Ophthalmologist, innovator and Founder of the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation
Coming from Olangchunggola, a remote village on the border of Tibet in the Taplejung district of northeast Nepal, he knew loss from an early age. After losing siblings to disease, he made it his life goal to become a doctor. He has often said that his defining moment in realising this would be his path was when he lost a sister to tuberculosis. Ruit realised that his sister, with a good level of healthcare, could have survived. It was then he knew that he wanted to become a doctor and support those communities that do not have access to sufficient healthcare.
From his humble beginnings, he sought educational opportunities in neighbouring country India. It was here he graduated top of his class from All India Medical College leading him to pursue a fellowship in Australia.
It was from here that Ruit began his journey towards greatness. In Australia he was mentored and taught by Professor Fred Hollows, the teachings of Hollows led Sanduk to what would become a prosperous and generous career. The pair met in the 1980’s where they became good friends very quickly. Through this friendship they both realised that they shared the same dream – to bring affordable eye care and modern cataract surgery to all parts of the world.
In 1988, Dr Ruit, Professor Hollows and Gabi Hollows with the support of colleagues founded the Nepal Eye Program Australia which went on to join the Fred Hollows Foundation in 1992. With this, Dr Ruit was an integral part in the opening of the Tilganga Eye Centre in Kathmandu which was opened in 1994. This became a grand start to what would be an incredibly successful and prolific career.
Dr Ruit has earned a couple of titles throughout his career, including ‘the barefoot surgeon’ and the ‘God of Sight’. He has become well known across the globe for these titles.
Throughout his journey, Dr. Ruit discovered that there was a quick and more affordable way to cure patients who suffered with cataracts. He pioneered a technique that would mean surgery on the eye only took a mere seven minutes. The surgery did not require any stitches and the patient is often free to leave the hospital the following day.
With this affordable and faster way of curing cataracts, Dr Ruit has ensured that he shares his inexpensive surgery to doctors across the world. He has worked and taught doctors from countries all across the world, including Indonesia, Nepal, Ethiopia and North Korea. His influence and leadership within the ophthalmology field is unmatched.
This is what led Dr Ruit into partnering with Tej Kohli to form the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation. It was with this organisation that Dr Ruit would begin to travel across the world to support developing countries and impoverished communities similar to which he grew up in.
In 2023, Dr Sanduk Ruit has been awarded the Isa Award for Services to Humanity by the Kingdom of Bahrain. The Board of Trustees for the award applauded Dr Ruit for his international acclaim for developing new, affordable and sustainable ways to cure cataracts throughout the developing world.
Dr Ruit has been awarded many times over the course of his extraordinary career, these include:
- Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding (2006)
- Honorary Office of the Order of Australia (2007)
- Asian of the Year by the Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare, New Delhi (2007)
- Price Mahidol Award of Thailand
- Bill Yeung named an Asteroid after Dr Ruit in 2001
- National Order of Merit of Bhutan (2015)
- Asia Game Changer Award from the Asia Society (2016)
- Padma Shri from the Indian Government (2018)
- Suprasiddha Prabal Janaseweshree, Nepal (2020)
As well as co-founding the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation, Dr Ruit also co-founded the Himalayan Cataract Project, which has had great success. He also went on to win the Vision Excellence Award from the organisation. Ruit also created a sustainable way to produce intraocular lenses. He started a lens factory in Kathmandu which lowered the cost of lenses from around $200 to just $4 – this resulted in Nepal having a sufficient and sustainable eyecare model.