B.G. GOKULAN

India,

Dr. B G Gokulan is reviving the ancient medical science of ayurvedic ophthalmology to make eye care affordable and accessible to the world. He started his pioneering work to popularize clinical ayurvedic ophthalmology in 1990, a time when this was ignored by the medical fraternity, modern research, corporates and the Government.

This profile below was prepared when B.G. Gokulan was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1994.

Fellow Sketch 

Dr. B G Gokulan is reviving the ancient medical science of ayurvedic ophthalmology to make eye care affordable and accessible to the world. Over the last 24 years, he has pioneered and popularized clinical ayurvedic ophthalmology amongst the medical fraternity, Government and the public in India. 

Headquartered at Thiruvalla, Kerala, Gokulan has been sharing his research and associated activities with other medical groups and institutions to increase the visibility and acceptance of ayurvedic eye care. Through partnerships with local modern hospitals and clinics across South India as well as Mumbai, Dr. Gokulan is scaling to make it accessible. While he consults at partner hospitals and clinics treating patients, he also trains paramedics and junior doctors who are interested to learn this ancient medical science. He feels its important to spend as much time learning from theory as much in practice. While, building acceptance amongst the medical fraternity, he is also, piecing together the supply side infrastructure through trainings. At his Sudarshanam School of Ayurveda Nursing and Panchakarma, paramedics and junior doctors undergo special training in ayurvedic eye care. A one year diploma course in Ayurvedic Nursing and Panchakarma is also taught to paramedics. 

Over the last two decades, Dr. Gokulan  has directly treated about 30,000 patients and impacted more than 50000 patients indirectly. People are now more aware about the safety and possibilities of Ayurveda in various non-surgical treatments. To further scale his impact, Dr. Gokulan is now involved in a one year long pioneering clinical research in association with Retina India and few modern partner hospitals to explore the possibilities of ayurvedic ophthalmology with the modern medical fraternity as well as global mass thus gaining global acceptance. Dr. Gokulan plans to increase the number of modern partner hospitals to be able to reach out to a larger public mass. 

Note: This was updated in December, 2013. Read on for the ELECTION profile.

INTRODUCTION

"Gokulan," as he is known, is improving the access to and quality of ophthalmology in India by re-introducing traditional preventive eye care methods.




THE NEW IDEA

Gokulan, who possesses a thorough knowledge of both traditional and modern medical practices, is creating a new field of health care in India by providing accessible, location specific, and cost-effective eye care.

Dr. Gokulan, whose title was earned through seven years of study of the ancient discipline of ayurvedic medicine, is demonstrating ways to avoid expensive diagnostic, treatment, and surgical procedures by using ayurvedic ophthalmologic preventative and curative practices. These practices can halt the progression of cataracts and other common eye ailments without resorting to surgery or expensive medical treatments.

Dr. Gokulan is systematically documenting and reviving a broader range of ayurvedic methods than is currently used, while training motivated and interested students and graduates of both ayurvedic and modern medicine in these cost-effective methods. This training enables poor and disadvantaged communities to access primary eye care for conditions such as night blindness, conjunctivitis and myopia, as well as cataracts.




THE PROBLEM

In India, there is a great need to supplement modern medical practices with ones that emphasize preventive care and that do not depend on high technology inputs, specialized practitioners, and costly intervention techniques. The high cost of surgery or treatment for eye disease is prohibitive to most Indians, especially to those in rural areas and small communities where specialized medical personnel are not available to treat these patients.

Ayurvedic medicine, which is low-cost and accessible, has fallen into disuse with the rise of modern medicine and doctors are often suspicious of these practices. None of the formal medical schools offers ayurvedic training as a part of its curriculum. Unfortunately, many components of the ayurvedic method of treatment have been lost over the years, and few documented case studies on the efficacy of ayurvedic medicine have been disseminated or published.




THE STRATEGY

Dr. Gokulan is first working to collect and document many of the traditional texts on ayurvedic ophthalmology. This research provides him with material to present to his medical colleagues, as well as serving as a more developed resource base for ayurvedic practitioners.

As the second part of his strategy, Dr. Gokulan is using these texts and his practical experience to train para-medical practitioners and doctors in regenerative and preventive ayurvedic eye care. These doctors and practitioners from around the country then help spread his methodology to other communities.

He is further building a network of health and social service organizations in rural areas that help create an awareness of the ayurvedic alternative for health care. These organizations help to carry out public education programs in schools and villages that made ayurvedic methods accessible and attractive to the general population.




THE PERSON

Encouraged by his mother, who was a practitioner of traditional medicine, Dr. Gokulan became interested in this field at a very early age. After studying the field for seven years, he chose to specialize in the area of traditional ophthalmology, continuing his studies under one of the very few remaining practitioners in this field. He has also studied modern diagnostics with a prominent ophthalmologist.