Respected teachers, elders, professionals, friends, well-wishers, seniors, my family members, dignitaries on and off the dais; a very good evening to one and all.

Let there be light – let there be vision.

It is a great pleasure and honour to stand before this august gathering as president of one of oldest, dynamic and prestigious ophthalmic associations in our country. I like to thank all the members of TNOA for reposing faith in me and electing me as the president of the society.

I start with an excerpt from the physician’s prayer – “Give skill to my hands, clear vision to my mind, Kindness and Sympathy to my heart”.

As a citizen of Tamil Nadu, a state with a rich language and cultural heritage, it is pleasing to note that our state is now the Mecca of Ophthalmology. Together, we perform over 4 lakh cataract surgeries a year. Our institutes are well known for the highest quality patient care and research. It is indeed prestigious that companies such as Google are collaborating with our institutes like Aravind and Sankara Nethralaya to harness the benefits of artificial intelligence for health care.

An alumnus of the second oldest eye hospital in the world, the Regional Institute of Ophthalmology and Government Ophthalmic Hospital, it is a momentous occasion, as I am becoming president in the year my beloved alma mater celebrates its bi-centenary. It is no coincidence that my dear friend, Dr Natarajan from GOH is also the president of AIOS at this time.

Thanks Dr. Siddharthan for the nice introduction. Thanks are also due for this book presented to me more than 3 decades back. As Seneca pointed out – “A gift consists not in what is done or given, but in the intention of the giver or doer”. It was indeed a practical practice gift.

If I stand on this podium today, a large credit goes to my loving, caring, very strict and courageous mother. I am fortunate and blessed.

“My dear beloved son” – this is how my father addressed me in all his letters. Every Tuesday, for 20 years, I unfailingly received letters from him.My peers admired the vision that this man of simple means and humble beginnings could conjure. A businessman, he taught me the values of honesty, accountability, integrity, contentment, trust and savings. He inculcated at an early age that Availability, Affordability, Perseveration with Perspiration are the foundations of any profession and success is when your education and skills benefit society at large.

I am truly fortunate to have friends who take the liberty to point out my shortcomings. Friends have always been my strength and friendship my weakness. Friendship taught me to accept our differences and to celebrate our togetherness.

A school and its teachers have a special place in our lives. They start and shape the character and future of an individual. Apart from quality education, my teachers have inculcated discipline in all walks of life; a sense of cleanliness, a heart for charity, love for nature, passion for hobbies and so on. I am able to gain a sense of satisfaction in my daily pursuits, both within and outside the hospital, thanks to such small but important characteristics.

My school introduced me to Philately. Today I realise that those hours spent peeping through a magnifying glass and sorting out these little bits of paper have helped me be more organised and that is reflected in the way a modest hospital such as mine has an organised MRD section with files from day 1 of my practice.

Writing and documentation:
My diary was a silent witness to confessions, thoughts, opinions, and events. Unmindful of grammar, these random jotting down of happenings helped in unburdening my mind. Today, recollections from my diary make me laugh for what I cried. This simple habit of giving words to thoughts have translated into better case sheet writing and documentation. Padma Shri Prof. Dr.Venkatasamy who was the Plastic Surgeon at Stanley helped me refine these skills. I happened to read about Prince Serfoji who, as a trained ophthalmologist, has documented his clinical findings from the 17th century. Snippets such as these serve as an inspiration to improve our work.

In ophthalmology and in the broader picture of life, a few moments spent with the right person are sufficient to change the course of one’s destiny as I have experienced in my interaction with stalwarts like Dr.S.S.Badrinath, Dr.Ananda Kannan, Dr.R.V.Ramani and Dr.R.D.Ravindran.

I am grateful to the institutions, teachers, and colleagues in ophthalmology. They have taught me that we are indebted to the people from whom we learnt the art. I have also learnt to understand “a different perspective” and to respect one another’s values. In a way, I would say they were alchemists.

