients both rich and poor, a virtue enshrined in the ancient scriptures. Punning on the Tamil adage ‘Kannum Karuthum’ which translates as ‘With utmost care’ he observed that the institution played the dual role of treating the eye and touching the heart with its philosophy of service.

Vice President, Sankara Nethralaya and Director of Pediatric Ophthalmology Dr TS.Surendran, among the institution’s early employees took the audience on a nostalgic trip laced with humour, providing the lighter moments of the evening and insights into an eventful past.

Delivering the most awaited chief guest’s address on the topic ‘My reminiscences of Sankara Nethralaya’ legendary Danseuse and cultural icon, Barata Jyoti Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam hailed Dr SS.Badrinath as a ‘Kaliyuga Danavantri’ whose life can be best described as ‘Karana Janma’ or a ‘Life full of purpose’ she lauded the institution as a place where values percolate from the top to every level of the hierarchy and described the event as a celebration of the 40th year of service by the Sankara Nethralaya team from Dr SS.Badrinath to the sentry/car park attendant. The long time friend of and well wisher of the institution recapped the golden chapter in Sankara Nethralaya’s history when its founder was blessed with the opportunity to treat the Living God HH Chandrasekarendra Saraswati Swamigal, her most memorable performance for the institution for which she had chosen songs with the eye as the central theme with great support from the legendary Dr.Balamurali Krishna. Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam eulogized Sankara Nethralaya as another root of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam, a Hindu institution which served with the true spirit of service without any expectations and concluded her oration with the observation that the institution was blessed with angelic doctors and enjoyed phenomenal worldwide repute and her wishes for its ‘Ruby Jubilee’.

A major event of the day was the launch of the ‘Sankara Nethralaya Anthem’ or theme song, the brainchild and dream project of Sankara Ratna VV.Ranganathan a long time friend and well wisher of the instititution and its founder and the tireless efforts by him, Dr. Vani Jairam who has given life to the touching lyrics the way only she can, in 4 languages and Shri Dakshin the music director. The event witnessed generous donations towards its cause by Lion Harinarayanan and Lion R. Chandrasekharan and came to a close with a warm vote of thanks by Srimathi Sudha Mohan, Senior Manager-HRD, who described the day as a day of nostalgia to many, news to some.