September 2019

A veteran surgeon and humanitarian ‘transplants’ new thoughts at SN’s 73rd I-Day celebrations

73rd Independence Day

The 73rd Independence Day of the nation was celebrated with customary patriotic fervor and gaiety by the institution committed to freedom and independence through revived vision. The quadrangle between its imposing clinical, administrative and research blocks wore a festive look as members from the senior management, consultants, staff and their family members gathered in large numbers. The proceedings started with a reverential recollection of the nation’s freedom fighters and founding fathers to whom we owe our Independence, by the compeer of the day. Thanking the distinguished chief guest whom he hailed as a Guinness record holder for his presence in the midst of his busy schedules Dr TS Surendran, Vice Chairman highlighted that before introducing ‘Sankara Nethralaya’ the institution to the esteemed chief guest, he would like to add that Dr SS.Badrinath and Dr Vasanthi Badrinath who jointly strived in its creation were by themselves two great institutions who had the Vision Research Foundation and Medical Research Foundation in every breath of theirs. Hailing the distinguished chief guest as one of the world’s greatest liver transplant surgeons he underlined that every member in the audience had a hidden talent which he should explore and nurture.

A spirited rendition of a patriotic song by Mahakavi Bharathiar by Mr Durairaj a member of the staff added its special flavor to the day’s proceedings. Dr Suganeswari Senior Consultant,introduced the Chief Guest Dr Mohomed Rela, Founder Rela Institute & Medical Centre as a man with the distinction of having performed 1000 liver transplant surgeries which included a most challenging surgery on a 5 day old, she hailed him as a perfectionist and a man committed to his goal and vision just like Dr SS.Badrinath, she brought out the less known facets in him in terms of his charity without publicity and humanitarian values.

Likening his address on the occasion to the highly popular ‘Thought of the day’ broadcast by London’s Radio 4, his favourite program during his 20 year stay in UK, Dr Mohomed Rela highlighted freedom of expression and equality as the basic qualities of ‘Independence’, he wondered aloud if today’s citizenry are enjoying these privileges and rights enshrined in the constitution in the real sense? He went on to underline that these privileges are meaningful only when the basic needs of citizens like food and shelter are adequately met.

The distinguished Chief Guest quoted with authority from the epics, the Thirukural and Bharathiar’s patriotic poems to underline the quality of charity and other virtues and hailed Sankara Nethralaya for demonstrating these qualities in ample measure with an unimaginable tally of treating 70% of its patients totally cost free!

It was a wonderful demonstration of the saying that ‘Great men think alike’ when he completed his talk by quoting John F Kennedy’s immortal lines ‘Ask not what the country can do for you, but what you can do for the country’ the same electrifying lines with which Dr SS.Badrinath appealed for individual and societal responsibility at his acceptance speech to the nation, on being conferred the ‘Greatest Legendary Living Indian’ by ND TV in year 2013

The day witnessed the awarding of service awards, merit awards, children’s scholarships and the most awaited ‘Man of the Year’ and ‘Women of the Year’ by the chief guest and senior management members.

The ESO ‘Conspires’ to unseat its beloved City and State from the World No-1 position!!

As an eye care pioneer Sankara Nethralaya has several proud firsts to its credit, the first ophthalmic institution in Asia to be accredited by the ISO, the first to start a large exclusive research centre in the private sector, the first to perform eye surgeries outside a conventional operation theatre in a base hospital, a place in the Limca book of records for the highest number of children screened in a single day, developing the first Logmar chart in local languages and the Patent for some critical findings in ophthalmology. But this time around the Elite School of Optometry was attempting to remove the State of Tamil Nadu and its capital city of Chennai from the Number1 position which it had ‘gained’ for itself! the reason was simple, the No-1 position was a dubious distinction, as the City and State were declared by the WHO as the ones with the highest road accidents in the world!

As public spirited institutions Sankara Nethralaya and its academic arm the Elite School of Optometry realized that they had a moral responsibility towards making the city safe for its riders, drivers and pedestrians, thus was born the initiative ‘An eye for safety’ and ‘an eye on the road’ in February 2019. It was the continuation of this that was being observed on world optometry day. Dr Krishna Kumar, Principal, ESO, started the day on a somber note with chilling facts on lives and limbs lost on the tarred surface connecting people and places; distance in time and space have an insulating effect on people but the fact that he was referring to roads becoming killing fields, not in a distant land but in their own backyard brought disturbing recollections of smashed windscreens, sound of wailing sirens and that blotch of blood on the black road, which every resident of this metropolis had become familiar with. The silver lining on the dark picture was the revelation that simple steps like wearing helmet and seat belt, observing traffic rules, avoiding drunken driving, and ensuring healthy vision were small measures that could make a impact on road safety to both the driver and the pedestrian. The senior vision professional listed the distance in which a driver with healthy vision will be able to see objects, light etc on the road and how this would give enough time to take safety steps and how lack of good vision could catch a driver by surprise and give him too little time to maneuver or take any steps.

