In the dead of night, my father at the age of 18 leapt onto a ship packed with people trying to escape the aftermath of the Vietnam War. As a child, my ears clung onto every word of his amazing stories of surviving shipwreck, stretching food scraps at a refugee camp, and working tirelessly at any menial work he could find to raise my brother and me on his own. Little did I know back then, how strongly his example would shape my views of the world, my understanding of humanity, and the path I would forge for myself.
I remember growing up with a very certain but amorphous idea that helping the disadvantaged would be my life’s work. At the root of it was a desire to emulate my father and the virtue he exemplified of working hard to give others a chance at a better life. Over the years, I became increasingly drawn to the plights of children whose fundamental ability to lead fulfilling and productive lives had been robbed by disease way too young and was determined to find a way to help restore that lost potential, to shift the course of that trajectory. That conviction is what underlies my longstanding commitment to humanitarian work and what propelled me to support myself to be the first person in my family to go to college and then invest 5 years honing my skills as a biomedical researcher and engineer before embarking on my medical training.
As a pediatric ophthalmologist, my greatest joy and motivation is helping to empower children – no matter where they are or what cards they were dealt – with the fundamental ability to see and lead a meaningful life.
There are 19 million children worldwide living with visual impairment. Three-quarters of blind children live in developing countries, where they are less likely to have access to quality care, to have special accomodations for education, to develop indendence, to contribute to their family and society, and to follow their dreams. But the hope lies in the fact that half of these cases can be prevented or treated!
Years ago, I learned about the extraordinary story of a boy from a tiny village isolated atop the world’s third highest mountain who persevered despite incredible odds and unrelenting naysayers to humbly lead a revolution in caring for the world’s poor. I was blessed to meet and operate alongside the man who inspired me to become an ophthalmologist!
< About Dr. Sanduk Ruit >
Hands-down the most pivotal mentor in my life. When I was 18, he took me under his wing and not only taught me how to think like an engineer but showed me how to live humbly, value teamwork, and persist towards your dreams despite how impossible they may seem or people who don't share your vision.
<About Dr. Humayun>
My Engineering Mentor
"Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others... We end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people's pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else's responsibility and not our own."
- Pope Francis