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Eye Health Pioneer steps down as Executive Chair

Published: 10.08.2021
Joanna Conlon Director of Development and Communications
IAPB
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One of the foremost names in public health eye care and a giant in ophthalmic research and practice is starting a new phase in life. L V Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI) has announced that Gullapalli Nageshwara Rao, Nag Rao as many of us know him, will be stepping down as the Executive Chair of LVPEI. After a two-year internal evaluation process, LVPEI have announced that Dr Prashant Garg will be replacing Nag as the Executive Chair.

Nag has been a pillar of support for IAPB. A clinician, scientist, an institution-builder and above all, a visionary, Nag played an important part in many key developments over the past few decades. His partnerships with many IAPB members and supporters including Brien Holden, Hugh Taylor, Allen Foster, Pararajasegaram, Hannah Faal, Clare Gilbert and many more around the world was key to VISION 2020’s launch and its many successes. Indeed, the VISION 2020: The Right to Sight global initiative would not have been what it was without Nag’s interventions and service delivery model. Nag, as IAPB Secretary-General and later, Chair and CEO, played a key role in VISION 2020’s roll-out and global acceptance. In parallel to VISION 2020’s growth, Nag steered IAPB towards a new membership structure and a more visible role in eye health.

Nag broke on to the ophthalmic scene with a series of papers on the endothelium in the late 70s based on his work at Rochester, USA. Over the years, he built a reputation for clinical rigour and collaboration, while nursing a deep sense of commitment to his country. In the early 1980s, he and his family invested their savings into building an eye hospital where nothing like that existed before, in Hyderabad, India. Today, LVPEI represents the best of ophthalmology, optometry and public health eye care, and Nag Rao’s journey is deeply woven into its success. In the process, Nag became one of the most celebrated ophthalmologists of our generation.

Nag led LVPEI’s growth from a single tertiary hospital in Hyderabad to a pyramidal network of care with over 200 centres today. This LVPEI eye health pyramid was the backbone of VISION 2020: The Right to Sight’s service delivery model. Depending on geographical context, the pyramid model established not only good practice, but also the promise of quality and commitment to people who needed it the most. Nag’s model won him accolades around the world and has been the basis of eye care delivery in many countries of Asia and Africa. He was made Commander, Order of the Star of Africa by the Nobel laureate and then-President of Liberia, Dr Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. IAPB also celebrated him with our Vision Excellence Award—these are among his many awards and honours.

Nag has pioneered many initiatives and LVPEI was the jewel in the crown. He made not only national and regional impact but transformed the outlook of Eye health globally,” notes Babar Qureshi, Vice-President, IAPB.

Nag Rao is a bold leader, creative strategist, and consummate networker”, says Suzanne Gilbert, IAPB Regional Chair, North America. “His intensity is balanced by his deep caring and thoughtful personal relationships which bring effectiveness and joy to his service. We are fortunate indeed that Nag Rao has devoted his Big Thinking and Big Heart to IAPB and global eye health. His legacy lives on through LVPEI and its many collaborating partners. His advice will enrich this work for years to come.

This transition marks a big change for Nag, a hands-on professional, a stickler for detail and a committed eye health advocate. Prashant Garg, a clinician-scientist and an LVPEI veteran, inherits a prestigious and popular role. Prashant holds several leadership positions in the LVPEI Network. He is a corneal specialist with interests in ophthalmic education and training.

This marks a new era for LVPEI, and I would like to congratulate Prashant Garg on behalf of the IAPB board. Nag remains active and is a key advisor for many projects around the world. On behalf of the IAPB board, I wish him the very best.

Nag Rao will be stepping down as Executive Chair in October 2021.