Organisations and associations:
Professional associations work based on principles, provisions, procedures, and precedents. We learn a lot by interacting in a common platform provided by meeting such as this. Associations are a place for constructive criticism; associations should be beyond self. Here, people should be altruistic and place “me, myself and I” last. They should be willing to accept both brickbats and bouquets.

I am reminded of the story of the porcupines narrated by Paulo Coelho. In a freezing winter, the porcupines had two choices – “to stay apart, freeze and perish” or “to stay together to keep warm, accept the occasional prick and survive”. I suppose, we doctors are no different in today’s scenario. Yes, there will be an occasional discomfort. But in the long run, we can achieve more as a group if the differences are not taken to heart.

In heading this association, I aspire to emulate my illustrious predecessors. I will strive to provide opportunities, assistance and updates to all members for progressive and sustainable practice. A little effort from our side, both individually and collectively, is bound to yield positive results. Besides, imagination, curiosity and an inquisitive mind will open doors hitherto unseen.

I firmly believe that everyone in this audience is immensely talented. We probably differ in just the way we have “had” or “created” opportunities. As Napolean said, “Ability is of little account without opportunity”. Speaking of opportunities, I was provided a few – Prof Dr.Rajan provided one to become an Ophthalmologist, Dr. Madhivanan provided one to be a treasurer of TNOA, Dr. Ramasamy provided one to be a bold and meticulous surgeon.

Technology and industry:
With advances in science and technology, the hands of doctors have been strengthened and lives made much simpler. Doctors along with Scientists, engineers and the industry have been at the forefront of innovating technologies. strengthened the hands of doctors and made our life much simpler. We are witness to our companies such as Aurolabs and Appasamy Associates producing quality products that find use around the globe.

Let us continue the journey together with good understanding and mutual benefit, remembering the financial commitments and implications on both sides. We need to walk a fine line between knowledge, technology and costs on one hand and economic disparity, consumer welfare and regulations on the other. No doubt, it is a tiring and testing journey. But, I can assure you that with a little sacrifice, it is a rewarding one.

Empathy and the joy of giving:
At the end of the day, in the “health care industry” we cannot replace humans, human intelligence and emotions; a smile, love, joy, gratitude, a pat on the back, a touch of the palm and few soothing words – that is the cornerstone of personalized care. That is what all humans, our patients included, yearn for.

I was never inclined to be a medical man. But like many amongst us, fate had other plans. Entering Medicine was serendipity. Destiny made an Ophthalmologist. I took the chance, to make it the best. I am proud to say that I have always defined my purpose and pursued that with perseverance. Today, with passion, I enjoy the fruits of that labour.

Interacting with and providing care for the less fortunate among us, with little expectation of return, I have recognised how much I have and have learned to be thankful. Indeed, I have been given much more than I have given away. These days, I wish could generate more so that I can be more generous with those who deserve our time and care. Organisations such as Aravind have shown us the tremendous impact of reaching out into our communities and serving them. In my own small way, for the past 27 years, I have been running a charitable wing. I must say that today, I count that as one of my biggest sources of satisfaction and achievement. This sense of fulfilment is probably not achievable in any other domain.

I have realised that it is satisfying to live a life in service to others – to your parents, to your spouse, your children, your community, and your world. Your greatest success will come from your service to others. Let us share the joy of giving. This virtue has to be inculcated in our children and in the future generation. Besides sharing of material, I believe when a person is willing to share his time, he is giving a part of something that cannot be recovered.

Preserving and promoting nature:
It is prudent to note that WHO has predicted that, pollution, the resultant climate change, food and water scarcity are emerging as major challenges. Let us explore, embrace and nurture nature. Each of us, in our little ways, by sacrificing a little and giving our best can leave behind a legacy and a better world for future generations.

I will conclude by rephrasing Mahatma Gandhi – let there be “Truth in all efforts, nonviolence in all endeavours and vision for all mankind.”

Together, let us create opportunities, motivate, inspire and bring out the best in our members.

Together, let us progress as one.

Thank you one and all.

Special thanks are due to our colleagues in Salem for organising this conference on such a grand scale. “Share and Learn – Together”. I hope we carry their message back.