Krishnamurthy to Head Sankara Nethralaya OM Trust


Sankara Nethralaya Ophthalmic Mission Trustees Leela Krishnamurthy, the 2017 President; Dr. Kris S. “Ashok” Vasan; Jawahar Malhotra are all from Houston as is former Trustee Sam Sockalingam Kannappan.

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: With the start of the new year, local community activist and philanthropist Leela Krishnamurthy has been selected to head the Sankara Nethralaya Ophthalmic Mission Trust, a national non-profit in the US, which was established in 1988 to support the highly regarded charitable, not-for-profit Sankara Nethralaya, Ophthalmic Hospital, in Chennai, India.

The SN OM Trust is composed of 18 trustees in six states – Texas, California, Georgia, Maryland, New York and Illinois – who support the eye care activities of the SN hospital by raising awareness and funds by organizing various events every year. The SN OM Trust has successfully helped raise substantial funds for the hospital to allow it to provide free world class ophthalmic eye care to thousands of under-privileged, indigent people in India.

The Sankara Nethralaya (meaning “The Temple of the Eye”) Hospital was formed in 1976 by Dr. Sengamedu Srinivasa Badrinath, with a group of philanthropists. Today it has become one of the best managed charitable organizations in India with 100 ophthalmologists and 1,000 employees serving 1,200 patients a day and performing 100 surgeries a day. SN has 60% paying patients and 40% non-paying.

SN now offers services at five locations in Chennai and at Mukundapur in Kolkata; Hebbal in Bengaluru; Rameshwaram and Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh and plans to expand in more states and possibly other countries. SN has fellowships in Vitreo Retina, Glaucoma, Cornea etc. BS Optometry, MSMLT and Ophthalmic Nursing courses are run here in collaboration with BITS Pilani. Three years ago it has started a project of Mobile Eye Surgical Unit consisting of four buses which go to the villages and has performed 3,200 surgeries totally free, with free of cost medicines and glasses.

Krishnamurthy and her husband Nat have been fixtures of the charitable organizations in the Bayou City for many years and have endeared themselves to many groups. Leela has been a life-long patron of the arts, literacy and social programs. She is the past president of the Indo American Charity Foundation, Bharathi Kalai Manram and treasurer of India Culture Center. Currently she is on the board of Habitat for Humanity Houston and Advisory Board of UNICEF. She is also active with the Houston Food Bank, Sri Meenakshi Temple and Club 24 Plus. Recently she participated in the fund raising at the booth for Shankara Nethralaya OM Trust  during the Tamil Nadu Foundation Conference  May 2012 in Houston.

In addition to Krishnamurthy, Houston is home to two other Trustees. An ongoing Trustee is Dr. Kris S. “Ashok” Vasan who is also the Managing Director of the Sankara Nethralaya Hospital and spends part of the year in Chennai and the other part in Houston where his family lives. The other new Trustee is this reporter, the Publisher of Indo American News, who was just appointed this year. Another Houstonian, Sam Sockalingam Kannappan, has been a Trustee for a few years but decided not to continue this year.

Krishnamurthy plans to help organize several events this year to raise funds for projects in India. In addition, she, Vasan and Malhotra have been working with local institutions to raise the awareness of the SN Hospital’s profile in ophthalmic and vision care. “We are delighted to know that there are many graduates and doctoral candidates in the US who have been former employees and current associates of the SN,” Krishnamurthy explained, “with several pursuing degrees at the Optometry College at the University of Houston.”