A Lasting Legacy – The Inspiring Journey of Dr. Bhujang Shetty

Jun 15, 2023 | Blog, Eye Care

D r. K. Bhujang Shetty, a renowned ophthalmologist, revolutionized eye care and propelled India’s ophthalmic advancements onto the global stage. His unwavering commitment to excellence and compassion for the underprivileged has transformed countless lives and continues to inspire future medical professionals. This is the awe-inspiring life journey of Dr. Bhujang Shetty, a visionary trailblazer in the realm of eye care.

His Early Life

B orn in a humble village in the Kundapura taluk of Udupi district in 1953, Dr. Katkeri Bhujang Shetty’s life took him on a remarkable path that would lead him to extraordinary achievements. The first ten years of Dr. Shetty’s life were spent in his village, where his father ran a small provision shop. He studied in a Kannada-medium school and spent his free time playing with his friends and looking after his family’s cattle. His paternal uncle, Mr. Narayana Shetty was very enterprising and established a very successful construction company in the 1960s. During the summer of 1963, two brand-new trucks from his uncle’s company were brought to the village temple for blessings. Since his school was closed for the summer holidays, Dr. Shetty packed his clothes and hopped onto one of the trucks on its way back to his uncle’s house in Kargal, near Jog Falls. After a few days, a trip to Tirupathi was planned by his uncle and a few family friends. They happened to stop in Bangalore along the way where one of his uncle’s friends planned to enrol his son in Baldwin’s Boys High School. Dr. Shetty’s uncle, who saw him running around, decided to enrol him in the school as well.

His Formative Years of Education

T his chance visit to Tirupathi when spending the summer holidays in his uncle’s house in 1963 changed the entire course of Dr. Shetty’s life. Since he had studied in a Kannada medium school until then and could not speak English, the school authorities decided to place Dr. Shetty in the 1st standard at the age of 10. He was tutored in English during the holidays so that he could become proficient in the language. Though the transition of moving to the city from a village, living in a hostel, and studying in an English-medium convent school brought both challenges and cultural shocks, they also shaped Dr. Shetty’s character and resilience. Thanks to his academic brilliance, he got a couple of double promotions and passed out of 10th standard from Baldwins in the year 1970 with flying colours. He set a new record by bagging 7 of the 8 awards allocated to the graduating batch for his performance in sports and extracurricular activities during the school year. This accomplishment made Dr. Shetty realize that he could achieve whatever he set his mind to.

His Higher Education

S ince becoming a doctor was considered to be the best profession at that time, Dr. Shetty got a medical seat on merit at Bangalore Medical College in 1978. After completing his MBBS degree he went on to get a Masters’ degree in Ophthalmology from the Regional Institute of Ophthalmology, Minto Eye Hospital, in 1982. Fuelled by an insatiable thirst for knowledge and an unwavering zest for life, he fearlessly embarked on a Ph.D. journey in his late 60s, defying the notion that age could ever hinder the pursuit of the extraordinary.

Establishing Narayana Nethralaya

A lthough he modestly described himself as a “doctor by accident,” it was within the field of ophthalmology that Dr. Shetty found his true calling. After completing his M.S. in 1982, he established a small eye clinic in Devaiah Park in Bangalore and named it Narayana Nethralaya after his paternal uncle Mr. Narayana Shetty, who encouraged and supported him to study and become a doctor. He practised successfully at this clinic for 10 years and established the present-day advanced eye care institute – Narayana Nethralaya – at Rajajinagar in the year 1993. Dr. Bhujang Shetty’s steadfast commitment to providing accessible and quality eye care over the last four decades combined with a deep understanding of his patients’ needs has transformed Narayana Nethralaya into a renowned institution of excellence in the field of eye care. Under his leadership, the hospital has emerged as one of India’s premier tertiary eye-care centers, recognized for its clinical forte, cutting-edge technology, and commitment to serving the rural community. Dr. Shetty, who cared deeply about the well-being of his patients, encouraged NN’s doctors and staff to focus on patient education and awareness to help prevent eye diseases. A NABH-accredited institute, NN has been ranked as the best eye care provider in Karnataka consecutively for over a decade and ranks among the top five ophthalmic eye institutes in the country. Narayana Nethralaya also offers highly sought-after long and short-term training programs in clinical sciences and research projects, providing a comprehensive learning experience for aspiring postgraduates and fellows. As a reputable institution, NN plays a pivotal role in shaping the careers of future specialists and contributing to the advancement of medical knowledge and expertise.