The institution honoured Mr Subbaram an ex-service man and disciplinarian and proud father of Mr Senthil an IT professional, the unsung hero working alone and purposefully towards safety on the roads by showcasing safety rules and tips as messages on his backpack on the way to work and back. The ESO distributed such backpacks with critical traffic do’s and don’ts to the young audience. As an institution known to leverage youth power in all its social endeavours the ESO gave the task of creating safety awareness on the roads to its favourite segment and students from CMC Vellore, Vasan Institution of ophthalmology and research, Sri Jayendra Saraswati institution of optometry, Regional Institution of ophthalmology and government ophthalmic hospital, Sankara Nethralaya academy and Agarwal Institute of optometry. The students rose gloriously to the occasion as only they can and what followed was an hour of sheet magic and poetry. Videos, slogans, Adzap, Mime, Team quiz, Simulator, Ramp walk, skits with the central theme as eye donation, vied with one another to drive home the point effectively with a generous dash of humour making it a memorable evening of edutainment.

The momentous day ended with the release of a road safety video produced by the ESO with assistance from SN’s multimedia team and taking of a pledge of oath by the large audience.

16th edition of popular oration n Pediatric Ophthalmology unravels a critical syndrome in children

16th Dr Nagamani Dharmapuri Oration

The 16th edition of the Dr Nagamani Dharmapuri oration got off to a melodious and auspicious start at the Sri VD Swami Auditorium with a soulful invocation by Dr Mihir Girish, invoking Allah and Eashwar, in keeping with the Sankara Nethralya spirit of service to all. Dr Sumitha Agarkar got the proceedings started with a quick brief on the genesis of the award, the deep friendship between Dr Vidyasagar Dharmapuri and Dr SS.Badrinath, the objective of the oration and how it has acted as a bridge between pediatrics and ophthalmology and enriched and complimented the multidisciplinary approach adopted by the pediatric ophthalmology department through profound lectures by experts from diverse fields. This was followed by an introduction of the distinguished Chief Guest and star speaker of the day Dr Anthony Moore highlighting the senior positions held and his achievements as a clinician, researcher and pediatric ophthalmologist by Dr Meenakshi Swaminathan, Senior Consultant, Pediatric Ophthalmology dept and Director of Academics

The oration on the topic ‘Childhood and developmental Macular Dystrophies’ was a demonstration of Dr Moore’s mastery over his specialization, it brought out the similarities and variables of the disorder in terms of manifestation, symptoms and progression. The world famous pediatric ophthalmologist took his audience across continents to highlight incidences and case studies of the ailment which underlined his point that it manifested itself in manifold ways. The learned professor advised simple steps like protecting the eyes from direct sunlight and nutritious food as good preventive steps. The expert highlighted that major work is happening today in the field in terms of clinical trials, gene replacement, stem cell therapy, leveraging inhibitors and administering vitamin A

Sankara Nethralaya partners with Google to create, validate and implement advanced vision screening algorithms

It came as a feather in the cap for an institution in the forefront of embracing medical and non medical technology and constantly improvising and innovating its ophthalmic and non ophthalmic processes to find solutions to emerging ophthalmic challenges and enhance quality, reach, speed and convenience in dispensing eye care, when Google the global technology and communication giant engaged in the pursuit of solutions to social and humanitarian issues chose the institution as its preferred partner in developing an Algorithm to detect diabetic retinopathy a major ophthalmic issue threatening to deprive the vision of millions around the world and macular oedema caused due to myriad contributory factors, a condition which could lead to permanent vision loss if not detected and treated early. The collaboration involved conducting real time validation of the deep learning algorithms and implementation of the same.

Senior Ophthalmologists from the institution provided the vital ophthalmic/biological inputs in terms of markers/indicators to the Google team who leveraged artificial intelligence, exhaustive neural networks and complex mathematical systems to develop a deep learning algorithm which can detect diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular oedema with amazing accuracy, speed and perfection. The algorithm was put to real time test at the Sankara Nethralaya’s main campus at Chennai and at Thailand and its findings were evaluated by a team of senior ophthalmologists. It was a moment of great jubilation for the Google-SN team involved in the exercise when the specialists adjudicated the accuracy of the findings as being on par or even superior to findings by a qualified ophthalmologist. The institution credited with landmark technical innovations like developing and implementing one of the earliest Electronic Medical Records (EMR) systems, the DNA macro chip in ophthalmology, internet aided tele-ophthalmology camps and the one of its kind in Asia Mobile Eye Surgical Unit (MESU) will now be leveraging this most advanced screening algorithm combining exhaustive neural networks and complex mathematical systems to detect diabetic retinopathy.

Encouraged by the success of the DR detecting algorithm the Google-Sankara Nethralaya team is now working on developing a similar algorithm to detect the progression of diabetic retinopathy and macular oedema.