R Venkataramanan

R Venkataramanan

R Venkat's Blog

R Venkat's Blog
"To be an Inspiring Teacher,one should be a Disciplined Student throughout Life" - Venkataramanan Ramasethu



Sunday, October 31, 2010

Venkataramanan Ramasethu - R Venkat - SNK - Sankara Nethralaya,Kolkata

Born on the 4th of July, 1978, Venkataramanan Ramasethu is an academician in the Eye Care Field and a Senior Low Vision Consultant. Further to completion of B.S.Optometry from the prestigious Elite School of Optometry, Sankara Nethralaya, Chennai in the year 2000, he further completed a One Year Fellowship in Clinical Optometry from L.V.Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad in the year 2001. After a brief stint at LVPEI as an Academic Faculty at LVPEI, Bausch & Lomb School of Optometry and Consultant at the Low Vision Clinic for three years, he shifted base to Kolkata in the year 2004 and holds office at Sankara Nethralaya, Kolkata as Academic Head, Department of Optometry & Senior Low Vision Consultant and Head of Low Vision Care Clinic since then. He is attached with Sankara Nethralaya, Kolkata since the time of its inception. He had also completed his MBA with specialization in HR management from Symbiosis Institute of Management, Pune in the year 2006.His other passions include Creative Writing and Literature. He believes, “To be an Inspiring Teacher, one should be a disciplined student throughout Life”.

Venkataramanan Ramasethu - R Venkat - SN Kolkata @ International Symposium on Community Ophthalmology,Kolkata,Science City,31-10-2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Retinoblastoma - agony, despair, hope

A visit to Chennai was never on Ardhendu Ghosh’s wish list, but so weren’t other things.He never wished to lose his elder brother in an accident or look after two households witha single income or shift his family from Hooghly, West Bengal, to Ramgarh, Jharkhand for a better life. But it all happened. And just when the Ghosh family was beginning to see a glimmer of hope for a bright future, tragedy struck once again. Ardhendu Ghosh’s one and-a-half-year-old son was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma or cancer of the eye.

Distraught at the thought of losing yet another family member, the Ghosh family’s search for help ended when they were referred by the local doctor to visit Sankara Nethralaya.And so, on Monday, November 16, 2009, Ardhendu Ghosh, along with his wife and son came to Sankara Nethralaya, Chennai. “Coming to Sankara Nethralaya, was our only hope, as there was no treatment available in Ramgarh, says Ardhendu Ghosh. And hope they did find at Nethralaya. A detailed examination revealed that Debdeep Ghosh had bilateral retinoblastoma (tumor in both eyes). What followed was an intensive session of chemotherapy and external beam radiation. But despite the treatment, doctors were not able to save the left eye, as the tumor threatened to spread to other parts. Undeterred by the initial set back, doctors now concentrated their efforts in trying to save Debdeep’s right eye.

However, by this time the Ghosh family was beginning to feel the strain of the medical expenses. With a meager income of Rs.10,000 and with the responsibility of supporting his parents, his daughter’s education and his deceased brother’s family, on his shoulders, Ardhendu Ghosh was finding it increasingly difficult to meet the costs of the chemotherapy sessions. Having expressed his inability to pay for further treatment to the doctors, Ardhendu Ghosh was expecting to be turned away from the hospital. But like the many surprises he has faced in life, the doctor’s response came as yet another surprise!

The hospital, under the Mahema Devadoss Endowment Fund, offered to provide free treatment to Debdeep. Not satisfied with the results, despite 10 sessions of chemotherapy, doctors began exploring other options that could help save Debdeep’s
eye and restore vision. Intra-arterial chemotherapy was identified as the next best option to help little Debdeep.Although Sankara Nethralaya does not offer intra arterial chemotherapy, the hospital referred him to the Sri Ramachandra Medical Hospital at Chennai where Debdeep has undergone two cycles of intra-arterial chemotherapy. The treatment costs for the first cycle were borne through the Mahema Devadoss Endowment Fund. The Lions Club of Central Madras and the Chityala family from New York shared the expenses for the second cycle of treatment. While Debdeep has shown signs of improvement, following the two cycles of intra-arterial chemotherapy, doctors will have to wait till he completes his next cycle of chemotherapy to gauge its success.

