|Dr. Suresh Chandra Receives Manfred
E. Swarsensky Humanitarian Service
Doctor Chandra was born in 1937, in what was then the British colony of India. In 1947, India was partitioned into what became two independent states,
India and Pakistan. At that time, he and his family were living in Karachi. As a Hindu in Muslim Pakistan, the Chandra family, like Rabbi Swarsensky,
experienced severe religious persecution and danger. With not much more than the clothes on their backs, Suresh and his family escaped to Bombay.
He grew up as a refugee in India.
Suresh did his medical training in India at King George Medical School and became an ophthalmologist. After practicing and teaching there for a few
years, in 1969, he came to the United States and Boston, doing specialized training in retinal surgery at Harvard University. Upon completing his work at
Harvard, Dr. Chandra arrived in Madison on July 1, 1974, to join the UW Medical School faculty and medical staff. Once he was established here, he
began traveling back to India and other impoverished areas of the world to teach a highly technical retinal surgery procedure. However, he soon realized,
the most significant causes of blindness in these areas of the world were cataracts among the elderly and a Vitamin A deficiency among children.
So, in 1984, Dr. Chandra started the Combat Blindness Foundation. Efforts are dedicated to treating adults whose sight can be restored or preserved
through cataract surgery or treatment of children for Vitamin A deficiency. Over time, Combat Blindness has extended its reach internationally beyond
India to Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and South America. Then, in 2014, Dr. Chandra turned his attention to “Combat
Blindness” right here in Madison and began working with the Madison Metropolitan School District as part of its International Pediatric Program. Through
this program, every pre-school 4-year-old and 5-year-old kindergartener, hundreds of children each year, are screened by retired ophthalmic nurses to
assure they can see and learn. When necessary, children are referred to an ophthalmologist. Most vision problems, from squints to lazy eye, can be
completely corrected if caught and treated by age five. 50% of blindness in children is preventable or treatable. To provide the best opportunity in their
educational pursuits, all children must be able to see to read. It is estimated 80% of learning takes place visually.
Visual learning moves children forward in their early childhood development. As children learn to read and read to learn, they are stimulated and
motivated. A motivated youngster has an elevated self-esteem that continues to drive them forward to achieve at the highest levels.
Combat Blindness is now in the midst of expanding its program to meet the needs of children in other parts of Wisconsin as well.
Additionally, since 2007, Combat Blindness has partnered with the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics to provide service to adult residents of
Dane County who need eye care, too. Patients screened at Combat Blindness’ Saturday clinic and are provided with primary and secondary level eye
Dr. Suresh Chandra joins the ranks of the over 35 Madisonians who have selflessly worked to make the Madison area a wonderful place to live, work and
Our congratulations to Suresh Chandra on receiving the Rabbi Manfred Swarsensky Humanitarian Service. Along with this award, a $2,500 grant is
provided to an organization of the recipient’s choice, and he selected Combat Blindness International.
Our thanks to Ron Luskin, chair, and members of this year’s Manfred Swarsensky Humanitarian Service Award Committee in organizing this year’s
Introduced by Ron Luskin on March 14, 2018
On March 14th, Dr. Suresh Chandra received the Manfred E.
Swarsensky Humanitarian Service Award at the Madison Downtown
Rotary’s regular Wednesday luncheon. The Swarsensky award is
named after Rabbi Manfred E. Swarsensky who fled Nazi Germany
and escaped the “final solution,” and the death camps of the World
War II Holocaust. Swarsensky, a Madison community leader and
Rotarian was known for his humanitarian service, his commitment
to social justice and the bringing together of people in our
community from diverse backgrounds.
The Swarsensky Award was created in 1982 to honor individuals
who through their voluntary efforts have made an outstanding
contribution to humanitarian efforts in the Madison area. Presenting
the award to Chandra was Ron Luskin, the chair of the committee.
The following are excerpts from Luskin’s remarks in presenting the
award to Chandra.
“In remembering Rabbi Swarsensky, we are here today to honor the
wondrous works of our honoree, Doctor Suresh Chandra, a
member of our Club since 1985.