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Himalayan Cataract Project

The Himalayan Cataract Project (HCP) was created in 1994 by Dr. Geoffrey Tabin and Dr. Sanduk Ruit with a goal of establishing a sustainable eye care infrastructure in the Himalaya. HCP empowers local doctors to provide ophthalmic care through skills-transfer and education. From its beginning, HCP responds to a pressing need for eye care in the Himalayan region. With programs in Nepal, Tibet, China, Bhutan, India, Sikkim, and Pakistan[citation needed] they have been able to restore sight to tens of thousands of blind people every year since 1994.[1]

In addition, HCP's assistance has been requested for a pilot study on eye care services in twelve Millennium Research Villages in Sub-Saharan Africa.[citation needed] The Millennium Villages Project was established in part to prove that successful implementation of the UN Millennium Development Goals is possible in the poorest, most underserved areas of the developing world.[citation needed] HCP has agreed to provide comprehensive eye care in each of the Villages (5,000 per village) and to demonstrate that the costs of these services will fit within the complex U.N. Health Budget for the Millennium Villages Project.[citation needed] So far, interventions have taken place in Uganda, Ethiopia, and Ghana with effective delivery of interventions such as cataract surgeries, refraction and distribution of glasses.[citation needed]


According to WHO estimates, the most common causes of blindness around the world in 2002 were:

  1. cataracts (47.9%),
  2. glaucoma (12.3%),
  3. age-related macular degeneration (8.7%),
  4. corneal opacity (5.1%), and
  5. diabetic retinopathy (4.8%),
  6. childhood blindness (3.9%),
  7. trachoma (3.6%)
  8. onchocerciasis (0.8%).[2]


  • teach ophthalmic care at all levels
  • establish a first-rate eye care infrastructure through creating centers of excellence and mentoring facilities
  • making all facilities financially self-sustaining
  • addressing eye care from the public health level up to subspecialty care

In 1993, there were 15,000 cataract surgeries performed in Nepal,[citation needed] only 1000 of which utilized intraocular lenses. Most of these 1000 modern surgeries were performed by HCP's Co-Director, Dr. Sanduk Ruit, who brought microsurgery with intraocular lens technology to the region.[citation needed] Before this technology, cataract surgery consisted of intracapsular cataract extraction, in which the entire lens and capsule are removed from the eye and the patient is given cumbersome thick eyeglasses that provide no peripheral vision and distorted direct vision.[citation needed] At that time, the second and third leading etiologies of blindness after cataracts were aphakia due to the loss of these thick glasses, and failed cataract surgery.[citation needed]

In contrast, in 2003, over 118,000 cataract surgeries were performed in Nepal[citation needed] and over 98 percent were done with microsurgery and lens implants. Nepal is the only country in the Himalayan region performing more cataract surgery than the annual rate of new cataract blindness.[citation needed]


All of the Himalayan Cataract Project’s facilities strive to be completely financially self-sustaining through a unique cost-recovery program in which the wealthy patients subsidize the poor patients.[citation needed]

One third of the patients pay the full US$100 for a complete work-up, modern cataract surgery, and all post-operative care.[3] Twenty percent of the patients pay a smaller amount based on what they are able to pay. The remaining third of the patients receive the cataract surgical care entirely free. With this model, the facilities are able to cover all costs.[citation needed]

Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology

Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology (TIOC) is the flagship of the Nepal Eye Program and the current facility was opened in 1994.[4][5] It is a non profit, community based, non-government organization that is committed to providing eye care services and implementing the Vision 2020 concept of elimination of avoidable blindness. TEC's goal is to act as a model for treatment, research and training, in cooperation with all other eye care centres and organizations in Nepal.[citation needed]

Dr. Sanduk Ruit

Dr. Sanduk Ruit grew up in a remote village in Eastern Nepal.[citation needed] He attended school in India and completed his three-year ophthalmology residency at the prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi, India.[citation needed] He also completed fellowships in microsurgery in the Netherlands and Australia as well as additional ophthalmic training at the Wilmer Eye Institute of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the University of Michigan.[citation needed] In 1986 Dr. Ruit met Professor Fred Hollows from Sydney, Australia while Hollows visited Nepal as a World Health Organization consultant.[citation needed] He went on to study with him for 14 months at Sydney’s Prince of Wales Hospital.[citation needed] Hollows was Ruit’s mentor and inspiration in the work that he does.