His Passion for Research

I n addition to his clinical expertise, Dr. Shetty had a keen interest in research and made significant contributions to the field. His influential research papers, published in renowned medical journals, covering various topics continue to shape and inspire the medical community, leaving a lasting impact on the advancement of eye care. His belief that science and research are the best ways to give back better health to people led Narayana Nethralaya to invest heavily in Research and Development over the last few decades. This includes the Grow Lab (Genes, Repair & Regeneration in Ophthalmology Workstation), the IBMS (Imaging, Biomechanics, and Mathematical Modelling solutions), Narayana Nethralaya Institute of Molecular Diagnostics and Laboratory Services, NOVEL – Narayana Nethralaya’s research lab facility, and COPE – Narayana Nethralaya’s Center for Ocular Pathology and Education. Dr. Shetty felt that investing in research was necessary as it would benefit the next generation greatly. He made time once a week to meet with NN’s research team to discuss their progress about ongoing work and debate interesting new topics.

His Philanthropic Endeavours

2 Registered Public Charitable Trusts – Bhujang Shetty’s strong belief that all patients should receive the best possible eye care, irrespective of their financial background, saw the birth of two Not-For-Profit Health Care Organizations. They include:

1. The Narayana Nethralaya Foundation (NNF) – Established on 1st September, 2005, NNF strives to minimize visual impairment and its associated burdens by facilitating cutting edge translational research with a focus on personalized care and improved outcomes. The foundation aims to develop advanced treatment options for previously untreatable conditions, ultimately reducing the incidence and morbidity of visual impairments.

2. The Narayana Nethralaya Eye Foundation (NNEF) – Established on 31st January, 2018, NNEF is dedicated to providing free or discounted eye treatments and surgeries to the underprivileged, while also overseeing the operations of the Eye Bank. The foundation’s wide-ranging support includes initiatives such as Retinoblastoma services, the Pavagada Pediatric Eye Disease Study, Slum 10K, eye camps in rural schools, and surgical care for those unable to afford treatment. NNEF plays a vital role in ensuring that essential eye care is accessible to the poor and needy, promoting greater well-being and transforming lives.

A Visionary Champion of Eye Donation

Dr. Bhujang Shetty’s outstanding contributions to the field of healthcare extend far beyond his expertise in ophthalmology. He championed various causes throughout his lifetime and was an unwavering advocate for the noble cause of eye donation and transplantation within Karnataka. When doing his M.B.B.S. at Bangalore Medical College, Dr. Shetty realized that donor eyes were being procured from Sri Lanka for eye transplants. He felt that something had to be done to bridge the lack of donor eyes in India by creating awareness in the general public about the need for eye donation. In the year 1994, Dr. Shetty achieved a significant milestone by securing the support of the renowned Kannada actor, Dr. Rajkumar, towards the cause of eye donation in India. This momentous collaboration paved the way for the establishment of the Dr. Rajkumar Eye Bank at Narayana Nethralaya, with Dr. Rajkumar himself pledging to donate his eyes after his passing.Driven by an unwavering dedication to his cause, Dr. Shetty established another state-of-the-art eye bank with an international standard tissue banking facility at the Narayana Health City in 2008. The Shankar Anand Singh Eye Bank, which serves vast areas of South Bangalore, is a testament to Dr. Shetty’s commitment to expanding the reach of eye donation and transplantation. Thanks to Dr. Bhujang Shetty’s initiative, Narayana Nethralaya’s Eye Banks have contributed greatly to the availability of corneas for transplantation since their inception, and played a pivotal role in restoring vision to countless individuals with corneal disorders or damage, leaving an indelible impact. Dr. Bhujang Shetty may not be amongst us today, but his dedication towards the cause of eye donation and corneal transplants has been successfully transferred to the next generation of eye surgeons, who vow to uplift his passion to the highest possible level. The light he kindled in the hearts of the blind will continue to shine brightly, illuminating a path of hope for years to come.

