|Alma mater||King George's Medical College |
|Office||Founder and Executive Director of Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology|
|Awards||Honorary Officer of the Order of Australia|
Ramon Magsaysay Award
Prince Mahidol Award
National Order of Merit of Bhutan
Asia Game Changer Award
ISA Award for Service to Humanity
|Sub-specialties||Cornea and Cataract|
Sanduk Ruit (Nepali: सन्दुक रूइत, pronounced [ˈsʌnduk rui̯t], born September 4, 1954) is an ophthalmologist (eye surgeon) from Nepal who has restored the sight of over 180,000 people across Africa and Asia using small-incision cataract surgery.
Ruit is the founder and the executive director of the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, which manufactures high-quality intraocular lenses for surgery at a fraction of the price of the previous manufacturing cost. The low cost has made cataract surgeries affordable to the world's poorest people.
Ruit has been referred to as the "God of Sight". He was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Peace and International Understanding, considered to be the Asian equivalent of the Nobel Prize, for "placing Nepal at the forefront of developing safe, effective, and economical procedures for cataract surgery, enabling the needlessly blind in even the poorest countries to see again." He was awarded with the Isa award, the highest civilian award in Bahrain by the king of Bahrain for developing highly affordable and sustainable ways to cure cataracts throughout the developing world with a cash prize of 1 million dollars.
Early life and education
Ruit was born on September 4, 1954, to rural, illiterate parents, father Sonam Ruit and mother Kesang Ruit, in the remote mountainous village Olangchunggola in the border with Tibet in Taplejung district of northeast Nepal. His village of 200 people was located 11,000 feet above the sea level on the lap of the world's third-highest peak, Mt. Kanchenjunga. It is one of the most remote regions of Nepal with no electricity, school, health facilities or modern means of communication, and lies blanketed under snow for six to nine months a year. Ruit's family made a subsistence living from small agriculture, petty trading and livestock farming.
Ruit was the second of his parents’ six children. He lost three siblings – an elder brother to diarrhea at age three: 3–4 and younger sister Chundak to fever at age eight. In many interviews, Ruit has mentioned that for him, the most painful was his younger sister Yangla's death. Yangla was his childhood companion, and he was to develop a special bond with her over the years.: 9 She died at 15 of tuberculosis as the family was too poor to afford treatment that could have saved her life. In many interviews, Ruit has said that this loss made a strong mark on him and instilled in him a resolve to become a doctor and work for the poor who would not otherwise have access to healthcare.: 37–40
The nearest school from his village was fifteen days' walk away in Darjeeling. His father, a small-time businessman, sent Ruit to St Robert's School in Darjeeling at the age of seven, and provided financial support for his early medical career. Ruit's life in Darjeeling was hard as he was away from his parents and home for about four-five years. After a few years he returned to Nepal and continued his study. In 1969, Ruit graduated from Siddhartha Vanasthali School in Kathmandu, Nepal, and later was further educated in India. He studied a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery from King George's Medical College, Lucknow with scholarship from 1972 to 1976. Ruit then returned to Nepal and worked as a General Physician in Bir Hospital, Kathmandu for three years. Later he wanted to specialize in ophthalmology, so he continued his studies from 1981 at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi with a scholarship and achieved his Master's Degree. After three years in 1984 he returned to Nepal and worked in an eye hospital in Tripureshwor for eight years. Meanwhile Australian ophthalmologist Fred Hollows was in Nepal as a mentor, selected by WHO. He noticed Ruit's work and determination and offered him further study about cataract surgery in Australia in 1986. Ruit further studied in Australia, Netherlands and the United States.
Early career and marriage
While in Australia, Ruit gained further deep specialization in eye surgery. Ruit and Hollows created the Small Incision Cataract Surgery (SICS) which used intraocular lenses, and Ruit became the first Nepali doctor to use intraocular lenses. To gain donations to make eye surgeries more affordable and accessible in Nepal, he established Nepal Eye Program Australia, later renamed The Fred Hollows Foundation. He was offered to stay and work in Australia, but he returned to Nepal and continued to work in Tripureshwor eye hospital.
Ruit married to Nanda Shrestha, an ophthalmic nurse in 1987. He has one son and two daughters.
Working in Australia in 1986, Ruit and Fred Hollows developed a strategy for using inexpensive intraocular lenses to bring small-incision cataract surgery to the developing world. However, the lenses remained too expensive for many cataract patients. In 1995, Ruit developed a new intraocular lens that could be produced far more cheaply and which, as of 2010, is used in over 60 countries. Ruit's method is now taught in U.S. medical schools. Despite being far cheaper, Ruit's method has the same success rate as western techniques: 98% at six months. In 1994, Dr. Ruit founded the Tilganga Eye Center, now called the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, in Kathmandu. It aims to provide eye care for patients worldwide at an affordable price. Ruit credits his wife as being a pillar of strength to him in his difficult days while pursuing Tilganga. The institute works closely with the Himalayan Cataract Project and other organizations to give cataract surgery to people in some of the world's most perilous and inaccessible locations, frequently for free. Tilganga has performed over 100,000 operations and trained over 500 medical personnel from around the world, and produces Ruit's intraocular lenses at a cost of less than US $5 each. It also produces prosthetic eyes for US $3, compared to imports that cost $150. For those unable to reach the center, or who live in otherwise isolated rural areas, Ruit and his team set up mobile eye camps, often using tents, classrooms, and even animal stables as makeshift operating rooms.