Debdeep is one among the 1,500-odd children who are diagnosed with Retinoblastoma every year in India. Every year,anywhere between 80 and 1 20 cases of retinoblastoma are seen at Sankara Nethralaya. Doctors at Nethralaya believe that due to lack of awareness, many people delay seeking medical assistance. Most of the unilateral cases of retinoblastoma(tumor in one eye) that doctors see at the hospital are those which are in the D or E stages, considered to be advanced stages,of the disease. The considerably large financial expenses that the treatment entails forces many people, especially the poor,to not opt for any remedial measures or seek delayed medical help.Thanks to the Mahema Devadoss Endowment Fund, set up by renowned artist Manohar Devadoss in memory of his wife,Mahema, and through support from well-wishers, Sankara Nethralaya has been able to help children like Debdeep. The efforts by today’s ophthalmologists, government & non-government agencies and hospitals in developing better strategies in the management and treatment of Retinoblastoma will hold great promise, in the future, for children like Debdeep.

The Mahema Devadoss Endowment Fund is meant to support paediatrictreatment/surgeries for children from financially weaker sections of society. It will bear

Cost of paediatric surgeries for children

Cost towards treatment of children suffering from Retinoblastoma

Cost to be made to other hospitals referred by Sankara Nethralaya for specialized treatment of children undergoing treatment in Sankara Nethralaya

You can contribute to the Mahema Devadoss Endowment Fund by supporting Paediatric surgeries/treatment for indigent children at


Cheques in favour of Medical Research Foundation can be sent to Sankara Nethralaya, 18 College Road, Chennai - 600006.

Please indicate in the covering letter the purpose of donation i.e. the Mahema Devadoss Endowment Fund.

Manohar Devadoss is an artist par excellence. Despite being diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative eye condition,Manohar Devadoss continues to draw with the same zeal and precision. Proceeds from greeting cards bearing his drawings are given
to charitable organisations, including Sankara Nethralaya.

EIVOC 2010


ESO International Vision science and Optometry Conference 2010 was conducted during 12-14 August 2010. The event was a grand success with over 700 delegates attending the conference and about 170 scientific presentations. In addition to sensitizing the professional fraternity on the recent research in various optometric sub specialties, the conference also had various symposia and workshops on various clinical skills and standards. Status of Optometric Education and Scope of
Optometry in India were special sessions conducted for focus group. EIVOC Grand Optometry Quiz was also conducted for Optometry Students and Practitioners. The conference paved the way for the practitioners, vision scientists and academicians to meet under one roof and share their expertise with others.

Release of Elite School of Optometry logo, launch of project “SIGHT 2010” and inauguration of FBDO programme are the salient areas of the conference. Prof Jay M Enoch's Plenary talk on “Optometry and its Future in India, Elite School of Optometry- 25 years later” (rendered by Prof. Vasudevan
Lakshmi Narayanan) and Dr. S. S. Badrinath's “Optometry practice into rural areas- a dream or reality” instigated the audience.

Stalls exhibited new models of instruments and gadgets. But for the sponsors and donors, the success of the conference would have been far. We express our sincere thanks for all those who helped EIVOC 2010 achieve its goal.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Road to Top

Dr. SS Badrinath opened Sankara Nethralaya with an aim to open a hospital that has a missionary spirit.

