|Alma mater||King George's Medical College (University of Lucknow)|
All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi
|Occupation||Ophthalmologist, eye surgeon|
|Awards||Honorary Officer of the Order of Australia|
Ramon Magsaysay Award
Sanduk Ruit (Nepali: सन्दुक रूइत, pronounced [ˈsʌnduk rui̯t]) is an ophthalmologist (eye surgeon) from Nepal who has restored the sight of over 130,000 people across Africa and Asia using small-incision cataract surgery. He is also one of the founders of the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology.
For his work in taking quality, life-transforming cataract surgery to the poorest, he has been referred to as the "God of Sight".
In 1994, Ruit helped found the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, which provides free treatment to those who cannot afford to pay. It manufactures high-quality intraocular lenses for surgery at a fraction of the price of its previous manufacturing cost. The extremely low cost of these lenses have made quality cataract surgeries affordable to the poorest population.
Ruit was awarded the prestigious 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."
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.”
His biography The Barefoot Surgeon, authored by Australian writer Ali Gripper, was published in June 2018. This biography's Nepali translation version 'Sanduk Ruit' was published by Fine Print Books in 2019.
Early life and education
Ruit was born on September 4, 1954, to rural, illiterate parents in the remote mountainous village Olangchunggola in the border with Tibet in Taplejung district of northeast Nepal. His village was a tiny cluster of 200 people, 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 remotest regions of Nepal with no electricity, no school, no health facility, 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’ four children. But he lost his three siblings – 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 But she tragically died at a young age of 15 due to tuberculosis as the family was too poor to afford the best treatment available which 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 eleven days' walk away in Darjeeling. His father, a small-time businessman, placed a priority on providing education to his children, and sent Ruit to St Robert's School in Darjeeling, and provided financial support for his early medical career. In 1969, Ruit graduated from Siddhartha Vanasthali School in Kathmandu, Nepal, and later was further educated in India. He studied MBBS from King George's Medical College, Lucknow from 1972 to 1976, further studies from 1981 at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi. He also studied in the Netherlands, Australia, and the United States, and was mentored by ophthalmologist Professor Fred Hollows.
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 Ruit and The Fred Hollows Foundation founded the Tilganga Eye Center, now called the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, in Kathmandu. Tilganga has performed over 90,000 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 current supreme leader of North Korea at the time, Kim Jong-il.
Ruit credits his wife, an ophthalmic nurse he married in 1987, as being a pillar of strength to him in his difficult days while pursuing Tilganga.
Dozens of documentaries, news reports, features, and articles by the top international media from around the world have covered Ruit's work, particularly his eye camps in remote parts.
- 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.
- 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 appointed Member of 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 honoured him with the Padma Shri, India's fourth-highest civilian honour.
- In 2020 September, Nepal Government announced Dr Sanduk Ruit, ,will be honoured with Suprasiddha Prabal Janasewashree (first).
- Gripper, Ali (June 20, 2018). "Fred Hollows' protege Sanduk Ruit, the barefoot surgeon". Retrieved October 2, 2018.
- "Sight for sore eyes: 'Maverick' doctor who restored the vision of 100,000 people". CNN. Retrieved December 17, 2014.
- Nicholas Kristof (November 7, 2015). "In 5 Minutes, He Lets the Blind See". The New York Times. Retrieved November 8, 2015.
- Mason, Margie (March 21, 2010). "Nepalese Doc is 'God of Sight' to nation's poor". NBCNews. Retrieved October 5, 2018.
- "About Us: A brief journey of the account thus far..." Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology. Retrieved October 6, 2018.
- Kristoff, Nicholas (November 7, 2015). "In 5 minutes, he lets the blind see". The New York Times. Retrieved October 4, 2018.
- "Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation". Retrieved October 1, 2018.
- "Nepali ophthalmologist Dr Sanduk Ruit bags Padma Shri Award". The Kathmandu Post. January 26, 2018. Retrieved October 7, 2018.
- "Book release: The Barefoot Surgeon". The Fred Hollows Foundation. June 26, 2018. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
- "Book release: Sanduk Ruit (Nepali)". Thuprai. September 18, 2019. Retrieved September 18, 2019.
- "Goodreads book editions".
- "Ruit, Sanduk". Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation. 2006. Retrieved October 4, 2018.
- 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. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
- "Surgeon brings innovative techniques to ophthalmologists worldwide". Ocular Surgery News. June 1, 2010. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
- "Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology". Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology. Retrieved October 6, 2017.
- "Sight restored to 187 people in remote Nepal". The Fred Hollows Foundation. 2010. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
- "Inside – Undercover in North Korea".
- "Bringing Sight To Millions". Nepal Republic Media. April 24, 2010. Archived from the original on July 26, 2011.
- "Australian charity ending avoidable blindness". The Fred Hollows Foundation. Retrieved October 26, 2017.
- "Out of the Darkness". Archived from the original on June 26, 2017.
- "It's an Honour – Honours – Search Australian Honours". www.itsanhonour.gov.au. Retrieved October 26, 2017.
- "The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation • Honoring greatness of spirit and transformative leadership in Asia". www.rmaf.org.ph. Retrieved October 26, 2017.
- "(83362) Sandukruit = 2001 SH1 = 4249 P-L = PLS4249". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
- "MPC/MPO/MPS Archive". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
- "His Majesty awards National Order of Merit – BBS". December 17, 2015. Retrieved October 26, 2017.
- "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.
- "These Are The Unsung Heroes In The 2018 Padma Shri Awards List". NDTV.com. January 25, 2018. Retrieved January 25, 2018.