  • KIDROP – Dr. Shetty, admired by all walks of people for his humanitarian work, was the driving force behind the KIDROP (Karnataka Internet Assisted Diagnosis of Retinopathy of Prematurity) program, which was initiated in 2007. KIDROP is India’s first and the world’s largest telemedicine program that tackles infant blindness caused by undetected Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) in premature infants through the innovative use of technology. This program which initially covered 3 hospitals in the under-served areas of rural Karnataka in 2007 is now able to support 177 neonatal intensive care units all over Karnataka. Approximately 1.5 lakh premature children have been screened for ROP to date and the KIDROP program has prevented blindness in over 3700 premature infants with ROP. The KIDROP program which has mentored several states in India and other countries has received various awards, making it one of the flagship programs of the nation.
  • Compassion for children with vision challenges – Dr. Shetty had a special place in his heart for children with vision problems as he believed that normal eyesight is very important for the overall development of a child. Treatment first, and payment later was his policy regarding eye care services for children. His kind-hearted and patient-centric approach to healthcare ensured that no child is denied treatment or surgery at NN for want of money. He also established Buds to Blossoms – Narayana Nethralaya’s centre for holistic Pediatric vision development which offers various therapies that are required for the overall development of children with CVI, autism and other conditions with learning disabilities.

  • Pioneering the Reversal of Diabetes – Bhujang Shetty achieved an extraordinary personal milestone by successfully reversing his diabetes, a condition he had lived with for over 25 years. During the Covid lockdown, he was able to research how to improve his health and concluded that there is no other medicine as powerful as food. He understood that the underlying causes of diabetes were insulin resistance, unhealthy eating habits, and poor lifestyle choices. Through profound changes in his diet and lifestyle, he was able to gradually bring his blood sugar levels under control, cut down on medication, and improved his overall health. His commitment to preventing diabetes-related vision complications and blindness in India and personal success with reversing the disease fuelled his passion to help other diabetics achieve the same outcome through nutritional reprogramming and lifestyle management. His deep-rooted belief that insulin resistance is the fundamental cause of various modern lifestyle ailments, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and infertility, encouraged him to establish the Reversing Diabetes Clinic (RDC) at Narayana Nethralaya’s branches in Rajajinagar and Electronic City.Dr. Shetty’s vision for the Reversing Diabetes Clinic at Narayana Nethralaya was to provide comprehensive diabetes care and raise awareness about managing and reversing the condition through transformative lifestyle modifications. He aimed to empower individuals with the knowledge and tools to take control of their health, offering them a chance to reverse their diabetes and improve their overall well-being. By emphasizing preventive measures and holistic approaches, Dr. Shetty sought to redefine the paradigm of diabetes care, shifting the focus from mere treatment to long-term disease management and reversal. Over the past two years, the RDC Clinic has already made a life-changing impact on thousands of individuals, guiding them toward reclaiming their health and well-being.

  • Narayana Devalaya – Motivated by immense gratitude for his professional and financial accomplishments, Dr. Shetty aspired to prevent avoidable blindness and give a new lease of life to visually challenged children and adults from underprivileged backgrounds. As a testament to his commitment to the community and his unwavering dedication to making a positive impact, he spearheaded the establishment of Narayana Devalaya, a five-storey eye hospital, spanning an impressive 40,000 square feet in Tumakuru, which was inaugurated in December 2022 under the auspices of NNEF. A pilot project of Narayana Nethralaya, this hospital is a unique, non-commercial, one-of-its-kind eye care facility in the country that provides advanced and quality eye care services to the needy and poor. BPL card holders and their family members can avail of cataract surgeries and refraction error corrections (children only) here, free of cost. Dr. Shetty hoped that Narayana Devalaya will be a model institution that will have a sizeable impact on blindness eradication among the rural poor and transform the lives of those in need.

His Awards and Recognition

D r. K. Bhujang Shetty, Founder Chairman and Managing Director of Narayana Nethralaya eye hospital in Bangalore and founder President of the Bangalore Ophthalmic Society was a respected figure in the field of ophthalmology. His commitment to excellence and innovation in healthcare throughout his illustrious career was widely acknowledged and recognized with numerous awards.