When Dr. Ruit returned to Nepal he was instrumental in the formation of the Nepal Eye Program and worked on a large epidemiological survey of blindness in Nepal.[citation needed] He was the first Nepali doctor to perform cataract surgery with intraocular lens implants and pioneered the use of microsurgical extra-capsular cataract extraction with posterior chamber lens implants in remote eye camps.[citation needed] Although other important international organizations sponsored eye camps in the region providing eye care and training local ophthalmologists, the camps established by Dr. Ruit were the first to introduce the use of intraocular lenses in cataract surgery. Put simply, this is the removal of the cataract and insertion of a plastic intraocular lens.[1]

Dr. Geoffrey Tabin

Dr. Geoffrey Tabin is Professor of Ophthalmology and Global Medicine at Stanford University and the Byers Eye Institute.[6] He graduated from Yale University and earned a Masters in Philosophy at Oxford on a Marshall Scholarship.[citation needed] He received his MD from Harvard Medical School in 1985.[citation needed] His background in philosophy and ideas of improving health care delivery came together after a climbing trip to Nepal on which he became the first ophthalmologist to summit Mt. Everest.[7]

Dr. Tabin spends at least three months per year in Asia working with his Nepalese counterparts directing Tilganga Eye Centre’s efforts to provide an international standard of eye care and participating in the outreach programs.[citation needed] As the director of the Himalayan Cataract Project, he has over ten years experience administering an international charitable organization.[citation needed] He is a leader in both the local ophthalmologic community and the American Academy of Ophthalmology.[citation needed] Dr. Tabin is also the distinguished recipient of the 2008 Outstanding Humanitarian Service Award [8] given by the American Academy of Ophthalmology in recognition of his international humanitarian efforts.

In Print

In June 2013, a new book about HCP's Dr. Tabin and Dr. Ruit will be released by Random House.[citation needed] Written by David Oliver Relin, the co-author of Three Cups of Tea, Second Suns: Two Doctors and Their Amazing Quest to Restore Sight and Save Lives shines a light on the work of Himalayan Cataract Project ophthalmologists Dr. Geoffrey Tabin and Dr. Sanduk Ruit.

In Film

  • Light of the Himalaya (2006) is a 9 time Award-winning documentary film by Michael Brown, produced by David D'Angelo in collaboration with Rush HD and The North Face.[citation needed] At the heart the most formidable mountain range on earth lives a gracious people who suffer from the highest rates of cataract blindness on the planet. The North Face athlete team joins eye surgeons from Nepal and America in hopes of making a difference. This film follows the doctors' work on the Himalayan Cataract Project all the way to the summit of a 21,000-foot Himalayan giant.[9]


In the December 2009 issue of National Geographic Adventure magazine the feature story (entitled "The Visionary") featured Tabin and his work with HCP.[6]

See also


  1. ^ a b [1][dead link]
  2. ^ "Causes of blindness and visual impairment". World Health Organization. Archived from the original on 5 June 2015. Retrieved 19 February 2009.
  3. ^ Handwerk, Brian (26 September 2003). "In Nepal, Doctors Cure Blindness Among Poor". National Geographic. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
  4. ^ "Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology". 18 September 2011. Archived from the original on 26 December 2013. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
  5. ^ []. Archived from the original on 24 June 2007. Retrieved 7 June 2011. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ a b []. Retrieved 17 January 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ Handwerk, Brian (26 September 2003). "In Nepal, Doctors Cure Blindness Among Poor". National Geographic. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
  8. ^ []. Archived from the original on 12 February 2011. Retrieved 7 June 2011. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ []
  • [2]. Offbeat treks in Himalayas. 2003. Accessed 2011-6-6.

External links