“In 1989 I embarked on my first trip to a LMIC to undertake Eye Banking and Corneal transplantation as a member of a team going to Karachi, Pakistan.
This meeting was not a success. At the end of the meeting, I was packing up my slides recognizing this meeting was a “bust “. Fortunately, I was approached by a doctor from India whom I had never met: Dr. Nag Rao.
Dr Rao introduced himself as being a Corneal Transplant Sub-specialist who originally had trained in India, then had established an extremely successful practice in Rochester New York. Both he and his wife [Pratibha] decided to return home, committing their resources to the goal of curing blindness in India.
“Would I be interested in working with them on Corneal Transplantation and Eye Banking in India?” The answer was a resounding “Yes”.
At that time only 700 transplants per year were being undertaken in all of India. Unfortunately in over 50% of these cases the patients were worse off after they had their transplant than they were before. Furthermore, no formal Corneal Specialty training programs nor comprehensive eye banks existed.
In 1990, I lead a team, partially supported by a donation from a grateful patient, to attend the first comprehensive Eye Banking Corneal Transplantation meeting in Hyderabad, India. Since that time meetings have occurred almost on an annual basis to promote comprehensive Eye banking and Corneal Transplantation surgical skills. Dr. N Rao and his staff at the LV Prasad Eye Institute [LVPEI] in Hyderabad and its associated health care network have been absolutely stellar partners. Their current educational programs are among the best in the world. The Eye Bank has become the leading eye bank in the developing world and a center of excellence. It is among the top three Eye Banks in the whole world producing over 5000 transplants per year.
Working with the LVPEI and Dr. N Rao has produced innovative programs for successful corneal transplantation and eye banking in all LMIC in the world.