Each day when I get up, I remind myself that I should make a difference. This is the zeal with which West Virginia (USA) based Dr. V.K. Raju lives. Born in Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh, Dr. Raju earned his medical degree from India and went on to complete an ophthalmology residency and fellowship at the Royal Eye Group of Hospitals in London, England.
He moved to the USA in 1976 and is currently a Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at West Virginia University (WVU). One of the top Ophthalmologists in the world, Dr. Raju annually conducts around 25 corneal transplants; about 400 cataract surgeries; and handles more than 7000 patient visits. Dr. Raju has deep Gandhian influence on his psyche and is devoted to serving the most underprivileged in India. Back in the 1970s, while on a vacation in India a farmer asked him to examine his eyes.
Dr. Raju complied, but he was without any instruments. However, he judged the need for eye care in villages and among the poor. So, in 1977, Dr. Raju returned to rural India with personnel and equipment, and offered his first eye camp near his hometown. This formed the basis of his founding the non-profit Eye Foundation of America or EFA with an aim to eliminate avoidable blindness in areas plagued by poverty and poor access to medical care under the guiding principles of service, teaching and research. EFA’s mission is accomplished through eye camps and missionary hospitals in developing countries, training of medical personnel to serve the needy, and educating the population at large on preventative eye care and healthy lifestyle choices.
With the aim of permanently providing world-class, state-of-the art services to populations having poor access to health care, the EFA has helped build two hospitals in rural India, namely the Srikiran Eye Institute and the Goutami Eye Institute. The Goutami Institute has a wing dedicated to exclusively to children, and the EFA has future plans to build a service and research eye hospital in India where no child will be denied treatment. In fact, children from around the world would be able to come to receive services here. Dr. Raju and the EFA are also committed to finding new cures for age-old eye diseases in children.
The EFA has served approximately 3 million patients and performed 300,000 plus vision-saving surgeries, with 30,000 plus surgeries performed on children alone. Today, the EFA, has a reach that extends to 30 plus developing countries and the USA.
Dr. Raju has received many honors and awards, including 26 distinguished awards and 17 gold medals besides the Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award from WVU in 2008. The American Academy of Ophthalmology has awarded Dr. Raju 4 times for his teaching and research contributions, including the Outstanding Humanitarian Award in 2002. He is also a recipient of the Vaidya Ratna award in 2002.
In 2014, Dr. Raju got the Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Samman Award for Achievement in Medicine. It isn’t a surprise that Dr. Raju was presented with the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award by the US President Barrack Obama in 2016.
With all momentous achievements, Dr. Raju has also ensured that his lifetime work and vision are selfsustaining. Dr. Raju has passed on his knowledge, plans and vision to the future leaders of this movement.
Dr. Leela Raju, his daughter and fellow ophthalmologist, is the Secretary of EFA and Coordinator for Education who actively participates in driving the EFA’s mission.
The soft-spoken Dr. Raju says, ‘Every morning, I wake up and start the day by saying God … morning.’ It is his way of seeking divine blessings to forward his mission of doing more and more good to the world.
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