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Tribute to Prof. Ravi Thomas by Shoba Katumalla

In 1984, I was the chapel secretary of the class in Christian Medical College (CMC) Vellore, India. I was directed by one of his good friends to his house to ask him to speak in our Friday class prayers. I knocked on his door and there was this bespectacled man with an infant boy tenderly snugged in his arms with his petite wife by his side. This was my first encounter with Dr. Ravi Thomas. Little did I know then that Dr. Ravi would be my teacher, mentor, friend who would shape my entire career as an Ophthalmologist.

Dr. Ravi , a tough task master as he is , sent out a notice to our batch to read the entire Parsons at the beginning of our undergraduate Ophthalmology posting. None of us knew what that book looked like and no one read, not knowing the consequences. We had to walk around the Schell eye hospital campus six times. After the Ophthalmology undergraduate posting I knew what speciality I was going to take up as my career. He has this immense capacity as a teacher to inspire and influence his students.

Dr. Ravi and Dr. Alexander both transformed Schell eye hospital (Department of Ophthalmology, CMC Vellore, India) in a short span to become a high rated training centre for post graduates. Dr. Ravi, a maverick, a man of great integrity in work as a passionate teacher and physician put all his efforts in transforming Schell into a state of the art training centre with excellent quality patient care. He ensured that Quality was more important than Quantity and never got himself to be manoeuvred by the number game. He was a hard tough master and hated anyone shirking work. His students walked out of the portals of CMC Schell confident, completely equipped with comprehensive ophthalmic evaluation, diagnostics, comprehensive surgical training, research and publications. He helped everyone who crossed his paths to establish their careers all over the world. More importantly, he made sure he taught all of us that a poor man who didn’t pay anything got the same quality treatment as the rich man who walked thru our doors.

Dr. Ravi’s interest other than glaucoma and strabismus was Cinical epidemiology. Sackett in his words was like a Bible to him in clinical practice.

Dr. Ravi was a loving husband and a doting and tender father to his children Ariez and Aleysha. Promila his loving wife stood by him as a pillar of strength. The family sacrificed a lot in sharing Ravi with the world. It’s an indescribable and untimely loss, the void that no one can fill. 

I am a comprehensive Ophthalmologist, administrator, working and training with the best practices of ophthalmology in rural India over the last 25 years. All this I owe it to Dr. Ravi Thomas, a teacher, a mentor, a critic and more than anything a good friend. Sir, I am proud that all that I practice is replica of what you taught us.. it’s not a bit of you in us but all of that you imbibed in us. Thank you for refining each one of us to fit in to areas where we are.

I can’t think of any other person who had so impacted his students across the world. Great people never move on.. they always remain in our thoughts and memories but you Dr. Ravi will also remain in our every day’s work. 

Thank you Dr. Ravi. You will be dearly missed. 


Tribute to Prof. Ravi Thomas by Shantha Balekudaru

I first met Professor Ravi Thomas in 1986 when I joined the ophthalmic department (Schell eye hospital, Christian Medical College, Vellore) as a senior resident. My relationship with Ravi started out as student-teacher, then colleague, after which he remained a close friend.

He was exacting as a teacher, expected discipline, high standards as students, clinicians and researchers with empathy towards all patients. The habit of keeping up with the latest literature, paying attention to evidence based medicine and learning how to apply statistical tests was inculcated in us from the beginning. I considered epidemiology a tedious subject until he made us as students, realize the clinical importance of epidemiology and the value of applying knowledge acquired from this science to our daily practice of ophthalmology. He had the facility of making statistics and epidemiology appears as ‘fun’ subjects. The importance of critical assessment of journal articles was reinforced by his teachings.

He was a perfectionist and would spend hours correcting our presentations and making us rehearse prior to conferences until we were word perfect. He has also personally supervised our surgeries, sometimes having to spend a couple of hours patiently, from start to finish until we mastered our techniques. He would also teach us new techniques, the moment he had mastered them, and was the pioneer in introducing small incision cataract surgery and phacoemulsification techniques in teaching modules.

 He also had the courage to point out deficiencies in the teaching methods and the lack of infrastructure in teaching institutions, which may not have been palatable to some, but went a long way in improving teaching methods across the country.

He was a wonderful friend, with a mischievous sense of humor, and we had lots of fun attending conferences, national and international with him. He was a generous host too. As students and colleagues, we had some really entertaining parties at his residence at CMC, Vellore. The news of his untimely demise has been devastating to all his students and friends; he will be sorely missed! Thank you Ravi, for inspiring us all these years. We can pay homage to his teachings by carrying the baton and emulating him as teachers, in our turn.