S.S. Badrinath, founder of Chennai’s Sankara Nethralaya passes away

In 1978, Dr. Badrinath founded Sankara Nethralaya as a unit of the Medical Research Foundation

November 21, 2023 09:25 am | Updated 11:38 am IST - CHENNAI

 Dr. S.S. Badrinath, founder of Sankara Nethralaya. File

Dr. S.S. Badrinath, founder of Sankara Nethralaya. File | Photo Credit: M. Vedhan

S.S. Badrinath (83) founder of Sankara Nethralaya, and eminent vitreoretinal surgeon, passed away on November 21. He had been ill for some time.

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“Our visionary Founder, a legend and compassionate leader Dr. S.S. Badrinath passed away early this morning. The last rites will be held after 9.30 A.M. today at the Beasant Nagar crematorium.? SN is deeply saddened by the demise of our Founder,” an early note from the institution, said.

Born on February 24, 1940 in Chennai (then Madras), Sengamedu Srinivasa Badrinath had his schooling in the city. “As a child, Dr. S. S. Badrinath observed blindness up close when one of his relatives who was blind in both eyes came to stay with his family. The helplessness of a person without eyesight became deep?rooted in the young child’s memory,” to quote an article on the ophthalmologist.

According to Dr. Badrinath, this childhood memory of blindness lingered in his subconscious mind and led to his decision of becoming an ophthalmologist. He graduated from the Madras Medical College in 1962, and pursued his graduate studies in ophthalmology in the United States at Grasslands Hospital, New York University Postgraduate Medical School, and Brooklyn Eye and Ear Infirmary until 1968. He worked as a fellow in the vitreoretinal services of Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston, till 1970. On return to India in 1970, he worked for six years at the Voluntary Health Services (VHS), Adyar, as a consultant.?

Also Read | The voice of Vision

He set up his private practice in ophthalmology and vitreoretinal surgery at the H. M. Hospital (1970–1972) and Vijaya Hospital, Chennai (1973–1978). His spiritual and professional journey actually began in 1974 when Kanchi Mutt acharya Jayendra Saraswathi met a group of young doctors and spoke to them about the need to establish hospitals in India that provide world?class care for our citizens at affordable costs, according to the article, quoted above, authored by A.P. Irungovel, medical sociologist at Sankara Nethralaya. These hospitals should be run with a missionary spirit, with the objective of providing quality care equally to the haves and have?nots. Dr. Badrinath’s association with the Sankara Math started when he performed a cataract surgery on his spiritual guru Chandrasekerendra Saraswathi Swamigal.

As a consequence of guidance from his spiritual mentors, in 1978, Dr. Badrinath founded Sankara Nethralaya as a unit of the Medical Research Foundation. The institution went on to become iconic, a symbol of the progress of modern medicine, hosting both medical education and cutting edge research along with patient care. People from far and wide came to Sankara Nethralaya for its treatment facilities.

His wife Vasanthi is a paediatrician and haematologist.

‘Work should continue even if I am no more’

It is learnt that Dr. Badrinath left clear instructions that after his death, there should be no elaborate arrangements, he also specified that no one at Sankara Nethralaya should stop working even for a minute as a result of paying homage to him. He left instructions that they could wear a black arm band, but should continue to work.

Also Read | Of insight, vision, and a will to help

Dr. Badrinath is a recipient of the Padma Sri in 1983 and Padma Bhushan in 1999, apart from a host of other awards.

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