WV doctor recognized for service to poor
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Dr. V.K. Raju, the Morgantown ophthal mologist, is best described as working in a blur.
When he isn’t practicing here, he’s practicing, well, everywhere.
He’ll offer his services for free across Appalachia, Afghanistan and his native India, where he’s been going back and forth for 40 years.
This past January, Indian Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu recognized Raju in his home country for those decades of medical altruism.
Raju grew up in Rajahmundry, a city known for its culture and commerce in India’s southeastern Andhra Pradesh Region. His father died when he was a little boy, and he was raised by his mother, who grappled daily with her diabetes, on top of being a single parent.
After medical school in India and residencies in England, where he staffed emergency rooms and practiced internal medicine besides ophthalmology, he was recruited by West Virginia in 1976 because of his expertise in corneal transplants.
Other offers followed. The University of Chicago. Another from a lucrative private practice in California.
Raju, though stayed, opting to make his career here, while lighting out for downtrodden places on the globe where eyeglasses are considered high luxury.
In 1977, he founded the Eye Foundation of America, a Doctors Without Borders-styled organization of ophthalmologists who have served more than 2 million patients in more than 20 countries, to date.
These days, he’s casting his medical eye to the scourge of vision-robbing diabetes, particularly in West Virginia.
Nearly 40,000 sufferers of that disease in the Mountain State are dealing with diabetic retinopathy, a byproduct of diabetes that chokes off blood vessels to the eye — resulting in legal blindness or blindness altogether.
Raju’s vision is to catch diabetes early, and to stave it off, even, with a more disciplined health and nutrition regimen: This, is a place, he said, not always known collectively for making the best choices in those arenas.
In the meantime, 40 years of outreach in India, he said, ties in nicely with his mother’s “40-40” principle, which decreed that one should work hard through the age of 40 doing for others.
“Because you may not get another 40 after that. For as long as I’m able, I’m going to keep doing this.”