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Helping the World To See - America's Dr. Raju treats underprivileged in developing nations (2002)

Eye Foundation of America

[Morgantown, West Virginia]- Ophthalmologists in rural areas of developing countries are about as rare as the spotting of a Bengal Tiger. Just as the roar of a tiger announcing his presence charges the Jungle with excitement, so it is with Dr. V. K. Raju, a 59-year old Indian-born and board certified Ophthalmologist, who provides healthcare for the underprivileged of the world. In 1979 he established the Eye Foundation of America to help ensure adequate treatment of eye diseases. In the United States, Dr. Raju’s chosen homeland, he operates Monongalia Eye Clinic in Morgantown, West Virginia and is a clinical professor at West Virginia University.

From his West Virginia base Dr. Raju conducts approximately 25 Corneal Transplants annually; 300 to 400 cataract surgeries; and handles 7000 to 8000 patient visits. But, it’s his benevolent hobby that separates him from the pack. Raju has performed over 15,000 volunteer operations in India and restored vision (74% were non-paid) in his spare time. For the past two decades, he has assembled medical teams to trek to developing countries to treat patients in mobile "eye camps" or clinics. Raju’s “camps” are funded through donations by philanthropists, and American pharmaceutical companies. Physicians donate their services without receiving fees. Dr. Raju estimates that he has spent over a half-million-dollars plus, in sophisticated equipment, with the objective of providing world -class eye care to the needy.

After reaching the highest level of training available through the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh on London, Raju knew that the United States held great opportunities. When he came to West Virginia in 1977 patients were forced to leave the area for corneal transplants. Raju knew that he could offer the area his expertise in intra-ocular implants and other more common surgeries such as cataract. However, Raju says he felt a dual-responsibility to establish eye clinics in the land of the less fortunate that he left behind.

In the United States where patients wear colored contact lenses for vanity; select from a plethora of fashion-frames, and receive eye-tucks for youthful appeal, availability for general eye care is taken for granted. Another drastic difference, Raju explains, is the median age of patients in the United States compared to India. In America, for cataract surgery, the average patient age is 70; but in India and developing nations, Dr. Raju says that he performs cataract surgery on many more children, due to such causes as infection, vitamin deficiencies and birth defects. Dr. Raju points out, “Here, I realize that if I do not perform a surgery, it’s probably because the patient is seeking another surgeon or getting the procedure done at a later date. In rural India, if I don't perform the surgery, I know in my heart that a person, possibly a child, may live a life of blindness.”

Such was the case with an 8-month old baby in Vijayawada or the "City of Victory" as it literally translates. It was there that Dr. Raju celebrated a victory of his own ------- giving an infant the lifelong gift of sight. The year was 1980, and Raju used the state-of-the-art Ocutome, an instrument that mechanically sucks out cataracts through a small incision in the eye, to perform the delicate surgery. Had the operation not been successfully executed, the baby would have been totally blind within a year. The Rotary Club of Vijayawada hosted Raju’s camp, where he reportedly restored sight to over 175 impoverished patients.

Raju volunteers in India two to three times a year. He journeyed back to his native land In 1984 during the wake of the of the Union Carbide chemical spill in Bhopal. Initially, Raju feared the tragedy would leave many people with eye irritations or permanently blind. Though the toxic catastrophe contributed to some 3,800 deaths, Raju noted that there was no lasting eye injury for most of the surviving victims.

In 1993 he and his childhood friend, Chandra Sankurathri, established the Srikiran Institute of Ophthalmology, in Kakinada, which is in Andhra Pradesh, South India. Under Raju’s tutelage over 200 ophthalmologists have been trained in advanced courses. Staff members, ophthalmologists and general physicians are introduced to the latest developments in Ophthalmology and eye care. The Institute has provided service to more than 400,000 patients and 50,000 surgeries have been performed.

A Good Samaritan, Raju applauds the gallantry of physicians, fire fighters, and the various industry professionals who pulled together during the terrorist’s attacks on the World Trade Center. And, while admittedly, the culture in various lands differ greatly from that in the United States, Raju feels that sharing ones gift with mankind is a universal duty. In addition to spending all vacations giving service in India, Raju has also traveled to Africa, Asia, and other countries. He donates the surgical fees that he receives from refractive surgery to The Eye Foundation of America. Some of the funds go to organizations in America such as eye banks, and to aid groups as diverse as the American Navajo Indians and the World Trade Center victims.

Copyright © 2002. All rights reserved.

You may recall the WV Legislature this year passed HB 4069 requiring vision screening to renew drivers’ licenses starting January 1, 2009.  The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will send notices October 1, 2008 for those, whose driver license expires in January, 2009--they are now giving a 90-day notice—to encourage preparation for the eye screening.  You will begin to see patients in your office who may ask about a vision requirement for their driver’s license.

Physician Involvement Needed


HB 2978 has been introduced in the WV House of Delegates to expand the scope of practice for optometrists. We need physicians to contact legislators to oppose HB 2978. 

Dominion Post article on eye docs

by David Beard

Aug. 17, 2009 (McClatchy-Tribune Regional News delivered by Newstex . . .

source: The Dominion Post) --

State optometrists want to expand the scope of their practice, but ophthalmologists don't quite see eye to eye with them about what they want.

Optometrists say they want the freedom to practice what they're trained to do, and to provide more access to affordable eye care.

Ophthalmologists say the optometrists want to perform surgery without medical degrees.

"They've taken this and turned it into a surgery bill," Chad Robinson, spokesman for the West Virginia Optometric Association, said. The true intent is to allow "optometrists who are properly trained to practice what they're trained to do."

They don't want to perform major surgery, he said. "Optometrists should not be doing major invasive surgery."

The Charleston Gazette

August 11, 2009

By Phil Kabler

Kanawha Commission chief links most crime to drugs and alcohol

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper told legislators Monday the solution to adequately fund the state’s regional jail system is not complicated – but does require political courage.

“No one wants to admit, if you hold public office, that you raised a tax,” he told a legislative interim committee on regional jails and correctional facilities.

Kanawha County, along with other counties in the state, is seeing more and more of its operating budget go to pay costs for housing prisoners in state regional jails.

Since alcohol or drugs contribute to the incarceration of roughly four of every five inmates, Carper said it makes sense to raise taxes on alcohol, beer and wine to help fund the regional jails.

Revenue from the increased excise taxes on alcohol could go into a fund that currently helps counties offset about 10 percent of their costs for housing inmates in regional jails.

State Journal

Section: 55 Good Things About West Virginia

July 3, 2009

By Pam Kasey

Morgantown – Something Fairmont native Judie Charlton saw as a medical student at West Virginia University affected her profoundly.

It was on a rotation through ophthalmology.

“One day you’d see a patient who couldn’t see and, with some of the procedures we do, they see better within 24 hours,” she said. “It was such a wow factor to watch these patients have instantaneous happiness. That grabbed me more than long chronic care for high blood pressure.”

Charlton went on to complete her residency and glaucoma fellowship at WVU and, later, to join the faculty.


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