Sankara Nethralaya’s annual celebration of knowledge sharing as enshrined in its tenets and acknowledging its achievers was celebrated with panache as the “31st Graduation ceremony of the Medical Research Foundation’ on the 2nd of November 2019. The event assumed great significance as it marked the graduation of the last batch of students belonging to the Elite School of Optometry – BITS, Pilani academic collaboration and the fact that it was being held under the Aegis of a most respected guru, friend, guide, philosopher, generous supporter and the 1st Principal of the Elite School of Optometry, (ESO) Dr P P. Santanam, a man whose impeccable character, sterling virtues and lofty ideals made him the most ideal example to emulate, in the eyes of Dr SS.Badrinath and being chosen by him to lead the fledgling institution as a ‘Role model for the students’. A man who continues to be ‘a shining role model’ to this day not only for the students of the pioneering institution he served as the first Principal, but to every staff member, consultant, scientist and researcher at Sankara Nethralaya.
It was a sight to behold as the graduating students walked up in their dream attire, the convocation gown, to receive their certificates from the chief guest and other peers similarly clad in their colourful attire, to the thunderous applause of the audience including their proud parents. The pledge and oath that followed reminded one of a new regiment of trained and spirited warriors leaving the fort to the battle field.
There was an air of confidence and pride in the voice of the institution’s head of academics, Dr Meenakshi Swaminathan and there was good reason for the same, the institution’s sterling achievements in ‘knowledge acquisition and dissemination’ one of its founding principles, came out loud and clear as she read out the ‘Academic Report’ filled with accomplishments of its stalwarts being conferred with Diplomates, Fellowships, Awards and other honours from the most prestigious seats of learning and professional bodies in India and abroad including the AAO. Royal College of Surgeons, Glasgow, Anglia Ruskin University, American Society of Retina specialists, IJO and the World’s No-1 healthcare agency the WHO, for the impact of their research findings and contributions to overall eyecare. This was matched by the impressive number of PhD’s won, papers published in peer reviewed journals by the students of the various educational institutions of the Medical Research Foundation. The most heartening aspect of the massive knowledge acquisition being showcased was its emphasis on the common good and translation into knowledge sharing through a list of major CME’s and meets and demonstrable impact on public health and pain alleviation through measures like a directive on optimal classroom illumination and ergonomics, specialized eye testing for drivers, vision evaluation charts in local languages that a lay man can make use of on his own, inputs on niche visual needs of sportsmen etc.
The most awaited Chief Guest’s address by the highly adored and respected Dr P P Santanam, a man captured in his shining avatars as an innovator, humanitarian, inspiring teacher, dedicated member of the SN family, generous contributor to research and academics, evolved soul, academician and a man who gave back all that he had to his institution, by Dr Rizwana, Assistant Professor, ESO and Head – Binocular Vision, held the audience in rapt attention, a speech which in his characteristic style was simple yet providing a lot of food for thought and sage counsel. The pioneer and leader in occupational optometry traced the origin and growth of the institution which was dearer to him than his home and the role of all those who contributed to its growth including its prime architect and visionary Dr SS.Badrinath.
The loving and caring academician had a word of advice to the large number of students gathered to keep their grey cells superior to gadgets by constantly exercising it and to practice their vocation/profession with ethics, compassion and commitment, which will eventually pave the way for rich rewards, instead of chasing short term and unethical gains. He closed his most absorbing talk with best wishes to the graduating students and a thoughtful observation that ‘Learning is a journey, not a destination’!!