Recently we sat down with the founder of LV Prasad Eye Insitute, Dr. Rao. He gave up a good life as a doctor in the U.S. to come back to India and help prevent the blindness among the poor.
Dr. Rao risked his life to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to improve the quality of life for the poor, while concurrently setting a higher standard for underdeveloped countries worldwide.
Dr. Rao is a remarkable man. We were told that a prominent political figure in India had called him and asked to be seen. Dr. Rao replied, “Sure we can see you, but come on a Sunday so that you don’t disturb my other patients.”
His institute has serviced over thirteen million people to date and prevented nearly 200 thousand people from going blind.
His poor patients don’t pay anything. They receive the exact same quality of service as his rich patients who pay top prices.
“Starting out, everything we did was unheard of; people told me I was crazy and that it would never work,” said Dr. Rao.
A humble man, every year he speaks at the top conferences across the globe, but still flies economy.
Dr. Rao told us of his endeavors with the LV Prasad Eye Institute. He wanted a hospital that focused on the people in it. He felt things were sort of backwards in other institutions and sought to fix that. For instance, in India it is customary to address elders, professionals, doctors and politicians as sir or madam. But Dr. Rao insists that in his institution only the patients are addressed with that courtesy.
Dr. Rao worked hard to establish the institution in a different way than others had in the past. He said that in India it is common to bribe the government, but he decided never to go that route to avoid becoming a “pawn in the government’s hands.”
“I’m a beggar with a bow tie. I believe that money is not a hindrance,” he said of himself.
Because of his “unconventional” ways, many elite people were upset with his approach. He said that politicians with armed guards would come to the hospital expecting to be treated better than the other patients, and upset that everyone was equal in the hospital. Dr. Rao even received bomb threats over the phone.
Yet, he believed in giving eye care to everyone who needed it and wouldn’t let anyone stop him. Everything he does is to benefit his patients, his number one motivating factor.
On his desk were two books. Before leaving, I asked him if he found much time to read. He said not really, however, recently a man came to visit with him. The man heard that Dr. Rao’s eye hospital provides free food for the visiting poor patients.
Ten years ago, this man had invested some money, which recently matured to one hundred thousand rupees. He donated all of that money toward the food that feeds the poor.
Dr. Rao said that this man was poor.
“He could have used the money to improve his quality of life, but he gave it,” said Dr. Rao. “This means more to me than the millions that the rich people donate. These are the kinds of things that inspire me. You guys inspire me.”
We are proud to have Dr. Rao as a partner and hope to have as great of an effect on the world as this amazing man.