A team of doctors — alumni of Pune’s B J Medical College — have traded their scrubs in to participate in a gruelling bike race that is considered to be the toughest: the Race Across America (RAAM). The team, which calls itself ‘SightRiders’, is determined to complete the race to raise money for Orbis India’s paediatric eye health programme in Bihar.
The race, which started on June 17, has turned into a major platform for racers to raise awareness and money for a charitable cause.
Within nine days, racers must cycle 3,000 miles across 12 states and ride over 1,70,000 vertical feet. The team of doctors includes 50-year-old plastic surgeon Dr Rajendra Nehete from Nashik, 36-year-old Pankaj Marlesha from Mumbai, 46-year-old orthopaedic surgeon Dr Sandeep Shewale from Scotland, who hails from Pune, and paediatrician Dr Ramakant Patil from Nashik, along with a support crew.
Orbis India’s flagship programme, India Childhood Blindness Initiative, aims at setting up a comprehensive Children’s Eye Centre in the Bihar that will provide over 8 million children access to quality eye health services across six districts — Gopalganj, Saran, Siwan, Vaishali, Purba Champaran and Buxar.
Dr Parikshit Gogate, a Pune-based paediatric ophthalmologist who is part of the support crew, said that the SightRiders comprises 20 college friends from across the country.
“All of us want to do something substantial for the children of Bihar, a state where access to healthcare remains a challenge. Ten of the team members are doctors, (four of them are cyclists and others are support crew), and all of them have worked with children in their respective disciplines,” said Gogate.
The support crew comprises Dr Hitendra Mahajan, Dr Suneel Vartak, Dr Mahendra Mahajan, Dr Chandrakant Sankalecha, Rahul Gupte, Dr Gajanan Sahasrabuddhe (MBBS, MTech), Deep Udeshi, Amol Patwardhan, Sachin Jape and others. Every dollar raised in the race will be spent fighting against childhood blindness, said Gogate.