After treating a North Korean diplomat in Kathmandu, Ruit persuaded North Korean authorities to let him visit in 2006. There he conducted surgery on 1000 patients and trained many local surgeons. However, many of the citizens attributed the restoration of their sight to the supreme leader of North Korea at the time, Kim Jong-il.
In April 2021, Ruit launched the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation with a mission to screen 1,000,000 people and cure 300,000 of cataract blindness by 2026. In March 2021, the foundation conducted its first microsurgical outreach camp in the Lumbini region of Nepal, where it screened 1,387 patients and cured 312 of blindness. Another camp in the Solukhumbu region screened 1,214 patients and cured 178 of blindness in April 2021.
- "Surgeon Dr. Sanduk Ruit revolutionizing cataract surgery gives sight to thousands", 2018 feature story by Miranda Wood on The Daily Telegraph
- A 2006 National Geographic documentary Inside North Korea documented not only Ruit's surgery in the highly controlled country but also the resulting overt adulation by the patients given to the then-Supreme Leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea Kim Jong-il.
- Ruit's work in Nepal featured in Episode 5 (Mountains – Life in Thin Air) of the 2010 BBC documentary series Human Planet.
- Out of the Darkness, a 2011 film by Italian director Stefano Levi, documents Ruit's work in remote Northern Nepal.
- In 2015, Ruit and his work featured in a New York Times op-ed by Nicholas Kristof: "In 5 Minutes, He Lets the Blind See". The article was based on reporting in Nepal by Kristof and Austin Meyer, a graduate journalism student at Stanford University, during the trip with the winner of the 2015 New York Times Win a Trip with Nick Kristof contest.
- ABC Radio interview for ABC Conversations, "The doctor known as the ‘God of Sight’", by Richard Fidler (2018)"
- CBS News article by Bill Whitaker, "Restoring eyesight with a simple, inexpensive surgery" (2017)
- CNN article "Sight for sore eyes: 'Maverick' doctor who restored the vision of 100,000 people" by Sophie Brown (2014)
- CNN photos "Nepal Miracle Eye Doctor heals 100,000" (2014)
- National Geographic documentary "Miracle Doctors: Curing Blindness"
- Al Jazeera documentary "The Gift of Sight" (2014)
- Reuters feature "Nepal's 'magic' surgeon brings light back to poor" (2012)
- Mini documentary by Great Big Story "This Surgeon Has Restored Sight to 130,000 of Nepal's Blind" (2019)
- Daily US Times feature "Nas Daily Discovers Dr. Sanduk Ruit: He Is The God Of Sight" (2020)
Awards and honors
- In May 2007, Ruit was appointed an Honorary Officer of the Order of Australia, "for service to humanity by establishing eye care services in Nepal and surrounding countries, and for his work in teaching and training surgeons, and technical innovation".
- In June 2006, he was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding.
- In March 5, 2007, he was awarded the Asian of the year 2007 by the Union Minister of health and family welfare, Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss in New Delhi.
- He was also awarded with Prince Mahidol Award of Thailand.
- Asteroid 83362 Sandukruit, discovered by Bill Yeung in 2001, was named in his honor. The official naming citation was published by the Minor Planet Center on 30 March 2010 (M.P.C. 69494).
- On December 17, 2015, he was conferred with the National Order of Merit of Bhutan [in Gold].
- On October 27, 2016, he received an Asia Game Changer Award from the Asia Society "for bringing the gifts of sight, and productive life, to those most in need."
- In 2018, 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, provides low-cost cataract surgery lenses to over thirty countries.”
- In September 2020, Nepal Government announced Dr Sanduk Ruit, will be honoured with Suprasiddha Prabal Janasewashree (first).Govt announces list of 594 persons for state honours
- In Feb 21 2023, Dr. Sanduk Ruit was awarded the prestigious ISA award for service to humanity amid a programme held at the ISA Cultural Centre in Manama, Bahrain.The King of Bahrain, His Majesty Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa handed Dr. Ruit $1 million during the royal ceremony."
- Ali Gripper (2019), "The Barefoot Surgeon : The inspirational story of Dr. Sanduk Ruit, the eye surgeon giving sight and hope to the world's poor", India: Penguin Random House India. ISBN 9780143447429.
- Gripper, Ali (June 20, 2018). "Fred Hollows' protege Sanduk Ruit, the barefoot surgeon". Retrieved 2018-10-02.
- "Sight for sore eyes: 'Maverick' doctor who restored the vision of 100,000 people". CNN. Retrieved 2014-12-17.
- Kristoff, Nicholas (2015-11-07). "In 5 minutes, he lets the blind see". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-10-04.
- Mason, Margie (March 21, 2010). "Nepalese Doc is 'God of Sight' to nation's poor". NBCNews. Retrieved 2018-10-05.
