Sudhanva Shetty Shetty
Writer, coffee-addict, likes folk music & long walks in the rain. Firmly believes that there's nothing more important in a democracy than a well-informed electorate.
Dr Suma Ganesh is an eye doctor (ophthalmologist) who has given the gift of sight to thousands of children since she began her medical journey. She is currently the Head of Department, Paediatric Ophthalmology at Dr Shroffs Charity Eye Hospital.
Dr Ganesh has dedicated her life to helping children overcome blindness wherever she can. She sees up to 65 children every day, and her hospital does 1,900 surgeries in a year.
Dr Ganesh has performed several thousand eye surgeries over the years. The Logical Indian recently interviewed the Doctor. When asked what inspires her, Dr Ganesh replies, “Elimination of childhood blindness is my goal. I hope to make a small dent by screening and treating children with visual impairment. Additionally, we need to educate parents about the need for early screening and intervention.”
After completing her MS in ophthalmology from Lokmanya Tilak Medical College, Mumbai in 1994, she shifted to Delhi and started working at Dr Shroffs Charity Eye Hospital
When Dr Ganesh was doing comprehensive ophthalmology she recognised the need to give emphasis on treating children eye problems. ORBIS International wanted to start paediatric ophthalmology centres in India and Dr Ganesh was the first fellow who they send for a short term fellowship to Manhattan Eye and Ear Hospital under the guidance of Dr Norman Medow in 2001.
Dr Ganesh said, “In the beginning, it was very difficult as the myths regarding eye surgeries and glasses in children in India were so strong and to break each obstacle was difficult. In 2003, I became associated with Project Prakash and MIT Professor Pawan Sinha’s dedication and his dream to bring light to the blind children helped us launch outreach activities into the remotest areas of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. This brought great purpose to my life.”
For Dr Ganesh, every surgery is memorable. “After surgery, I follow-up by screening every 6 months mostly till the age of 8 to 10 years at least to ensure that they have gained vision . It is such a great feeling to see them bloom into wonderful teenagers and the difference the surgery has done to their life.”
A highlight of the Doctor’s day is when her patients, now cured and successful, pay her a visit. Many of them say, ‘Aunty, now my eyes are straight and I am not teased anymore’, ‘I can play this game well now’, ‘I can study and see blackboard clearly now’, ‘I am in a good job now’, ‘I can ride a bicycle now’. She gushes, “The girls I treated have gotten married and have children now. They bring their children for screening too; they come with pride, saying they have performed so well in school or in an extracurricular activity. Such incidents always bring tears to my eyes.”
Dr Ganesh and her team often get children with abrasions or injury to the cornea or lids because of objects like paper clips, scissors, knives, hangers or other sharp objects. She acknowledges that there are basic, everyday practises which one can adopt/get rid of to ensure the safety of our eyes. She adds, “As parents, we need to be careful where we leave sharp objects because an injury to the eye never brings the eye back to perfection.”
According to statistics, 4 in 5 blind people don’t need to be blind – that is, they can be easily treated. The Logical Indian asked Dr Ganesh if she thought enough is being done to ensure that easily preventable cases of blindness are treated as soon as possible and are treated everywhere. “Yes. Since VISION 2020 was launched in 1999, controlling blindness in children has been a high priority in India and they have definitely brought about many changes. Many organisations like ORBIS, CBM, Sight Savers, Seva, Mission for Vision, Mcdonald House of Charities, Lavelle Fund – with whom I have worked – have done a lot to ensure that preventable blindness in children is tackled by providing funds and also rehabilitation.”
‘VISION 2020: The Right to Sight’ is the global initiative for the elimination of avoidable blindness, a joint program of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB). VISION 2020 was launched in 1999 and sought to promote “A world in which nobody is needlessly visually impaired, where those with unavoidable vision loss can achieve their full potential.”
The aim of the initiative is to “Intensify and accelerate prevention of blindness activities so as to achieve the goal of eliminating avoidable blindness by 2020.” It sought to do this by “Focussing initially on certain diseases which are the main causes of blindness and for which proven cost-effective interventions are available.”
According to See Now’s estimates, every 5 seconds someone in the world goes blind. Dr Ganesh is hopeful about the current state and future of healthcare in India. She is particularly happy about the state of ophthalmology in India, and argues that the dream of an India without blindness is a realistic dream. She opines the millions of the world’s blind be treated and ensured a normal life if both the government and private enterprises coordinate efforts. She says, “When we work together as a team much more can be achieved.”
The Logical Indian community salutes the efforts of Dr Suma Ganesh and others like her who are working hard to make our country healthy and free of ailments. We hope that Indian healthcare continues to improve, malnourishment continues to decline, and health awareness and conditions improve.
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