Renowned vitreoretinal surgeon, Dr Sengamedu Srinivasa Badrinath, who was the founder of Sankara Nethralaya and dedicated his life to improving the accessibility and affordability of eye care in India, passed away peacefully at his home in Chennai on Tuesday.
The 83-year-old chairman emeritus of the esteemed hospital, who retired from active practice in 2019, had been battling age-related ailments. He is survived by his wife, Dr Vasanthi Badrinath, a pediatrician and Hematologist, as well as his two sons, Ananth Badrinath and Seshu Badrinath. The last rites were conducted at the Besant Nagar crematorium at 11 am, as confirmed by hospital sources.
Born in Triplicane, Dr Badrinath was the youngest of seven siblings and tragically lost both his parents while still in his teens. He utilized the life insurance funds left behind by his father to pursue his medical education at Madras Medical College.
Dr Badrinath furthered his studies in ophthalmology at Grasslands Hospital, New York University postgraduate medical school, and Brooklyn Eye and Ear Infirmary between 1963 and 1968. It was during this time that he met Dr Vasanthi, whom he married in 1967.
In 1970, he began working at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston under the mentorship of Dr Charles L Schepens, while also successfully passing the examinations for the Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons (Canada) and the American Board Examination in Ophthalmology. Subsequently, in 1970, he returned to India.
Despite the challenges they faced, the couple remained dedicated to their work in Chennai. From 1970 to 1976, Dr Badrinath served as a consultant at the Voluntary Health Services in Adyar. He then established his private practice in ophthalmology and vitreoretinal surgery at H.M. Hospital (1970 to 1972) and later at Vijaya Hospital, Chennai (1973 to 1978). In 1974, Dr Badrinath successfully operated on Kanchi pontiff Sri Chandrasekerendra Saraswathi, and the following year, he was encouraged by Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Swamigal of the Kanchi Mutt to establish a hospital.
In 1978, Dr S S Badrinath founded the Medical Research Foundation, which encompasses Sankara Nethralaya as its hospital unit. It is a registered society and a charitable non-profit ophthalmic organization. Dr Badrinath played a pivotal role in the construction of the hospital, relying heavily on donations from philanthropists and patients. He wanted to avoid the burden of debt from bank loans, ensuring that the hospital could provide subsidized treatment. Over the next forty years, Dr Badrinath and his team tirelessly delivered high-quality eye care at an affordable cost. They also focused on training ophthalmologists and paramedical personnel to combat blindness in India and conducted extensive research to find sustainable solutions for eye care issues.
Dr Badrinath’s contributions to the field of medicine were widely recognized. He received the Padma Sri award in 1983, the Padma Bhushan in 1999, and the Dr B C Roy National Award in 1991. His passion for eye care and dedication to serving the community will be remembered and cherished by all those whose lives he touched.