Dr. Sanduk Ruit — Co-Director Himalayan Cataract Project
Himalayan Cataract Project Co-Director Dr. Sanduk Ruit’s soul mission has been, and continues to be, to bring eyesight back to anyone who needs it, regardless of his or her ability to pay — and to do so with pre- and post-operative care that rivals the highest quality health care throughout the world.
Dr. Ruit developed a sutureless form of cataract surgery, a technique that allows safe, high-volume, low-budget operations. A masterful surgeon, he can perform dozens of flawless cataract operations at eye camps over a 12-hour day. Working tirelessly at the operating table he says “the surgical chair is the most comfortable place on Earth that I have.”
Ruit was the first Nepali doctor to perform cataract surgery with intraocular lens implants and the first to pioneer a method for delivering high-quality microsurgical procedures in remote eye camps. Ruit was continually innovating. His ingenuity allowed for a sutureless form of surgery that was safe, high quality, high-volume and inexpensive. In the face of heavy skepticism from other doctors in the field, Dr. Ruit tirelessly worked to prove that high quality care could be successfully delivered in places considered squalid by western standards. As a tribute to his remarkable achievements, Dr. Ruit has received some of the highest awards in the field of international health possible.
Dr. Ruit helped found the Tilganga Eye Centre in 1994. Tilganga treats 2,500 patients a week and surgery fees are waived for the neediest. Because many of the poor and blind cannot make it to Kathmandu, Dr. Ruit reaches out to them by trekking into remote parts of Nepal and throughout the Himalayas. Dr. Ruit and colleagues from Tilganga have worked as far afield as North Korea, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Ethiopia and Ghana (among many other countries).
Dr. Ruit's Background
Sanduk Ruit was born in Olangchungola, Nepal, a remote village in Eastern Nepal. So remote the nearest school was a week’s walk away. And there were no health posts. Ruit’s sister died of tuberculosis when he was 17. This experience led him to become a doctor.
Ruit excelled in his studies and completed a three-year ophthalmology residency at the prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi, India. He then returned to Nepal. In 1980, while working on a Nepal Blindness Survey, he met Fred Hollows who became his mentor. Fred helped make his life goal clear: the restoration of eyesight to people who were unnecessarily blind. In 1986, Sanduk Ruit studied with Hollows for 14 months at Sydney’s Prince of Wales Hospital in Australia.
Hollows and Ruit held the conviction that all people with treatable blindness have the right to restored eyesight; and further, that people in developing countries deserve access to the same quality of care and technology as people in the developed world. They also shared an ambitious vision: the elimination of avoidable blindness in the Himalayan region — driven by local people.
In Australia, Sanduk Ruit learned the latest cataract micro-surgery technique using implanted intraocular lenses. He was ready to take his knowledge to the poorest of the poor. Today he continues to trek through the most remote regions of Nepal conducting eye camps and restoring sight to thousands of the blind.