Dr S S Badrinath, one of India’s topmost ophthalmologists and founder of Sankara Nethralaya, passed away this morning. He was 83. 

The renowned eye doctor, who was awarded Padma Shri in 1983 and Padma Bhushan in 1999, was born in Triplicane, Chennai, on February 24, 1940, to S V Srinivasa Rao, an engineer with the State government and Lakshmi Devi, daughter of a leading advocate, as the youngest of seven siblings. 

The man who would have a brilliant academic career and lead an austere life, putting people before profits, ironically could begin his education only at the age of 7, due to a childhood illness. He made up for the late start by scoring the highest marks in Ophthalmology at Madras Medical College, in 1962. 

Badrinath continued his studies in Brooklyn, New York, USA, where he met his soulmate, Dr Vasanthi Iyengar, a pediatrician, whom he married in 1967. The couple forsook a lucrative career in the US to return to their motherland. 

After working at the Voluntary Health Services and Vijaya hospitals for a few years, Badrinath set up a private practice in ophthalmology and vitreoretinal surgery.

A turning point in his career occurred in 1974 when he performed surgery on H H Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi swami of the Kanchi mutt, which brought the doctor in touch with the spiritual institution.

In the following year, when the junior pontiff, H H Jayendra Saraswathi swami called upon young doctors to set up hospitals in India to serve the poor, Badrinath rose to the call, creating the iconic Sankara Nethrayala in 1978. 

In the last half a century, Sankara Nethrayala has provided all kinds of eye care either for free or at low cost (depending upon the affordability of the patients) to millions of people.  

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a condolence message, said, “Deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. SS Badrinath Ji, a visionary, expert in ophthalmology, and founder of Sankara Nethralaya. His contributions to eye care and his relentless service to society have left an indelible mark. His work will continue to inspire generations. Condolences to his family and loved ones. Om Shanti.”