Dr. Sanduk Ruit speaking at the Erudite Conclave 2011 organised by class of 2005, Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram, India. by Aasemsj
Doctor Sanduk Ruit, an ophthalmologist from Nepal, is a name that commands respect and admiration in the field of medicine, especially in the area of eye care. His pioneering work in the field of cataract surgery has transformed the lives of millions of people around the world, particularly in his home country Nepal. He has dedicated his whole career to restoring sight to those who could not afford traditional eye care and training local doctors to continue providing these services in their communities.
His contributions have had a significant impact on the lives of many people, earning him the title of “God of Sight” and “The Barefoot Surgeon.”
Sanduk’s Early Childhood and Education
Dr. Sanduk Ruit was born on 19 Bhadra, 2011 BS (September 4, 1954), in the remote village of Olangchung Gola, in the Taplejung district of Nepal. His father, Sonam Ruit was a small business trader and a farmer. He grew up in a large family with six siblings. The village had no roads and no electricity. And the nearest school was weeks away.
Both his parents, Sonam and Kesang Ruit firmly believed in the value of education, so they made sure that their children went to school. Sonam was a very visionary person, who wanted his children to have a better life than he did therefore he encouraged them to study well.
Dr. Ruit’s inspiration to become a doctor came from his own experiences growing up in a remote village where medical care was scarce. When he was a kid, Sanduk’s brother died of dysentery while a sister died of a mere fever. After some time he again lost one more sister to a curable disease like Tuberculosis, and that is when Sanduk decided to pursue medicine. So that he can bring medical help to those living in remote.
Dr. Sanduk Ruit’s early education was in a small school in his village. He started his official schooling at the age of 7 in Saint Roberts School in Darjeeling, India. Due to the Indian-China war, he had to give up schooling in Darjeeling. He came back to Nepal and continued his schooling at Siddhartha Banasthali School in Kathmandu. He was a brilliant student so he jumped classes, from 7th to the 9th grade directly. He passed his 10th Grade, the School Living Certificate with a First Division in 2028 BS (1970 AD). He then joined Trichandra College for his High School Science. He was awarded a scholarship to study medicine at King George medical university in Lucknow India. After the Bachelor of Medicine, and Bachelor of Surgery, Ruit then completed his Master’s Degree in Ophthalmology from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in the year 2040 BS (1984).
Dr. Ruit married Nanda Shrestha, an ophthalmic nurse in 2043 BS (1987 AD). They live in Kathmandu with a son and two daughters.
Dr. Sanduk Ruit has an extensive work experience as an ophthalmologist, particularly in the area of cataract surgery. After completing his medical studies he worked at the Bir Hospital as a general physician for 3 years. He then went to Australia in 2043 BS (1987 A.D) for further studies.
While in Australia, Ruit learned about a cataract micro-surgery technique using implanted intraocular lenses. He wanted to take this technique back home and help the poorest of the poor who can’t afford the treatments. While working at the Nepal Blindness Survey, Ruit met the incomparable Fred Hollows, an Australian eye surgeon who soon became his mentor.
Hollows helped Ruit choose his life’s path: to restore eyesight to partial or full blinds. Ruit went on to study with Hollows 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 low to middle-income countries deserve access to the same quality of care and technology as people in the developed world.
Ruit Brought New technology to Nepal
After coming back from Australia he started to develop a new technique that would be more efficient and cost-effective, and this led him to co-found the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology in Kathmandu, Nepal, in 2050 B. (1994) which has since become a leading eye care center in Asia.
Ruit and his team developed the “Nepal method” of cataract surgery, which involves a small incision and does not require sutures. The procedure takes just a few minutes, and patients can often return to their daily activities the same day. There were four areas of priority:
- Simplifying the surgical technique, delivery system, and team building.
- Finding very effective system for training.
- Working on affordable medical consumables e.g. high quality, low cost intraocular lenses.
- Trying to solve the complexity of financial issues.
This technique has become the standard of care for cataract surgery in many parts of the world, particularly in developing countries, where access to eye care is limited. Ruit has also worked with the Fred Hollows Foundation, an international non-profit organization that provides eye care services to disadvantaged communities around the world.
Sanduk has traveled to many countries, including Ethiopia, Eritrea, Bhutan, North Korea, and Myanmar, to train other eye surgeons in his technique and to provide eye care services to all in need.
It is difficult to determine the exact number of people that Dr. Sanduk Ruit has treated throughout his career, as he has provided eye care services to countless individuals in his home country and equally abroad. However, it is estimated that he has performed over 130,000 cataract surgeries and has trained thousands of eye care professionals in his innovative surgical techniques.
