Dedication of Dr V’s Eye Research Institute

Sunday, October 5th, 2008 @ 4:58 am | Uncategorized

New Research BuildingWow, this week was especially packed with interesting events!

First of all, I started getting some clinical experience… Dr. Kim offered to let me work with one of the fellows in the Retina Clinic, who showed me how to examine patients with the indirect ophthalmoscope and slit lamp. For those who don’t know, indirect ophthalmoscope looks similar to a miner’s head-lamp with lenses on the headpiece and a separate hand held lens that is placed near the patient’s eye. With one hand you hold the lens and the other you hold the patient’s eyelids open. It isn’t easy, and I only caught a quickly vanishing glimpse of the retina on the third patient I examined! I was reassured by the fellow, who said that there is a steep learning curve with this instrument.


Early the next morning I observed my first surgical operations at the operating theater (what we call the operating room, OR back home) in Aravind. I watched two vitrectomies with pan photocoagulation for proliferative hemorrhagic diabetic retinopathy, and one scleral buckle procedure for retinal detachment. For those wondering what you can actually see while observing eye surgery, you see what the surgeon sees. Everything is done under a microscope with video to a TV mounted on the OT wall, but the best view is from the second set of oculars attached to the surgical microscope. It’s awesome to see what the surgeon is sees!


What was probably the most exciting and interesting event of the week was the inauguration of the new research building. The night before the big event, we had dinner and took in a cultural program that included traditional South Indian dancing (Barathanatiyam). See the pictures below. The dinner was held at the Aurolab, about fifteen minutes drive from Aravind, and was also attended by about one dozen guests of honor from the United States(mostly ophthalmologists who have worked with Aravind over the years). The traditional Indian dance was impressive, and the food was great too! Sorry foreigners, no utensils!


The next day was the inauguration ceremony, which was attended by former President of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. Dr. VRM (my mentor) introduced me to him personally; I shook his hand and got his autograph on “Wings of Fire,” his autobiography! The man is very popular in India and known as the Missile Man for his work (as a physicist) to develop the Indian rocketry program which frequently makes news. I also noticed that he rides in a Ford with a V.V.I.P. sticker on the windshield. Take a look at my photos from that day, we group picture with him and everyone from the lab!


One auspicious day a few weeks ago we had the puja (blessings) for the new building. Similar to the wedding puja, there was a lot of smoke and chanting involved, and I won’t pretend to understand what was going on. I’ll just post the pictures and let you see for yourself (see below). We also had an opportunity to tour the new, and still unfinished, lab at that time. It sounds like we’ll actually move in sometime in December or January. Anyway, I think that the puja was more authentic than the ceremony this week, which seemed to be mainly for the media.


This weekend there was more excitement as I traveled to Erode with a friend from lab (Ashwini) to her family’s home. Her father is a Dermatologist who offered to show me the leprosy hospital that he operates. There were 31 patients currently undergoing treatment at the hospital. He took me through the wards describing the different findings in the various forms of leprosy and showing me examples. I also observed the biopsy procedure and how to identify the bacteria (Mycobacterium Leprae) that causes Hansen’s disease under a microscope from the tissue taken from an infected patient.


This weekend I also went to an ancient temple on a mountaintop to get a close up view of wild monkeys. We at left at 6:30am Sunday morning  to see the monkeys before they retreated to the forest. With Dr. Shankar we rode in the Sumo SUV for about an hour on windy, and bumpy, Indian back road with rice paddies and coconut trees on either side. There were less monkeys around than usual, but we saw a dozen or so and fed the remaining bananas to the cows!


While in Erode we also went on little a shopping trip, and I purchased a dhoti and kurtha, traditional Indian garb. I also got a lesson in languages. While traveling the back country roads near Erode, Ashwini taught me some new Tamil phrases… when I tried to ask the driver “how are you?” in Tamil, I got a confused look from him and laughs from the back seat… apparently she had actually been training me to say “give me 100 bucks!” Hahaha.




  • Advice for Future India Fulbrighters
  • Farwell India
  • Meenakshi Temple – Kumbabishekam
  • Spending time in Madurai – In Situ Hybridization
  • Fulbright Conference – Kolkata, Varanasi, and Kathmandu
  • Indian Wedding in Madurai and trip to Bangalore
  • Indian Pilgrimage – Thekkady, Munnar, Mahabalipuram
  • Asia ARVO – Hyderabad
  • Fulbrighters come to Madurai, friends and I visit Dayspring Home
  • Birthday and New Year in Tamil Nadu

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