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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 57  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 197-198

Two Hundred Glorious Years of Ophthalmology

Cornea Services, Regional Institute of Ophthalmology and Government Ophthalmic Hospital, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Submission22-Oct-2019
Date of Acceptance22-Oct-2019
Date of Web Publication11-Nov-2019

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Sharmila Devi Vadivelu
Cornea Services, Regional Institute of Ophthalmology and Government Ophthalmic Hospital, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/tjosr.tjosr_94_19

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How to cite this article:
Vadivelu SD. Two Hundred Glorious Years of Ophthalmology. TNOA J Ophthalmic Sci Res 2019;57:197-8

How to cite this URL:
Vadivelu SD. Two Hundred Glorious Years of Ophthalmology. TNOA J Ophthalmic Sci Res [serial online] 2019 [cited 2020 Sep 30];57:197-8. Available from: http://www.tnoajosr.com/text.asp?2019/57/3/197/270711

“We are not the makers of history, we are made by history” -Martin Luther King, Jr

Dear Seniors and friends,

Greetings from the office of TJOSR

The Regional Institute of Ophthalmology and Government Ophthalmic Hospital (RIO GOH), established in 1819, is the oldest in the Indian subcontinent and Asia. The bicentennial year of the RIO GOH, Chennai, is drawing to a close. Amidst celebrations and scientific sessions organized to mark this momentous occasion, lets pause and revisit events that shaped its history and perhaps indulge in a little nostalgia. The institute has the oldest Elliot's School of Ophthalmology and Museum which is one of the oldest of its kind in the world. Like a banyan tree that spreads its branches widely, RIO GOH Chennai is unparalleled in its history and tradition of providing state of the art eye care. The TJOSR Editorial Board is immensely pleased to bring out certain articles in commemoration of the bicentenary celebrations. Over years, substantial progress has been made in the field of ophthalmology and journals have always been the medium through which such progress is made known. In the space of 200 years, ophthalmology has grown into a highly specialized field with sophisticated equipment. From couching in 800 BC to femtosecond laser-assisted cataract surgery, we have come a long way. With continued advancements in techniques and technology, cataract surgery has evolved into a refractive procedure rather than just treatment for visual loss by cataract. Similarly, every subspecialty has become very advanced.

Over the years, the institute has nurtured and produced several generations of ophthalmologists who have, each in their own way, contributed to the field of ophthalmology. I get a special warm feeling in my heart, as I write about my alma mater. My heart swells up with pride to see the brick red structure on the cover page. Please take a stroll down the memory lane and unravel the mystery behind this 200-year-old historic structure.

  History Top

Dr. Benjamin Travers held the appointment of surgeon in London to the East India Company. In 1819, the honorable directors became impressed by the great prevalence of eye disease in the large and populous districts over which they ruled and applied to Travers in the matter.[1] He pointed out to them the excellent results which had followed the establishment of the eye infirmary in London and that similar institutions might be started in India.[1] This advice was accepted, and Mr. R. Richardson, one of the company's surgeons, who had studied ophthalmology under Travers was sent to Madras, where he founded the “The Madras Eye Infirmary” which was each year resorted to by an increasing number of patients. The infirmary has been several times enlarged, and in 1888 its name was altered to that by which it is now known, “The Government Ophthalmic Hospital”[1]

Stimulated by the success of the Eye Infirmary in Madras, The East India Company determined to start similar institutions in other provinces. In 1824, two other surgeons who had studied in the London Eye Infirmary were sent out to India for this purpose, Mr. Jeafferson went to Bombay and Mr. C. J. Egerton to Calcutta, where each of them founded an eye hospital.[1]

The hospital was started with a small outpatient facility block at the present site. The Lady Lawley Block was inaugurated by Lady Lawley on February 13, 1911. It was declared as a heritage building in 2007.[2] The Eliot's museum, one of the first eye museums in Asia, was set up in 1921 in the premises and it contains proof of the treatment facilities and diagnosis provided during the pre-independence period.[2] A host of British doctors served as superintendents of the institute which started teaching students from all over the world in 1926. Lt. Col. Elliot introduced teaching at the hospital.[2] He also introduced an instrument called Elliot's corneoscleral trephine for surgical management of glaucoma and he demonstrated the procedure in this hospital. Elliot's legacy has been preserved in a museum which houses the rare collection of antique ophthalmic instruments, pictures, paintings, and visitors book of the 19th and early 20th century.[2]

The first Indian to become superintendent was Dr. K. Koman Nair in 1940 and postgraduate courses were started at the hospital in 1942. The first eye bank in India was established in government ophthalmic hospital by Dr. R. E. S. Muthayya who was also the superintendent of the hospital.

The hospital was elevated to the level of RIO in 1985 under the national program for control of blindness.

  Mentorship Top

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops

-Henry Adams

Residency training is an essential phase in the life of a medical student. It is important for new entrants to get a holistic view of their profession, its ups and downs, its responsibilities and privileges. Teachers have a major role in converting the training into a holistic experience. Most students are like raw diamonds waiting for an appropriate mentor who can polish them and guide them toward the path of brilliance. GOH trains around 36 postgraduate students every year. Currently, the hospital has well-equipped theaters and specialty clinics. The hospital has an abundance of mentors and it has produced many good comprehensive doctors with essential surgical skills. It has also produced many stalwarts since its inception.

In the end, it is not just about the destination but also about enjoying the journey. And I must say that I have immensely enjoyed my journey here as a postgraduate student under the able guidance of my mentors Prof. V. Velayutham, Prof. Vasantha, and Prof. Radhakrishnan. I must thank the assistant professors who helped me develop my surgical skills and clinical acumen. But we also learnt, perhaps by observation, something more subtle, more indefinable, the ethical and moral aspects, the art of being a doctor. I have heard my teachers fondly recall about their teachers and how they inspired them. The illustrious alumni are globally placed and whichever corner of the world they live in, they remember the institute with affection and pride. The wheel has come full circle and I am now enjoying my stint as a teacher here, among these brilliant young minds. RIO GOH just feels like a home away from home with friendly colleagues and encouraging Chiefs [Figure 1] and [Figure 2]. The words of my mentor echo in my ear, “GOH is my temple.” I feel privileged to come every day to this place of ophthalmologic history, which is well equipped now and manned by a team of dedicated ophthalmologists and is responsible for catering to the ophthalmic care needs of Chennai and its surroundings.
Figure 1: Faculty of Regional Institute of Ophthalmology and Government Ophthalmic Hospital

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Figure 2: Director and unit faculty with postgraduates

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  References Top

Collins T. The History of Moorfields Eye Hospital. Vol. 1. ch 3: Reprinted in 2005 by the Royal society of Medicine Press limited; p. 36-7.  Back to cited text no. 1
Website of Madras Medical College.  Back to cited text no. 2


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]


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