- "Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation". Retrieved 2018-10-01.
- "Ruit, Sanduk". Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation. 2006. Retrieved 2018-10-04.
- Gripper, Ali (2018). The Barefoot Surgeon: The inspirational story of Dr Sanduk Ruit, the eye surgeon giving sight and hope to the world's poor. Australia: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 9781760292706.
- "Sanduk Ruit: Everyone Deserves Good Vision". Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation. July 25, 2016. Archived from the original on 2018-09-03. Retrieved 2018-01-23.
- "Dr Sanduk Ruit sang 'Dewa Penglihatan' Bagi Pasien Katarak". detikHealth (in Indonesian). Retrieved 2021-10-04.
- Gripper, Ali (2019-11-08). "I can feel their pain: Dr. Sanduk Ruit". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2021-10-04.
- "Sanduk Ruit, MD Co-Founder of HCP". www.cureblindness.org. Archived from the original on 2022-05-26. Retrieved 2022-05-11.
- "Class- 10 Nepali Book Pages 1-50 - Flip PDF Download | FlipHTML5". fliphtml5.com. Retrieved 2022-05-11.
- "Surgeon brings innovative techniques to ophthalmologists worldwide". Ocular Surgery News. June 1, 2010. Retrieved 2018-01-23.
- "Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology". Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology. Retrieved 2017-10-06.
- "Sight restored to 187 people in remote Nepal". The Fred Hollows Foundation. 2010. Retrieved 2018-01-23.
- "Bringing Sight To Millions". Nepal Republic Media. April 24, 2010. Archived from the original on July 26, 2011.
- "Inside - Undercover in North Korea - DocuWiki". Docuwiki.net. Retrieved 5 February 2022.
- Times, Nepali. "Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation". Retrieved 2021-09-30.
- "In Pictures: Nepal's God of Sight eye doctor seeks to expand work". Aljazeera.com. Retrieved 2021-09-30.
- "Nepal's God of Sight eye doctor to expand work beyond border". AP NEWS. 2021-04-20. Retrieved 2021-09-30.
- "Nepal's God of Sight eye doctor to expand work beyond border". Msn.com. Retrieved 2021-09-30.
- "Australian charity ending avoidable blindness". The Fred Hollows Foundation. Retrieved 2017-10-26.
- "Out of the Darkness". Archived from the original on June 26, 2017.
- "The doctor known as 'the God of Sight'". Abc.net.au. 5 July 2018. Retrieved 5 February 2022.
- "Restoring eyesight with a simple, inexpensive surgery". Cbsnews.com. Retrieved 5 February 2022.
- Sophie Brown. "Nepalese eye doctor restored vision of 100,000 people". Cnn.com. Retrieved 5 February 2022.
- "Nepal's miracle eye doctor heals 100,000". Cnn. Retrieved 5 February 2022.
- "cureblindness.org - NG1". Retrieved 5 February 2022 – via YouTube.
- "The gift of sight | Health | al Jazeera". Archived from the original on 2018-11-14. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
- "Nepal's "magic" surgeon brings light back to poor". Reuters.com. 2 May 2012. Retrieved 5 February 2022.
- "This Surgeon Has Restored Sight to 130,000 Blind People". Retrieved 5 February 2022 – via YouTube.
- "Nas Daily Discovers Dr. Sanduk Ruit: He Is The God Of Sight". Dailyustimes.com. 25 January 2020. Retrieved 5 February 2022.
- "Book release: The Barefoot Surgeon". The Fred Hollows Foundation. 2018-06-26. Retrieved 2018-10-14.
- "Book release: Sanduk Ruit (Nepali)". Thuprai. 2019-09-18. Retrieved 2019-09-18.
- "Editions of The Barefoot Surgeon: The inspirational story of Dr Sanduk Ruit, the eye surgeon giving sight and hope to the world's poor by Ali Gripper". Goodreads.com. Retrieved 5 February 2022.
- "It's an Honour – Honours – Search Australian Honours". Itsanhonour.gov.au. Archived from the original on 2020-11-16. Retrieved 2017-10-26.
- "The 2006 Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding − Citation for Sanduk Ruit". The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation. August 31, 2006. Archived from the original on 2012-07-08. Retrieved 2017-10-26.
- "(83362) Sandukruit = 2001 SH1 = 4249 P-L = PLS4249". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved 18 January 2020.
- "MPC/MPO/MPS Archive". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved 18 January 2020.
- "His Majesty awards National Order of Merit – BBS". December 17, 2015. Retrieved 2017-10-26.
- "Nepali eye surgeon Sanduk Ruit among recipients of the 2016 Asia Game Changers award". The American Bazaar. September 13, 2016. Archived from the original on September 26, 2016. Retrieved September 15, 2020.
- "Nepali ophthalmologist Dr Sanduk Ruit bags Padma Shri Award". The Kathmandu Post. 2018-01-26. Retrieved 2018-10-07.
- "Nepalese 'Sight Messenger' awarded with Bahrain's prestigious Isa Award for Service to Humanity". Arab News. February 22, 2023.