  • Dr. Shetty received the highest civilian award in Karnataka, the “Kannada Rajyotsava Award” in 2010, recognizing his outstanding contributions to society.
  • Additionally, he was bestowed with the “Kempegowda Prashashte” for his services rendered in the field, solidifying his significant impact on the medical community and his unwavering dedication to improving eye care for the people of Karnataka.
  • In 2018, he bagged the ‘Legend in Ophthalmology’ award at the Times Healthcare Achievers Award, while his institute, Narayana Nethralaya, was awarded the ‘Best Ophthalmology Hospital.’
  • The Innovator Award for Health Care by BIRAC, Department of Biotechnology, and Govt of India and the Distinguished National Board of Education Teacher Award recognized his expertise and ability to inspire and educate others.
  • Prestigious oration awards, such as the Dr. A. K. Grover Oration Award and the Dr. K. Subramanian Oration Award exemplify Dr Shetty’s profound knowledge and dedication to advancing the field through scholarly discourse.

His Literary Legacy

  • The Power of Love – Dr. Bhujang Shetty’s best-selling book, “Power of Love,” a pragmatic philosophy for everyday living, seamlessly weaves together the realms of science and spirituality, reminding us of our inherent connection to something greater. It delves into the healing power of love which is a driving force that can mend wounds and forge meaningful connections. Dr. Bhujang Shetty’s profound words in this book offer insights into how we can enhance our abilities through the sheer power of positive thinking and open the floodgates to abundance in all its forms. According to Dr. Shetty, whether it is financial prosperity, physical well-being, or spiritual fulfillment, the transformative potential lies within our own minds.
  • Diabetes No More – Before his untimely demise, he was penning his thoughts on how one could effectively manage diabetes and potentially reverse the condition by adopting a comprehensive approach that encompasses healthy eating habits, regular exercise, stress management, and adequate sleep. Reversing diabetes not only helps individuals achieve better blood sugar control but also reduces the risk of complications and enhances the overall quality of life. Through his advocacy for lifestyle modifications and a LCHF (low carbohydrate high fat) diet, Dr. Shetty hoped to revolutionize the healthcare system with a paradigm shift from the conventional curative approach to a proactive model focused on preventive care. He envisioned a healthier and brighter future for our nation by empowering individuals with the knowledge and tools needed to prevent diseases before they even occur. Dr. Shetty’s book, titled “Diabetes No More”, will be released shortly and made available to the general public.

His Work-Life Balance

D octors and professionals in the medical field often have demanding schedules due to patient care responsibilities, administrative duties, and the pursuit of continuing education and research. However, Dr. Bhujang Shetty was a shining example of how one can successfully achieve work-life balance despite having diverse interests and a demanding career. He embraced effective time management techniques and meticulously planned his schedule, allocating dedicated time for his various interests and responsibilities. By setting clear boundaries and establishing routines, he ensured that he could spend quality time with his family, pursue his hobbies, and efficiently manage his professional commitments every day. A person deeply attuned to spirituality, he emphasized the significance of holistic well-being as a fundamental pillar of modern medical practice. Loved and admired alike by patients and his hospital staff, Dr. Shetty was very approachable and welcomed everyone with a warm smile, be it a personal or professional concern. He demonstrated that with determination, a conscious effort, and a balanced mindset, it is indeed possible to excel in multiple areas of life while finding fulfillment and happiness along the way.

His Remarkable and Fulfilling Life

D r. Bhujang Shetty, an astute clinician, a gifted surgeon, a visionary leader, and an institution-builder, is no longer amongst us, but his impact is profound and enduring. Dr. Shetty demonstrated to the world that through “Simplicity” and “Humility,” one can make a profound impact on humanity. Beyond inspiring with his brilliance and unwavering dedication, he touched countless lives through his kindness and compassion. His dream of eradicating corneal blindness lives on as he selflessly donated his eyes, perpetuating his extraordinary legacy of bestowing the precious gift of sight upon others. May his legacy continue to ignite the minds of the youth and motivate forthcoming generations of ophthalmic professionals. His life journey serves as a beacon, reminding us that humble beginnings can lead to remarkable accomplishments with the right mix of education, determination, and an unwavering focus on excellence.


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