They may look like the "Odd Couple" of ophthalmology, but a Nepalese doctor and his American counterpart's promotion of a dirt-cheap, ultra-fast, assembly-line form of surgery is restoring sight to hundreds of thousands of blind people in developing countries.
"It's really the greatest miracle in medicine," said Dr. Geoffrey Tabin, who with Dr. Sanduk Ruit co-founded the Himalayan Cataract Project to tackle blindness caused by treatable cataracts, a condition that afflicts 20 million people worldwide.
And it's "the most cost-effective intervention in medicine," said Tabin, an Ivy League-Oxford-educated physician and world-class mountain climber. His partner grew up in a small Nepalese village without running water and electricity.
In addition to being a dramatically economical and successful surgery, it's also extremely emotional.
After restoring sight to patients who may have "been blind for 30 or 40 years," Tabin said, he has watched them break into song, dance, tears and hugs once their bandages come off and they realize they can see again.
"And there's an amazing smile. It's something I'll never get tired of," said Tabin, a professor of ophthalmology at the John A. Moran Eye Center of the University of Utah.
He first met Ruit in Nepal more than 20 years ago after becoming aware of and training in the revolutionary cataract surgery that Katmandu-based Ruit was doing. Their work is the subject of a new book, "Second Suns: Two Doctors and Their Amazing Quest to Restore Sight and Save Lives."
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