Humanitarian of the Year Awards 2016

October 2016 | Events

By Kate Bryant

Former Vice President of Development

World Sight Day 2016

In honor of World Sight Day, SEE launched an annual Humanitarian of the Year Award, to recognize the outstanding dedication and achievement of volunteer ophthalmologists committed to ending avoidable blindness. The award will be given out annually to two SEE International ophthalmologists – one that is US based and another living internationally.

This year, SEE was proud to honor Judith Newman, M.D. and Bikas Bhattacharya, M.D. who have done so much to help our organization in its campaign to end avoidable blindness worldwide.

Bikas Bhattacharya, M.D.

Dr. Bhattacharya performed his first cataract surgery in 1982, and has never stopped honing his craft since then. As one of SEE’s illustrious teaching surgeons, Dr. Bikas plays a vital role in training volunteer ophthalmologists to restore sight in the developing world. He is passionate about teaching MSICS, a technique that allows doctors to remove cataracts quickly, safely, and inexpensively, without complex machinery or a reliable supply of electricity.

Growing up in northeastern India, Dr. Bikas witnessed extreme poverty and deprivation among his countrymen. “Seeing those great number of people in grinding poverty, lacking basic amenities and access to proper health care, profoundly affected me and my siblings,” he recalls. “Most of us grew up to be doctors wanting to help our fellow man in whatever way we could.” For this reason, he has enthusiastically participated in numerous volunteer medical programs, including SEE International for over ten years.

“I feel proud knowing that I’ve played a part in the dissemination of information and clinical knowledge,” he says. “My objective has been that the surgeons to whom I teach this technique will travel the world, and teach their fellow surgeons this technique. It is my belief that the widespread use of this technique will help us, as well as organizations like SEE International, to spread the gift of sight all over the world.”

Judith Newman, M.D.

Dr. Newman has participated in an astounding 128 volunteer sight-restoring programs around the world, 67 of which were with SEE. Although she treats people of every age group, her specialty is restoring sight to children. “A blind child who must remain at home faces decades of misery and social burden to the family and community,” she explains. “These kids are the future; they belong to all of us. Their joy is our joy; their pain and misery is all of our pain and misery.”

Few vision care professionals in the developing world have the necessary skills to treat children suffering from blindness. Conditions that cause blindness in children include pediatric cataract, pediatric glaucoma, strabismus, and congenital ptosis. Dr. Newman has made it her mission to treat children suffering from these diseases, and teaching doctors in low-income countries how to do the same.

“I feel fortunate that I have the ability to travel, train eye doctors, and treat children,” she says. “I’m deeply indebted to SEE International for all the high quality ophthalmic supplies they’ve donated year after year. They have allowed me to help those less fortunate, since my first SEE trip in November 1998, to Mercy Eye Hospital in Abak, Nigeria.”

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