Dr. Badrinath, along with a group of philanthropists founded the Medical & Vision Research Foundations in Madras in 1978. A charitable, not-for-profit hospital, Sankara Nethralaya, one of the finest eye hospitals in the country was thus born as a unit of the Medical Research Foundation.Dr. Badrinath graduated from the MMC, Madras and did his internship and a year of internal medicine residency at the Glasslands Hospital, New York, USA. He studied basic sciences in ophthalmology at the New York University postgraduate Medical School and did his residency in ophthalmology at the Brooklyn eye and Ear Infirmary, New York. Dr. Badrinath also did a a fellowship with the legendary Dr. Charles Schepens at the Retina Service of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Dr. Badrinath has been a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Canada and Diplomate of the American Board of Ophthalmology. After coming back to India in 1970, Dr. Badrinath worked as a Consultant at the Voluntary Health Services, Chennai. He also set up his private practice in ophthalmology and vitreoretinal surgery at the HM Hospital and Vijaya Hospital, Chennai, respectively.

Under the able leadership of Dr. Badrinath, Sankara Nethralaya, has been highly acclaimed for its excellent services.

Shop called home

Private old-age homes require only a trade licence to operate. Most get away with utter negligence. Soumen Bhattacharjee & Poulomi Banerjee report

“You broke it, now you fix it,” says a stern voice inside. An old trembling voice answers something feebly.

The place: An old-age home in the interiors of Behala. Ponds dot the area and shrubbery and mosquitoes abound. The roof is made of red tiles and the rooms are small and cramped.

In one room, one of the occupants sits on her bed looking dazed. The old women, cooped up in their one-bed existence, look like prisoners. There’s no hall or recreation area, except for a small room with a television in it. The person who runs the place proudly informs that he offers room service: boarders are served their meals in their room. The monthly charges are Rs 4,000 and a security amount of Rs 5,000 has to be deposited.

● A home for the aged in Chetla can take in 88 occupants and is full. “We don’t have a vacancy now. It might sound harsh, but the fact is that occupants leave this place only in a hearse,” says a caretaker. The dining room is on the ground floor. A single room comes for Rs 1,000 per month, a dormitory bed for Rs 800. There are no attached bathrooms. The dining hall and common room look bare, with just a television and plastic chairs and tables. Meals are served at fixed hours. If an inmate wants a maid, he has to pay extra charges. Ditto for an attendant to go out of the home. Medicine charges are extra.

When a Metro reporter, posing as someone who wanted to place a relative there, wanted to see the rooms, the caretaker said visitors were not allowed inside. “Why are you asking so many questions?” she was asked.
“Don’t keep your relative here. We don’t have an option but to stay here because we can’t afford better facilities,” whispered an inmate when the caretaker went out for a minute.

The story is the same, often worse, in a large number of old age homes in the city. Paramita Ganguly (name changed), 72, an inmate of a south Calcutta home, was so harassed at the home that she wrote to one of her relatives. She was barred from speaking to anyone about her problems. The relative wrote another letter to the governor nearly four months ago. The letter came to the social welfare department for inquiry. But Paramita, fearing a backlash, skipped the inquiry.
Yet old-age homes such as these are mushrooming in the city. The city’s young adults are missing; the elderly need greater care and private old-age homes can start to function with only a trade licence issued by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) under the Shops and Establishments Act. A private old-age home is equal to a shop, in the eye of the law.

“There are three types of homes. One is run directly by the government; the second category gets aid from the government while the rest are private,” says a senior official of the social welfare department of the state government.
Uma Mukherjee, the director of the social welfare department, says the department has no authority to ascertain the internal condition of the private old-age homes. “They do not need our clearance. So our activities are only restricted to the government-aided homes.” She adds that it is not mandatory to have state-run old-age homes in every district.

The state government has only one state-run old-age home near Garia and there are around 30 homes in the state that get aid from the central government. The social welfare department has some control over the running of the two categories of homes. Private old-age homes number around 230 in the city, says the CMC, and their number is growing.

There are many unofficial ones, where a house may be shown to be rented out to several tenants who are senior citizens.

Susmita Ghosh, the regional director (East and North) of HelpAge India, an NGO for the elderly, feels that 70 per cent of the homes in and around Calcutta answer to the NGO’s guidelines (see box). But a senior citizen questions the figure. “When I was researching, most of the homes would not let us enter and check the facilities. That makes one wonder whether everything is okay there,” she says.
As it is, the old are not legally secure in the country. If someone is unhappy in a home, he can call the HelpAge helpline and we can inform the local police station and request them to investigate, says Anuradha Sen of HelpAge India. But another social worker adds: “If a senior citizen is being abused, he will be covered under the general civil and criminal laws, but there is no specific law just to help them.”

