A dynamic civil servant and a media legend rise gloriously to a call for creating awareness an eye care challenge effecting children
The 5th annual all India meet of the Strabismus & Pediatric Ophthalmology Society of India (SPOSI), the professional body of Pediatric Ophthalmologists, researchers and academicians committed to cultivate & promote the study,research and practice of strabismology, Pediatric Ophthalmology,Fellowship,interaction among members and continuing education, was hosted by Sankara Nethralaya, a pioneer and leader in Pediatric Ophthalmology and correction of refractive errors and squint, on the 7th and 8th of December 2019. Organizing Chairman SPOSI and ‘Lifetime achievement’ award winner for his contribution to Pediatric Ophthalmology Dr TS Surendran, Director Pediatric Ophthalmology & Vice Chairman Sankara Nethralaya set the tone to the evening with a warm greeting and welcome to the dignitaries and attendees and a quick note on Sankara Nethralaya, the host institution with which he has been associated almost since its inception.
Presenting the annual report of the body, Professor Yogesh Shukla, Secretary – SPOSI explained how the Strabismus Society of India (SSI) became the ‘Strabismus and Pediatric Ophthalmology Society of India’ in due course to include other Pediatric specialties like Pediatric Cataract, Pediatric Glaucoma along with Pediatric Strabismus. Describing Pediatric Ophthalmology as an understudied, hard to pursue and low paying sub specialty, he hailed the SPOSI as a dedicated body in the forefront of advocacy,awareness creation and training of this niche field, a body which has grown from a strength of 500 to 940 in 5 years, making it the largest ophthalmic sub specialty society in the country, a professional body acclaimed in prestigious overseas journals,visited by the American Pediatric Ophthalmology Society, SAARC etc. Dr Pradeep Sharma, president SPOSI hailed the great work done by the body in terms of awareness week, Kids I care week etc, he emphasized that squint was not a cosmetic problem and appealed that squint correction surgery should be covered by insurance companies like other vision reviving ophthalmic processes.
President elect SPOSI Dr S. Khokar hailed as an outstanding Pediatric Cataract surgeon,Teacher, Pioneer, Author and speaker by Dr Pradeep Sharma, present President, emphasized that given the large numbers and sheer diversity of cases in this specialty handled in India, it should be the West which should look to us for a better understanding of the same, including training and pursuing Fellowships in India. The evening witnessed some major knowledge dissemination and awareness creation on the subject by way of the launch of the ‘Atlas on Pediatric Ophthalmology’, ‘Atlas on Pediatric Cataract Surgery’ and ‘Visual and Related Anomalies in Children’ a comprehensive compilation by Dr S.Khokar and a highly interesting and informative awareness teaser on ‘Myopia Control’ aimed at the common man by Shri Badri Surendran which was launched by the Guest of honour Shri N.Ram. It was also an evening of honouring and acknowledging all those who contributed to the cause of pediatric ophthalmology, major awards including the ‘Lifetime Achievement award’ were presented by the Chief Guest
A deep involvement in the proceedings and initiatives and warm spontaneous gestures by a spirited health ministry official and a veteran from the Fourth estate, gracing the occasion underlined the collective effort and shared responsibility that made the State a preferred health care destination and raised the spirit of the evening. Delivering the guest of honour address, long time friend and well wisher of Sankara Nethralaya Shri N.Ram, Chairman, Hindu Group Publishing Pvt Ltd started his talk with the observation that it is Dr SS.Badrinath’s vision that led to such wonderful things in the field of ophthalmology, it was an interesting paradox when the man hailed as a wordsmith and whose publication is credited with polishing the language skills of generations of Indians admired the conspicuous absence of ‘Words’ in the day’s proceedings, a rich compliment to the achievers of the evening for the ‘few words’ that they deployed to describe the high levels of training, advocacy, awareness and great achievements, which others would have made much more noise about. The senior journalist and thought leader expressed concern on the rising instance of Myopia in the country, terming it as a crisis in the offing he called for the young generation which was most vulnerable to the threat to spend more time outdoors and take healthy food, he emphasized that the electronic and print media has a moral and ethical responsibility to raise awareness on such neglected issues in society by dedicating free space for good awareness articles. Striking a different chord from the observation of the SPOSI secretary Prof Yogesh Sharma who rued that Pediatric ophthalmology was a underprivileged and understudied sub sect, Chief Guest of the evening Dr Beela Rajesh, IAS, Secretary to the TN Government,Health & Family Welfare Dept hailed it as a ‘Super sub sect’ of ophthalmology. Breaking from protocol the dynamic civil servant left her seat at the dais and took a quick walk all the way to the last row of the auditorium where Founder& Chairman Emeritus, Sankara Nethralaya Dr SS.Badrinath, had taken his seat along with the attendees, to join him in launching the SPOSI journal, adding that it was her honour to do so.The senior bureaucrat expressed relief that children who constituted 40% of those needing eye care were very safe under the care of SPOSI. Hailing Sankara Nethralaya as a legend and landmark of Chennai, she congratulated the SPOSI for its wholesome approach to the issue of Strabismus and overall children’s eye care. Observing that lack of vision is worse than being blind she listed the trailblazing health care initiatives of the State government such as induction of 32 Tele ophthalmology units for tertiary care, focus on Pediatric Ophthalmology and ante natal care. Praising Sankara Nethralaya’s extraordinary genetic mapping she invited the institution to collaborate with the Regional Institute of Ophthalmology and Government Ophthalmic Hospital, Chennai (RIOH) in tackling eye issues of the poor and needy. The proactive health dept official advised that nutrition and preventive care should be strongly emphasized in health care dispensing as today’s busy life led to a neglect of the same and suggested that ‘eye exercises’ can also be popularized as a preventive measure, she closed her talk with a warm invite to the RIOH museum and a call for massive public -private participation in conducting a mega ophthalmic initiative.
The highly absorbing and enlightening two day conference covering the A to Z of pediatric ophthalmology in terms of panel discussions,quiz, pot pourri,’Meet the Masters’ interesting case presentations,videos,exchange of latest diagnostic and minimally invasive treatment modalities which started with a highly educative pre -conference workshop on the 6th of December, came to a close with a sincere vote of thanks to all those who made it a grand success, by Dr Sumita Agarkar, Organizing Secretary – SPOSI and Deputy Director, Pediatric Ophthalmology Department, Sankara Nethralaya.