Dr. Budhendra Kumar Jain - Giving sight to changing lives: The journey of a pure soul : Indian Journal of Ophthalmology

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Living Legend in Ophthalmology

Dr. Budhendra Kumar Jain - Giving sight to changing lives: The journey of a pure soul

Sen, Alok; Jain, Elesh1; Maniar, Ranjith H2; Kuyyadiyil, Subeesh3

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Indian Journal of Ophthalmology 71(2):p 327-329, February 2023. | DOI: 10.4103/IJO.IJO_106_23
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The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. – Mahatma Gandhi

There can be no better example of this phrase than Dr. Budhendra Kumar Jain. He personifies sacrifice and devotion. His passion to serve humanity led to the creation of a unique eye care system that brought about a huge difference in the lives of many underprivileged from the remotest villages of central India.

Early Life

Born in a business family from Satna, Madhya Pradesh, Dr. Jain had a humble childhood. His love to serve the needy motivated him to pursue medicine. During his early childhood, he got inspired by the work of Saint Shri Ranchhoddasji Maharaj (fondly called “Gurudev” by his disciples). After completing his ophthalmology residency in Mumbai, he moved to Chitrakoot and started working with Shri Sadguru Seva Sangh Trust, the organization established by Gurudev himself in the year 1968.

His initial days in the Trust were truly challenging. Chitrakoot, in those days, was a jungle infested with wild animals and snakes. Electricity and water supply were a luxury back then. He and his wife lived modestly in a small one-room house, which did not even have an attached toilet [Fig. 1]. However, these adversaries did not deter him from continuing to strive hard and to give the best available service to his patients Along with his mentor Dr. Vishnu Jobanputra, he would start his day at 4 am in the morning and work till late in the night, conducting as many as 300–400 surgeries in a day.

Figure 1:
Image of the 10 × 10 room Dr. B. K. Jain and his wife used to stay during the early days at Chitrakoot


Creating a workforce

To establish a state-of-the-art eye hospital in a remote place like Chitrakoot was not easy. Apart from the dearth of funds, lack of trained manpower was the major hurdle. Dr. Jain knew it would be difficult to convince youths from cities to come and work at Chitrakoot, and so, he decided to create a workforce of locals. The first step was to have a good school wherein children from the economically backward sections could get quality education. He foresaw that this will later help in creating a workforce for the hospital. In the year 1999, the Sadguru School of Nursing was established. This gave the opportunity to girls from rural backgrounds to come out of their houses and make a career in nursing. It is now one of the most reputed nursing schools in the region. A school of optometry was also established parallelly, which ensured a continuous supply of young and motivated optometrists. All this not only provided the hospital with trained manpower, but also led to the upliftment of society.

Adopting newer techniques and technology

Very early in his career, he realized the importance of continuous improvement in the quality of health-care delivery. He used to say that all patients deserve the best eye care, irrespective of their paying capacity and location. He brought newer techniques and technology to Chitrakoot. It is said, “in Chitrakoot, change remains the only constant.” Today, Sadguru Netra Chikitsalaya (SNC) is the only eye center in the region that has all the subspecialties of eye care with the latest instruments and equipment and is at par with the best centers across the globe [Fig. 2].

Figure 2:
Glimpse of the state-of-the-art subspecialties of eye care available at Chitrakoot

Financial sustainability

He realized that the hospital cannot sustain itself if it depended only on donations for its functioning. His unique thinking brought a model of service delivery, which not only helped in making the hospital self-sustained, but also ensured continuous improvement and upgradation in the quality of service. In the year 2006, Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam visited the SNC [Fig. 3] and during the interactions, he asked a question to Dr. B. K. Jain, “How do you differentiate between the poor and rich while offering services?” to which Dr. Jain replied, “We have adopted the model of the Indian railway system which never asks sex, religion, caste, creed, or economic status before providing its services. Similarly, patients who come to Chitrakoot are free to choose according to their capacity. However, unlike the railways, we have a free boggy for the unaffording.”

Figure 3:
Dr. B. K. Jain with Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam during his visit to Chitrakoot in the year 2006


The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it. – Theodore Roosevelt

Dr. Jain has this canny knack for identifying talent. Before 2000, the SNC did not have any ophthalmic subspecialty services. Most of the patients with pathologies in the eye other than cataracts had to be referred to higher centers. Not many people in the region could afford to go to cities to get treatment and would go blind. Between 2000 and 2005, he picked up general ophthalmologists from his team of doctors and started grooming them to take up one of the six ophthalmic subspecialties. He not only ensured that they received the best possible training, but also gave them freedom of work and growth. The SNC now boasts of some of the best ophthalmic subspecialties in the country, including cornea, oculoplasty, vitreo retina, uveitis, glaucoma, and pediatric ophthalmology. The center now attracts ophthalmologists from all over India, who come here for training in different subspecialties [Fig. 4].

Figure 4:
Dr. B. K. Jain along with his team of ophthalmologists at Chitrakoot

Faith and Determination

In Chitrakoot, we see a unique mix of science and spirituality. Dr. Jain’s immense faith in the divine power of Gurudev probably helped him scale such great heights. He had a near-fatal accident in 2011 and was left quadriplegic. With his resolute and staunch belief in Gurudev, he was able to come back and start working within 2 months of his accident; this was no less than a miracle. He firmly believes in Gurudev’s philosophy, “Believe in God, He will fulfill, you are just an instrument.”

Mantra of Success

He is a person who thrives on challenges. Life has thrown many challenges at, both at personal and professional but every time, with his resilience, he has come out successful [Figs. 5-7]. Probably, his passion to work and serve humanity keeps him going at this age as well.

Figure 5:
Dr. B. K. Jain and his wife Smt. Usha Jain with the Union Health Minister, Dr. Mansukh L. Mandaviya
Figure 6:
Dr. B. K. Jain receiving the All India Ophthalmological Society (AIOS) Life Time Achievement Award in the year 2018 at Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu
Figure 7:
Dr. B. K. Jain receiving the APAO Award for “Outstanding Work in Prevention of Blindness” in the year 2013. APAO = Asia-Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology

An Inspiration for All of Us

Ophthalmologists do not prefer working in remote locations; they merely consider these centers as places for surgical skill enhancement and overall experience gaining. Chitrakoot, however, is an exception. Here, one can see several ophthalmologists who have stayed for over 15 years – one of the best examples of reverse migration from urban to rural India. This is the result of an ophthalmologist-friendly environment created by Dr. B. K. Jain that ensures world-class comprehensive eye care to the rural and needy population at their doorsteps. It is important that such sustainable models are replicated throughout India.

Dr. B. K. Jain’s story is an inspiration not only for those working at Chitrakoot, but also for many budding ophthalmologists who wish to give back to the society.

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