He’s known as “the doctor who saved 100,000 eyes.” As The New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof put it, after visiting this Game Changer in Nepal, Dr. Sanduk Ruit may have restored sight to more people than anyone in human history. And he performs his miracles in breathtaking fashion. In just five minutes, Ruit can give the gift of sight.
From secluded pockets of the Himalayas to the “Hermit Kingdom” of North Korea, this ophthalmologist from Nepal has given his gift to people who sometimes trek for days to see him. In the process, he has also empowered the most disadvantaged people to work toward a better life.
Born in a remote Himalayan village, Ruit lost his sister to treatable tuberculosis when he was 17. The tragedy imbued him with the belief that everyone, regardless of income, deserved quality healthcare. He decided to direct his energies toward the treatment of cataracts — a condition responsible for half of all global blindness cases. Cataracts are easily treatable in developed regions, but treatment is difficult and prohibitively expensive in poorer parts of the world.
Ruit knew these parts of the world well, and the low-cost, high-quality, sutureless surgical technique he devised could be performed effectively in mobile “eye centers.” In Nepal, villagers brought blind neighbors to those centers in what Kristof termed an “assembly line of hope.” Before long, Ruit was returning sight — and thus, the ability to work — to some of the most economically vulnerable people on the planet. Having perfected the technique and system, Ruit then went on a mission to take it to other impoverished corners of the world — to China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Ethiopia, and even North Korea.
When a devastating earthquake struck Nepal in 2015, Ruit went a step further and transformed his extensive sight-saving network into a life-saving network that provided medical relief, food, and shelter to victims in areas without developed infrastructure.
Today, in his native country, this remarkable man can be found spending his days performing dozens of back-to-back surgeries, still giving that gift of sight, time and again, and training doctors from all over the world to do the same.
It’s after those five-minute procedures, when the bandages come off, and Ruit gets to see people really open their eyes, that this pioneering doctor feels the joy and the power of his work. “The smile you see on their face really keeps me going,” he says. “That’s a very powerful moment.”