Dr Sanduk Ruit
Dr Sanduk Ruit is a long-time friend and partner of The Fred Hollows Foundation.
World-renowned Nepalese ophthalmologist Dr Ruit has performed more than 100,000 sight-saving operations in his distinguished career and is founder and Medical Director of The Foundation’s partner organisation in Nepal, the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology.
Born in a small remote village in the north east of Nepal, Dr Ruit's start in life was tough. His village, which sits at an altitude of 11,000 feet, was poor and had no electricity.
The nearest school was 11 days walk away but Dr Ruit was fortunate to attend an English school in India, and was then selected to go to King George Medical School in Lucknow to undertake a Bachelor of Medicine. He later completed his ophthalmology training at the All India Institute of Medical Science.
Dr Sanduk Ruit's ongoing connection with The Fred Hollows Foundation comes from a long and extraordinary personal history with Professor Fred Hollows.
A special friendship, a shared vision
Their partnership began in the mid 1980s when Fred, as a World Health Organisation consultant, visited the Nepalese Prevention of Blindness Program where Dr Ruit was a Medical Officer.
They discovered a mutual determination to bring affordable and quality eye care to people living in developing countries like Nepal, and embarked on a journey to take modern cataract surgery to all corners of Nepal and the developing world.
In 1988, Dr Ruit came to Australia to live and train with Fred at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney.
At that time modern cataract surgery, using an intraocular lens (IOL) wasn't being used in developing countries to treat cataract blindness. It was thought to be too expensive, risky and difficult.
Dr Ruit and Fred were determined to challenge that assumption - they believed the modern technique was more effective and resource efficient than the traditional method of removing the clouded lens of the eye and not replacing it, but rather relying on glasses to provide sight.
Dr Ruit then returned to Nepal and began training local doctors in modern cataract surgery, further improving on the surgical techniques he had learned in Australia.
Tilganga, a world-class eye health facility
During his time in Australia, Dr Ruit, together with Fred and Gabi Hollows and other friends and colleagues, had set up the Nepal Eye Program Australia (NEPA).
Fundraising efforts through NEPA and The Fred Hollows Foundation helped to establish the Tilganga Eye Centre in Kathmandu, which was officially opened in 1994 - a year after Fred Hollows died. Within the eye centre, an IOL manufacturing facility was also set up, providing high quality, low cost IOLs for use in cataract surgery in developing countries.
Today, The Foundation’s contribution to blindness prevention is a collaborative effort with what is now the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology (TIO), still led by Dr Ruit.
The Foundation continues to provide funding for initiatives, delivering eye care services to poor and remote communities in Nepal.
Dr Ruit continues to be recognised as one of the giants of world ophthalmology - having restored sight to over one hundred thousand people, and trained thousands of eye health professionals from around the world.
"We are playing a role of total skill transfer in terms of surgical and clinical quality, efficiency, financial sustainability and community service. We work with different organisations in all these areas and one of our most trusted partners is The Fred Hollows Foundation. It is good that they and others have trust and total confidence in our approach," says Dr Ruit.
In 2011, The Foundation’s support to the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology directly contributed to the following key achievements:
- Performed 8,357 cataract and 21,553 other sight saving or improving interventions
- Screened 266,116 people
- Trained three surgeons, 18 nurses and clinic support staff and 185 community health workers
- Opened an Oculoplasty Unit at Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology to provide surgery to fix eye deformities and abnormalities
- Delivered $53,861 in medical equipment
- Held 14 eye clinics in remote provinces.
Find out more about The Foundation’s work in Nepal.