Tens of thousands of people around the world have had their lives completely changed by the innovative and cost-effective surgical techniques of Dr. Sanduk Ruit. These people would otherwise be abandoned, relegated to unobserved corners, and at risk of a slow deterioration of their health.
Dr. Ruit has been called the God of Sight having served millions of people dispelling darkness, and uncovering solutions to treatable eye problems. Let’s have a look at his incredible journey in the field of preventable eye care.
The Rightful Deserver of All Accolades
Dr. Sanduk Ruit earned the nickname “the doctor who saved 100,000 eyes”. As Nicholas Kristof, a columnist for The New York Times who visited this transformative figure in Nepal, noted, Dr. Ruit may have given the blessing of renewed vision to more individuals than anyone in human history. Moreover, he accomplishes these remarkable feats with breathtaking speed, bestowing the gift of sight in just five minutes.
In 2019, Dr. Sanduk Ruit received the ‘Padma Shri’ Award during India’s 69th Republic Day celebrations and the Prime Minister’s ‘National Talent Award’. He has received awards such as the 2016 Asia Society ‘Asia Game Changer Award’, the 2014 Schwab Foundation ‘Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award’, the 2006 ‘Ramon Magsaysay Award’, and the 2008 Reader’s Digest ‘Asian of the Year’.
Dr. Sanduk Ruit was born to the lowest rungs of a strict class system, with nothing to his name: neither money nor connections. He used sheer willpower to overcome all difficulties and become one of the top surgeons in poor countries in a culture where success is frequently dependent on patrons.
A Chance Meeting
In the late 1980s, Australian eye specialist Fred Hollows trained and taught Sanduk. He then took on Hollows as his mentor and advocate perfected the older man’s methods of restoring sight, which he performed on more than 130,000 people. To continue his extraordinary work, he has built a state-of-the-art hospital in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, and is in charge of a nearby lens factory, a project originally started by Fred.
With the support of the Fred Hollows Foundation, Sanduk eschewed a comfortable existence to confront a system that was willing to neglect the poor and marginalized. He has pioneered a method that has helped tens of thousands of people regain sight through his stitch-free intraocular eye operation that he conducts in his hospitals and at outreach eye camps all across Asia.
Here, he trains thousands of surgeons in his techniques. Surgeons across the world travel to Kathmandu every year to receive training from him. They come from various countries, including Britain, Australia, China, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Myanmar, Ethiopia, and now even North Korea.
Dr. Ruit’s Fight Against Preventable Blindness
According to the World Health Organization, there are approximately 285 million individuals worldwide who have visual impairments, including 39 million blind and 246 million visually impaired. Cataracts are identified as the primary cause of blindness in low and middle-income countries.
Dr. Ruit is proving to be a savior for this huge population, offering an uncomplicated cataract microsurgical technique for just $50. Many individuals travel considerable distances from remote villages to seek his expertise and hope to regain their sight. He himself made considerable efforts to reach out to numerous rural communities.
Subsequently, Sanduk founded The Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, a world-class hospital that stands as a beacon of hope in the midst of Kathmandu’s pervasive poverty. He performs more than 50 surgeries each day here, a stark contrast to the typical Western doctor who usually completes no more than 15 surgeries.
Transforming Nepal’s Image
The Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology started in 1994 and since then, it functions as the operational arm of the Nepal Eye Programme, a non-profit NGO.
While Nepal has huge hurdles in terms of technology development and medical interventions, the situation is very different when it comes to eye care services. Ever since Dr. Ruit invented extremely affordable and simple eye surgery, which was previously complicated and expensive, especially for people living in underdeveloped countries, the fame of Dr. Ruit transcended national borders.
His ground-breaking innovation democratized access to state-of-the-art cataract surgery, a procedure once within reach and available only to the Western world or the financially privileged.
His contributions have positively influenced individuals in regions, such as Sikkim, Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), Bhutan, Indonesia, North Korea, Ethiopia, and others.
Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation
At the beginning of 2021, Dr. Sanduk Ruit collaborated with Tej Kohli to establish the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation, an NGO with the mission to provide treatment and cure for cataract blindness in some of the world’s poorest communities. Together, Kohli and Ruit have set ambitious goals to screen more than one million individuals by 2026 and eliminate cataract blindness in between three hundred thousand and five hundred thousand people.
Via the foundation, both have successfully restored the vision of over 48,000 individuals with a primary focus on the underprivileged section of society. The foundation performs cataract surgeries through the organization of “microsurgical field camps” in remote areas with a high prevalence of severe visual impairment.
Working with national and local governments, as well as local and regional hospitals, eye centers, surgeons, and interpreters, the foundation has coordinated more than 105 microsurgery camps in Nepal, Bhutan, India, and Ghana. The organization has also partnered with many hospitals across Nepal to expand its efforts in treating individuals and preventing unnecessary blindness.
After surgery, patients are provided with post-operative care, including overnight accommodation, meals, and education about medication and follow-up care. Local hospital partners carry out inspections at weekly and monthly intervals. In addition, the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation conducts follow-up visits with patients six to twelve months after surgery to assess the long-term impact on their quality of life.
Today, Dr. Ruit is widely regarded as one of the most regarded ophthalmologists worldwide. While he could have earned a substantial salary by practicing in the US, his unwavering commitment is entirely dedicated to eradicating preventable blindness.
Forward Is the Only Way
From the remote reaches of the Himalayas to the isolated realm of North Korea, this Nepali ophthalmologist has lent his remarkable gift to individuals who occasionally make day-long journeys to seek his expertise. In doing so, he not only restored their vision but also empowered some of the most marginalized individuals to strive for a better life.
Dr. Ruit continues to run remote camps in India, China, Indonesia, and Myanmar and even extends his services to places like North Korea, Rwanda, Tibet, and Bhutan. In all these places, he continues restoring sight and bringing hope to thousands of individuals, while imparting his surgical knowledge to many other surgeons.