Ruit’s contribution in different parts of the world
Dr. Ruit has made significant contributions to improving eye care services in several countries around the world. Some of his notable contributions to different countries are:
Bhutan: Dr. Ruit has been involved in eye care programs in Bhutan for over two decades, and has trained Bhutanese eye surgeons in his techniques. He has also helped to establish a sustainable eye care system in Bhutan that can provide quality eye care services to all people in the country.
North Korea: In 2009 AD, Dr. Ruit led a team of eye surgeons to North Korea to perform cataract surgeries on more than 1,000 patients. The surgeries were conducted using the “Nepal Method,” and were carried out in partnership with the North Korean government.
Ethiopia: Dr. Ruit has been involved in eye care programs in Ethiopia since the early 2000s, and has trained Ethiopian eye surgeons in his techniques. He has also helped to establish a sustainable eye care system in the country that can provide quality eye care services to all people in need.
Myanmar: Dr. Ruit has worked with the Fred Hollows Foundation to establish a training program for Burmese eye surgeons, and has helped to improve eye care services in the country. He has also led a team of eye surgeons to Myanmar to perform cataract surgeries on more than 500 patients.
Eritrea: Dr. Ruit has worked with the Fred Hollows Foundation to establish an eye care program in Eritrea and has trained Eritrean eye surgeons in his techniques. He has also helped to establish a sustainable eye care system in the country that can provide quality eye care services to all people in need.
Awards and Recognition
Dr. Sanduk Ruit’s numerous awards and achievements are a testament to his dedication and commitment to improving eye care services and restoring sight to millions of people around the world. His innovative approaches to cataract surgery and his work in establishing sustainable eye care systems have had a transformative impact on the lives of countless individuals, and continue to inspire others to make a difference in the world. Some of his major awards and achievements are:
- Isa Award: Dr. Ruit was presented with Isa Award for Service to Humanity by the Kingdom of Bahrain. (2023)
- State Honours: Nepal Government announced Dr. Sanduk Ruit, will be honored with Suprasiddha Prabal Janasewashree Government announces a list of 594 persons for state honors. (2020)
- António Champalimaud Vision Award: Dr. Ruit was awarded the António Champalimaud Vision Award, one of the world’s most prestigious awards in ophthalmology, for his “pioneering work in the treatment of blindness and his contribution to the global elimination of cataract blindness. (2019)
- Padma Shri: The Government of India awarded him the Padma Shri, its fourth highest civilian award, for his innovation in the 1980s that led to a 90 percent reduction in the cost of cataract eye surgery, and provides low-cost cataract surgery lenses to over thirty countries. (2018)
- Innovator in Residence at the Queensland University of Technology: Dr. Ruit was appointed as an Innovator in Residence at the Queensland University of Technology in Australia, in recognition of his innovative work in ophthalmology. (2018)
- Order of Australia: Doctor Ruit was awarded the Order of Australia, one of the country’s highest honors, for his “distinguished service to ophthalmology, particularly to the prevention and treatment of blindness, in Nepal and the Asia-Pacific region.” (2018)
- Asia Game Changer Award: Dr. Ruit received an Asia Game Changer Award from the Asia Society “for bringing the gifts of sight, and productive life, to those most in need.” (2016)
- Fred Hollows Humanity Award: Dr. Ruit was awarded the Fred Hollows Humanity Award, which recognizes individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to humanity in the spirit of Fred Hollows. (2016)
- National Order of Merit: Doctor Ruit was awarded the National Order of Merit by the President of the French Republic, in recognition of his “exceptional work in the field of ophthalmology and his contribution to the treatment of blindness.” (2016)
- King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation Award: Dr. Ruit was awarded the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation Award, in recognition of his contribution to conservation and sustainable development in Nepal. 2015)
- Ramon Magsaysay Award: Doctor Ruit was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for his “visionary determination to restore eyesight to Nepal’s blind.” The award is considered to be the Asian equivalent of the Nobel Prize. (2006)
Dr. Sanduk Ruit’s life and work are an inspiration to us all. His trajectory, from a humble beginning in a small village in Nepal to a globally renowned ophthalmologist, revolutionized cataract surgery and restored sight to millions of people around the world. Through his tireless efforts in establishing sustainable eye care systems, he has also worked to ensure that eye care services are accessible and affordable to all, regardless of their socio-economic status or geographic location. Dr. Ruit’s numerous awards and achievements are a testament to his unwavering commitment to his patients and to the betterment of society as a whole.
He is truly a remarkable individual whose legacy will continue to inspire future generations of medical professionals and social entrepreneurs. As we continue to face challenges in the field of global health, we can look to Dr. Ruit’s lifetime work and learn from his innovative approaches to problem-solving, his dedication to improving the lives of others, and his unwavering belief in the power of compassion, collaboration, and perseverance.