Sanduk Ruit

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Sanduk Ruit
Sanduk Ruit Erudite Conclave Medical College Trivandrum.JPG
Born 1955 (age 62–63)
Olangchung Gola, Taplejung District, Nepal
Residence Kathmandu, Nepal
Nationality Nepali
Occupation Ophthalmologist, eye surgeon
Spouse(s) Nanda Ruit
Children 3

Dr. Sanduk Ruit (Nepali सन्दुक रुइत ) is an eye surgeon from Nepal who has restored the sight of over 120,000 people[1] across Africa and Asia using small-incision cataract surgery.[2] He is also one of the founders of the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology.[3]

For his work in taking quality, life-transforming cataract surgery to the poorest, he has been referred to as the "God of Sight".[4]

In 1994, Ruit helped found the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology[5], 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.[6]

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."[7]

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.”[8]

His biography The Barefoot Surgeon, authored by Australian writer Ali Gripper, was published in June 2018.[9]

Early life and education

Ruit was born in 1955 to uneducated parents in the remote Olangchung Gola Pass in Taplejung District of northeast Nepal, a mountainous area. The nearest school was eleven days' walk from his village.[10] However, 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. Ruit was motivated to practice medicine partly by the death of his sister from tuberculosis.[2]

In 1969, Ruit graduated from Siddhartha Vanasthali School in Kathmandu, Nepal,[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] He also studied in the Netherlands, Australia, and the United States, and was mentored by Australian ophthalmologist Professor Fred Hollows.[10]


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.[11] 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.[11] Ruit's method is now taught in U.S. medical schools.[3] Despite being far cheaper, Ruit's method has the same success rate as western techniques: 98% at six months.[3]

In 1994[12] Ruit and Fred Hollows founded the Tilganga Eye Center, now called the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, in Kathmandu.[13] 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.[10] It also produces prosthetic eyes for US$3, compared to imports that cost $150.[3] 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.[2]

After treating a North Korean diplomat in Kathmandu, Ruit persuaded North Korean authorities to let him visit in 2006.[2] There he conducted surgery on 1000 patients and trained many local surgeons.[14]

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.[15]


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.[16]

Out of the Darkness, a 2011 film by Italian director Stefano Levi, documents Ruit's work in remote Northern Nepal.[17]

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.[3]


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".[18] In June 2006, he was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award.[19] On December 17, 2015, he was appointed Member of the National Order of Merit of Bhutan [in Gold].[20]

In 2018, the Government of India honoured him with the Padma Shri, India's fourth highest civilian honour.[21]

See also


  1. ^ Gripper, Ali (June 20, 2018). "Fred Hollows' protege Sanduk Ruit, the barefoot surgeon". Retrieved 2018-10-02.
  2. ^ a b c d "Sight for sore eyes: 'Maverick' doctor who restored the vision of 100,000 people". CNN. Retrieved 2014-12-17.
  3. ^ a b c d e Nicholas Kristof (November 7, 2015). "In 5 Minutes, He Lets the Blind See". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-11-08.
  4. ^ Mason, Margie (March 21, 2010). "Nepalese Doc is 'God of Sight' to nation's poor". NBCNews. Retrieved 2018-10-05.
  5. ^ "About Us: A brief journey of the account thus far..." Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology. Retrieved 2018-10-06.
  6. ^ Kristoff, Nicholas (2015-11-07). "In 5 minutes, he lets the blind see". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-10-04.
  7. ^ "Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation". Retrieved 2018-10-01.
  8. ^ "Nepali ophthalmologist Dr Sanduk Ruit bags Padma Shri Award". The Kathmandu Post. 2018-01-26. Retrieved 2018-10-07.
  9. ^ "Book release: The Barefoot Surgeon". The Fred Hollows Foundation. 2018-06-26. Retrieved 2018-10-14.
  10. ^ a b c "Sanduk Ruit: Everyone Deserves Good Vision". Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation. July 25, 2016. Retrieved 2018-01-23.
  11. ^ a b "Surgeon brings innovative techniques to ophthalmologists worldwide". Ocular Surgery News. June 1, 2010. Retrieved 2018-01-23.
  12. ^ "Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology". Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology. Retrieved 2017-10-06.
  13. ^ "Sight restored to 187 people in remote Nepal". The Fred Hollows Foundation. 2010. Retrieved 2018-01-23.
  14. ^ "Inside – Undercover in North Korea".
  15. ^ "Bringing Sight To Millions". Nepal Republic Media. April 24, 2010. Archived from the original on July 26, 2011.
  16. ^ "Australian charity ending avoidable blindness". The Fred Hollows Foundation. Retrieved 2017-10-26.
  17. ^ "Out of the Darkness". Archived from the original on June 26, 2017.
  18. ^ "It's an Honour – Honours – Search Australian Honours". Retrieved 2017-10-26.
  19. ^ "The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation • Honoring greatness of spirit and transformative leadership in Asia". Retrieved 2017-10-26.
  20. ^ "His Majesty awards National Order of Merit – BBS". December 17, 2015. Retrieved 2017-10-26.
  21. ^ "These Are The Unsung Heroes In The 2018 Padma Shri Awards List". January 25, 2018. Retrieved 2018-01-25.

External links

  • Official website
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