Vadrevu "VK" Raju, MD, FRCS, FACS, is a surgeon and humanitarian who is a university professor and founder and director of the Eye Foundation of America (EFA).
Dr. Raju was born and raised in Rajahmundry in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. During the late 1940s and 1950s, Dr. Raju completed his basic education in Rajahmundry. He went to medical school at Andra University in Visakhapatnam, earning a M.B.B.S. With aspirations to study in London, he completed an ophthalmology residency and fellowship at the Royal College of Surgeons. He trained in corneal transplant surgery. He also holds a D.O. degree from the University of London and is a Board Certified Ophthalmologist in the American Board of Ophthalmology. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS) and of the American College of Surgeons (FACS).
In 1976, Dr. Raju was offered an assistant professorship at West Virginia University. He is now a Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at West Virginia University. He lectures at various universities across the United States and abroad serves as an adjunct professor at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
In the late 1970s, Dr. Raju began to focus on treating children with vision problems in underserved areas of the world. In his interview, Dr. Raju tells the story of Srinu Maddula, who was born blind. In 1985, Dr. Raju brought Maddula to Morgantown for corneal transplants in both eyes. The surgery was successful. Maddula went on to earn a doctorate in pharmacy from Rutgers University and enjoy a career as a chief executive officer of a healthcare organization. Maddula has paid it forward by becoming a benefactor to the Eye Foundation of America.
Dr. Raju founded the Eye Foundation of America (EFA), a charitable organization that provides eye care for children in developing countries. The mission of the EFA is to cure childhood blindness and make eye care affordable and accessible, especially in rural areas of developing countries where there is little medical care or healthcare is prohibitively expensive. Not only does the EFA provide free or subsidized treatment in remote areas, but the organization has engaged in health education, practitioner training and research efforts that have advanced the visual health of millions of people. Dr. Raju also helped found two hospitals in India, the Srikiran Eye Institute and the Goutami Eye Institute in his hometown.
The EFA offers services in dozens of nations globally, including India, Afghanistan, Ghana and Iraq. The EFA manages eye camps and masonry hospitals, trains medical personnel, and educates communities on preventative care and healthy lifestyle choices. Education is central to the mission of EFA. Training creates a pipeline of doctors to carry forward the work of the EFA at the present and in the future.
The reach of the EFA has been extensive. "Changing children’s lives since 1979" is the motto of the EFA on its website. Dr. Raju emphasizes the importance of public health and prevention. He has been involved with the distribution of Vitamin A to children, which is important for vision and also for a robust immune system. He also has been active in efforts to raise awareness about diabetes. In terms of treatment, the EFA has conducted over three-and-a-half million vision screening and more than 350,000 corrective surgeries. The foundation has prescribed over 18,000 pairs of glasses for children and has treated thousands of children with eye diseases caused by prematurity. The EFA's website can be found at https://eyefoundationofamerica.org/.
During the COVID-19 shutdown in the spring of 2020, Dr. Raju shifted his focus to writing. Currently, he is writing two books about the philosophy of Hinduism. Over the course of his career, Dr. Raju has authored more than three hundred papers, one hundred publications and seventeen book chapters. He is the co-author of Musings on Medicine, Myth, and History: India's Legacy, along with his daughter.
Dr. Raju is the recipient of many international honors and awards. In 2008, he received the Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award. Given annually by the University of West Virginia, the award recognizes the contributions of a humanitarian who acts "as a change agent for an inclusive and equal society for all people." This award stands as one of the most meaningful to Dr. Raju because of the inspiration that Martin Luther King drew from another of Dr. Raju's hero's, Mahatma Gandhi.
The Rutgers Oral History Archives received an operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State. In the 2021-2022 cycle, this grant assisted the ROHA staff in making this oral history available to you for your use.