2018 Manfred E. Swarsensky Award
Providing Sight to Others
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
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 care.”
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 play.
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 award
|Dr. Suresh Chandra Receives Manfred E. Swarsensky Humanitarian Service
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
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.
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