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Dr. M. Saleh Memon


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Dec 06 - 12, 1999

Dr. Memon graduated from Dow Medical College, Karachi in 1962. He became Fellow of Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS) in 1968. After working for a brief period at Rashid Hospital in UAE he joined Jinnah Post Graduate Medical Centre (JPMC), a teaching hospital in Karachi, in 1970. He took retirement in June this year. All along his career he has been taking active part in organizing eye camps in the rural areas of Pakistan and other countries. Currently he is associated with Isra Islamic Foundation which organizes eye camps all over Muslim countries. Since 1989 the Foundation has been organizing 40 camps in African countries and 20 to 25 camps in Pakistan annually, at an average.

PAGE: Why did you decide to become an eye specialist?

Dr. Memon: I belong to a poor family from rural area of Sindh. I was a student of class VI when my father said, "You should become an eye specialist". To be honest, I did not know at that time what was an eye specialist but promised. This was around 1950 and I graduated from Dow Medical College in 1962. Over the years, though I also made money, the objective has been to protect the eye sight of a person — the greatest contribution one could make to humanity.

PAGE: How have you carried forward this mission?

Dr. Memon: Fortunately I was associated with a teaching hospital. My first message to students was, "Be a good and responsible human being". I also found that once they graduate, most of them are not only good in profession but responsible human being. Some of them also become eye specialists but still spend time in curing those who do not have either access or resources.

PAGE: What disturbs the most?

Dr. Memon: Despite many eye diseases being curable around 150,000 become blind. This is due to two factors, hardly any availability of doctors in the rural areas and expensive treatment. At present there are 1,500 eye specialists in the country but nearly half of them are working in Karachi and Lahore only.

PAGE: How do you try to overcome this situation?

Dr. Memon: I was the national coordinator for Programme for prevention of blindness in Pakistan funded by the World Health Organization (WHO) during 1988 to 1994. The surveys helped us understanding better the causes of blindness in Pakistan. Cataract was found to be the most common reason followed by glaucoma. Both the ailments are curable but many individuals could not afford simple operation/treatment. It is mainly due to lack of doctors in smaller towns and higher cost of treatment.

This is the basic purpose of organizing the eye camps. Most of these camps have been organized in remote areas in Pakistan. At these camps doctors conduct OPD and operations free of cost. The cost of organizing these camps are borne by the Foundation and the local elites. We have organized camps in Mianwali, Jauharabad, Fort Abbas, Liaquatpur, Jhal Magsi, Kharan, Kunri and Sehwan. At a camp doctors work for more than 18 hours a day and the average duration of camp is 3 to five days. They examine over 3000 patients and conduct 300 surgeries. The average cost per camp exceeds Rs 400,000. Now we are also being supported by the Infaq Foundation.

However, lately Sindh and Balochistan governments were kind enough to provide us buildings, at least, to establish permanent facilities. Currently we run a 35-bed eye hospital, Al-Ibrahim Eye Hospital in Memon Goath purely on charitable basis. Pakistan receives eyes from Sri Lanka for transplantation but those are highly inadequate keeping the needs in view. There is hardly any donation of eyes in Pakistan.

PAGE: How do people respond to the request for donations for eyes?"

Dr. Memon: People in general are not inclined to donate eyes. This has less relevance with the religion but more to the imputation of a dead body. It is believed that the loss of eyes would make the dead body look ugly but do not understand that if eyes are transplanted blinds will be able to lead a better life.

PAGE: What is your message to our readers?

Dr. Memon: Eyesight is a gift of God for which no one could really thank Him. The best one can do is to protect the gift. Eyes of children must be checked regularly after the age of four. The people who cross the age of 40 must get the regular check-up for cataract and glaucoma. With diabetes spreading fast those patients have to be more careful. They should not use any ointment or drops without consulting an eye specialists.