TNOA Journal of Ophthalmic Science and Research

: 2019  |  Volume : 57  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 245--247

RIO GOH – A journey of 200 years

Jabeen Naz1, Syed Arshad2,  
1 Department of Ophthalmology, Agarwal's Eye Hospital, Annanagar, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
2 Department of Ophthalmology, Zohra Madani Clinic, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Jabeen Naz
Department of Ophthalmology, Agarwal's Eye Hospital, Anna Nagar, Chennai - 600 102, Tamil Nadu

How to cite this article:
Naz J, Arshad S. RIO GOH – A journey of 200 years.TNOA J Ophthalmic Sci Res 2019;57:245-247

How to cite this URL:
Naz J, Arshad S. RIO GOH – A journey of 200 years. TNOA J Ophthalmic Sci Res [serial online] 2019 [cited 2020 Apr 9 ];57:245-247
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Full Text

Nestled among rain drenched trees and bathed in the mellow afternoon sunlight of the Chennai monsoons, Lady lawley looks serene and peaceful. Intriguingly, this graceful structure from a bygone era is an integral, functioning part of a modern bustling hospital, the RIOGOH, Chennai [Figure 1]a, [Figure 1]b.{Figure 1}

It all started 200 years ago, when the British East India company, decided that the eye diseases so widely prevalent in India at that time, needed to be addressed. At the suggestion of Dr. Travers, surgeon to the East India Company, the Madras eye Infirmary was established in July 1819 originally in a property named Compton's Garden, in Royapettah. Surgeon R. Richardson, a student of Mr. Travers, became its first Superintendent. No less than 13 people, including, strangely enough an apothecary in 1869, seem to have held the office of Superintendent of the hospital in the years between 1844 and 1873.

Records which describe the surgeries carried out during this period make for interesting reading. Assistant Surgeon J. L. Paul describes the then favored procedure of cataract surgery in 1857 as “anterior solution with the Jacob's needle.” “He goes on to say, even more mystifyingly that “Extraction of cataracts can very seldom be performed on the native, from the extremely shrunken state of the globe!” For a short time, the infirmary was moved to a private house in Vepery. The present location in Marshall's Road was chosen and the foundation stone was laid by Dr. Drake Brockman in 1884.

The signature red brick buildings with their graceful arched windows were designed by the architect R. S Chisholm and occupied on the 1st of April 1886. The outpatient departments and wards for the English officers and “the natives” were housed in separate buildings. The infirmary officially became the Government Ophthalmic Hospital in 1888.

The hospital seems to have come into its own under the stewardship of Lt. Col.R.H. Elliot who was Superintendent from 1904 to 1913. Plans for expansion were laid during this period and apparatuses were sourced from all over the world. These plans came to fruition during the tenure of his successors, Lt. Col. Kirk Patrick and Lt. Col. R. E. Wright. The Elliot's school of Ophthalmology was built at a cost of Rs. 93,120 and was inaugurated in February 1920. It is now a heritage building which houses an acclaimed museum. The door and the graceful wooden staircase is a gateway to a treasure house of priceless artifacts [Figure 2]a, [Figure 2]b. Manuscripts from 1819 onward, including well-preserved case sheets, charts, and diagrams, are among the precious artifacts preserved at the museum [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5].{Figure 2}{Figure 3}{Figure 4}{Figure 5}

Diwan Bahadur Dr. Koman Nayar was the first Indian to become the Superintendent in 1940. Postgraduate courses for Diploma in Ophthalmology were started at the hospital in 1942.

The Lawley ward was inaugurated by Lady Lawley on February 13, 1911. The mellow red brick exterior and the graceful arches of Lady Lawley hold a special place in our hearts [Figure 6]. The oldest ophthalmic institute in Asia is also the place where the first eye bank in India was established. It was established by Dr. R. E. S. Muthaiah in 1945.{Figure 6}

Today, the RIO GOH, the largest eye hospital in Asia, is a state of the art, tertiary eye care center. Well equipped and manned by a team of dedicated ophthalmologists, it caters ably to the ophthalmic care needs of Chennai and its surroundings.

No less important is the role it has played as a premier teaching institution. For those of us fortunate enough to call it our Alma mater, the institute holds a special place in our hearts. For as surely as our stint here shaped our careers, it changed our lives too.

Each of us took away, along with our degrees and diplomas, a host of memories – of wonderful teachers and benevolent mentors, of rounds through the surprisingly cool wards and covered walkways, of long afternoons spent poring over books in the library, and of terrifying case presentations and carefree lunches with friends [Figure 7].{Figure 7}

In this age of transience where the old is constantly being replaced by the new, the RIO GOH, Chennai, stands out. It has not only managed to survive the ravages of two centuries but also has evolved into a vibrant, thriving, and thoroughly modern institution. Let's conclude with the fond hope that it will continue to flourish and benefit many future generations of patients and doctors.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.