When a young ophthalmologist did not see eye to eye with his father, a veteran in the field, on continuing in government service, a promise was made. In the early nineties, Dr.N.Rajan had retired as the Deputy Superintendent of the Government Ophthalamic Hospital in Chennai, the second oldest institution of its kind in the world. Hailing from the old school and strong government mindset, he had agreed to gift his son land in T.Nagar to set up a private eye hospital on the strict condition that about 35 per cent of patients should be treated free of cost. Dr.Mohan Rajan, who started Chennai’s Rajan Eye Care, now a city landmark that will celebrate its Silver Jubilee next year, has more than kept his word. A lakh and a half free cataract surgeries and seven thousand five hundred corneal transplants, along with the distribution of three and a half lakh spectacles would make the senior Rajan smile and look down from heaven with pride.
The seeds of altruism were sown in Mohan’s Primary school. When he was in the sixth standard at PSBB, the legendary founder Mrs.YGP had introduced an ‘Each One, Teach One’ scheme. So under Mohan’s tutelage was a first standard boy Palani from a Corporation school. “I noticed that he used to place his books very close to his face, indicating an eye problem. I took him to my father who diagnosed a minus 22 power issue. We treated him and gave him free Vitamin A tonic. I am still in touch with Palani who is now married with 2 kids and works in the government co-operative society. Having developed detachment of the retina, we performed a surgery to help his vision.”
The land aside, there was a bigger inheritance. A mantra – to ‘treat every patient as your parents’ has been religiously followed at Rajan Eye Care. “My father used to often tell me: ‘Don’t bother about money. God will take care.” Even during his short initial two and a half year stint as a government doctor in Acharapakkam, where he would travel 15 kilometres on a TVS 50 moped everyday, Dr.Mohan Rajan started eye units in Primary Health Centres with money from his pocket.
God has funded the hospital’s multi pronged charitable programmes. Like its Nethra Vahana – a sophisticated van built at a whopping three crore rupees sponsored by Cognizant Foundation and the Vijay Amritharaj Foundation. “For the first time in India, we have taken tertiary eye care to villages. One and a half million patients have been screened across seven districts in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.” The van is a full fledged mobile eye hospital. “We treat the patients inside the van itself. We do angiograms of the eye and surgeries for cataract, glaucoma and so on.”
This massive exercise ties in with Dr.Mohan Rajan’s goal of a ‘Blind Free India’ “We conduct comprehensive eye check ups for the rural poor. Cataracts, corneal injuries and refractive errors are regularly screened.”
By roping in Celebrity Sight Ambassadors, Rajan Eye Care has endeavoured to shatter myths about eye donation. From star cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Adam Gillchrist, Muthiah Muralitharan, Ravichandran Ashwin, Kris Srikanth and Kapil Dev to actors like Surya, Karthi, Jayam Ravi, Sneha, Prasanna, Prashanth and Vijay, not to forget the inimitable Vijay Amritharaj himself, these celebrities have pledged what they preach.
“No patient should ever be refused treatment because they cannot afford it. That has been our philosophy all along. We trust patients. If someone says they cannot afford the fees, we don’t ask for income proof. While there are separate operation theatres for free patients and those who pay, the facilities in both these places are the same. There is zero discrimination.” Blessed with a great team, with the likes of Dr.Ravi Shankar, every doctor in the hospital displays immense patience and professionalism, often beyond the call of duty. The hospital is bound to produce quite a few Padma awardees.
Eye care clearly runs in the family. When Dr. Mohan Rajan was working at Sankara Nethralaya, under Dr.Badrinath, his mentor, it was love at first sight with Dr.Sujatha! An accomplished ophthalmologist herself, she developed expertise in treatment of the cornea and glaucoma with lasik. An award winning eye surgeon, Dr.Sujatha is the recipient of the Nari Shakthi Puraskar, presented to her by the President of India on International Womens Day, last year. The Rajans have two daughters – Sashwanthi and Madhuvanthi who have walked in their footsteps.
When he isn’t examining patients, Dr.Mohan Rajan plays golf. A former cricketer who represented Loyola College, captained the Madras Medical College team and played for TNCA in the 3rd division, he has a keen eye for detail. A quality that has put Rajan Eye Care on a strong wicket. Its success story is more than an eye opener for other hospitals. Here, Corporate Social Responsibility is not an eyewash and returns are reflected in smiles not balance sheets.
(Sanjay Pinto is an Advocate practising at the Madras High Court, Columnist, Author, TV Political Analyst, Public Speaking Mentor & Former Resident Editor – NDTV 24×7)