The Shops and Establishments Act makes it worse. Most of the homes cater to senior citizens belonging to the middle-class or lower-middle class.

Most home inmates refuse to identify themselves out of fear. “I was told that during load-shedding we will get generator service round the clock. But we get the service only if there is load shedding at night,” says an inmate of a Dum Dum home. He pays Rs 8,000 per month for himself and his wife. A 78-year-old man, a widower, who lives in a private home at Madhyamgram, pays Rs 4,000 per month for his stay.
“All medical expenses are borne by us. Moreover the room is too shabby. I accept it. After all, at this age we cannot rebel or go home-hopping,” he says. The physically handicapped suffer a greater ordeal.

Geriatric experts call for specialised care for the inmates of an old- age home as staying away from family needs psychological support apart from the physical support of food and shelter. “The Centre is spending a huge amount to train people in geriatric care. But as there is no rule to have geriatric experts in old-age homes, no one is going to recruit them,” says Indrani Chakrabarty, who works with the eastern zonal committee of the National Policy on Older Population. She also stresses the need to formulate government norms for private old-age homes.
“The number of persons above 60 in the country is about 8.5 million. It is shocking that abuse of the elderly too is rising at an alarming rate,” she adds. It is coinciding with the prosperity of the younger generation, says a volunteer at the east zone branch in the city of the Central Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology.
“The homes need to promote the concepts of productive ageing and intergenerational solidarity. Otherwise the inmates feel lonely,” says Chakrabarty.

Psychologists add that bad treatment and abandonment of the elderly damage the young irreparably. “The children begin to wonder where they come from. Studies show that children who are in touch with their grandparents are more stable socially and mentally,” says Kunal Dey, a member of the juvenile justice board.
Forget intergenerational solidarity. Inmates of old-age homes sometimes don’t get proper food. “We are completely at the mercy of the people who run the home. Here complaints do not work. We survive by making requests as we have to stay here,” says a 75-year-old woman, inmate of another Madhyamgram home.

Yet the demand to enroll aged relatives into such homes is on the rise.

The home in Chetla has a waiting list of over 20 people.

Not that all private homes are in a deplorable state. Some high-end homes offer better service.

Situated on the Barrackpore-Kalyani Expressway, Godhuli looks inviting, resort like. Landscaped lawns, shrubbery, birds in a spacious cage and fish in a little pool give it a tranquil air.

Every room has a bed, writing table, dressing table and television. The deluxe rooms have air-conditioners and refrigerators. There are attached bathrooms, fitted with geysers. Room service is available. There is also a cottage with its own small kitchen. There are meals every two hours and one can ask for tea or coffee anytime.
“We provide maids for cleaning and washing clothes at no extra cost, but if they need an attendant in addition to that, it can be arranged at an extra cost. If any resident wants to go out, a car is arranged,” says the caretaker. One can smoke or drink alcohol in the room. A physician visits once a month. There are nine residents now, but there is room for more.

A standard single room requires a security deposit of Rs 6 lakh and Rs 7,000 per month, a standard double demands a security deposit of Rs 8 lakh and Rs 12,000 per month. Deluxe rooms come for more. The cottage for single occupancy requires a security deposit of Rs 15 lakh and Rs 10,000 per month. Not everyone can pay that.
For many, who have no choice but to remain in an old- age home, respite comes only in the form of death.

● Check the environment at the home
● Are there enough employees and is the staff trained for elder care? Are they caring and attentive?
● Check the location
● Can your friends and family visit you?
● Are you comfortable with the nature of accommodation and the bathroom facilities?
● Will you be happy with the meals?
● Are there regular activities?
● Check the health and personal care facilities
● Are there telephones in the room or can you access one easily?
● Can you practise your religion?