November 12, 2005
Among those who came to pay their last respects to Dr. M C Modi were young children from local schools.
Dr Modi, a pioneer of eye surgery camps and most prolific eye surgeon in the world, hung up his surgeon’s gown long before most of these children were born, but they had all heard that Dr Modi was one of India’s greatest eye surgeons.
Guinness record holder for the most number of eye surgeries in a day and having conducted more than 7 lakh surgeries in a career spanning six decades, Dr Modi died at the age of 90 at a private hospital here in the early hours of Friday.
Recipient of country’s highest civilian awards — a Padmashree in 1956 and a Padma Bhushan in 1968 — Dr Modi rose from humble beginnings in northern Karnataka’s Bijapur district.
Working at a time when the best surgical tool was surgeon’s hand-eye dexterity, Dr Modi took it upon himself to make eye care accessible to remotest parts of the country. With his free eye camps, he travelled across the country, beginning in 1943 and working until he was in his late 70s, covering over 47,000 villages.
In 1950s, Dr Modi shot to fame by claiming he had conducted 695 eye surgeries in a single day, at a camp at Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh. When his claims failed to garner sufficient interest, he returned to Tirupati the following year and performed 833 surgeries. The feat found its way into the Guinness Book.
‘‘Somebody compared me to Henry Ford saying I had brought conveyor belt technology to the field of eye care,’’ Dr Modi once described his work.
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