Creating a Legacy of Support
Throughout my career, I have strived to create and introduce sustainable and innovative methods of support. Through organisations such as the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute, Future Bionics and the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation, I have been able to build a lasting legacy of support in various parts of the world.
In The Beginning
Before I partnered with Dr Sanduk Ruit and created the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation, I, alongside my family, created the Tej Kohli Foundation. The goal of the Foundation was to support people using grassroots methods and intervention.
The first incarnation of the Tej Kohli Foundation was Funda Kohli in Costa Rica. Funda Kohli set up canteens across the country to support children and ensure they recieved a healthy and nutritious meal. Over the last 15+ years we have fed thousands of children and had a positive and significant impact on the community. With no plans to stop, Funda Kohli will continue to serve those in need.
In Pursuit of Technology
As I have discussed many times before, I am a passionate technologist, meaning that I believe in and support innovation. Taking this passion one step further was my investment into Bristol-based company Open Bionics. This is what began the Tej Kohli Future Bionics branch of my Foundation.
Future Bionics saw several children and teenagers receive a bionic prosthetic arm or the ‘Hero Arm” completely funded by the Tej Kohli Foundation. The Open Bionics ‘Hero Arm’, is controlled by electrical signals generated by a user’s muscles to create a multi-grip functionality enabling users to perform everyday activities.
Having this kind of ability means that the user is much more capable of performing tasks without the support of peers or family. The goal was to give the children a sense of independance and pride surrounding their arm. Each user is also able able to personalise their arm which is a huge boost to mental well-being and self-image.
You can watch our YouTube mini-series featuring Future Bionics recipient Gracie McGonigal below:
Never Out of Sight
The Tej Kohli Foundation also began to place a large emphasis on eyesight, especially in impoverished areas of the world. Kicking the eyesight journey off was the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute. This initially set up in 2015 at the LV Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad — a WHO (World Health Organisation) centre that is a global leader in development of preventative medicine and corneal transplants.
Following this, the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute went onto to perform over 43,000 surgeries, tend to 223,404 outpatients and collect 38,225 donor corneas. Of those collected corneas, 22,176 were used in surgeries to cure people of corneal blindness.
Whilst the Tej Kohli Corneal Institute was mainly for curing patients, we also published 202 research papers and trained over 150 clinicians. With the institute, we quickly learned that it was significantly cheaper to cure patients using donated corneas in comparison to synthetic ones. Utislising this method meant creating our own eyebank infrastructure. Creating somnewhere to safely store the donated corneas was vital to keeping this method of surgery alive. Supporting the creation of this meant that the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute can now serve as the blueprint for a sustainable method of surgery for many others to adopt.
With the work powering on in India, we also understood the importance of creating a network elsewhere which dedicated to researching new treatment methods. The research network was set up in the UK and gave grants to technoligoical and scientific projects that were finding ways to fight corneal blindness. One of the first projects funded by the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute was a treatment for eye pain using painkillers within contact lenses to reduce the need to opioid prescriptions.
Staying true to the core of what I believe, the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute also reached out to rural and hard to reach areas in India. It is estimated that 66% of Indians live in isolated, rural areas away from the built-up cities. Rather than have those brought to the Institute, we reached out to them with make-shift operating theatres built into diagnostics vans. It has always been, and still is, my belief that no one should suffer needlessly because of their geographical location or economic situation.
The Forgotten Children
A big part of the work I do is to try and disengage the power that stigmas carry. One key example of this was the Tej Kohli Foundations work with Indian children suffering from a rare genetic condition Xeroderma pigmentosum (XP). The XP Impact Initiative sought to highlight the difficulties faced by these children and how their lifes were negatively effected by the condition.
To shed light on the individuals affected, a short film alongside a photography series was published. We worked closely with the creators and The Telegraph to bring attention to these forgotten children. The film that was created was titled “Father Will I See Again?” which was accompanied by a series of photographs taken by renowend photographer Simon Townsley.
To find out more about Xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) and the Tej Kohli Foundation’s involvement read here:
India’s Forgotten XP Children
At 8PM BST today documentary film ‘Father Will I See Again?’ will premiere online on YouTube at…
The Partnership of a Lifetime
Towards the beginning of 2021, the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation was formed. This was created by a partnership, now friendship, between myself and the world reknowned opthamologist Dr Sanduk Ruit. Also known as the ‘God of sight’, Dr Ruit has cured thousands upon thousands of cataract blindness over the course of his career.
Dr Ruit, originally being from the mountains of Nepal, has dedicated his life to curing those of cataract blindness in some of the most isolated regions of the world. Now, partnering with myself, he has gone onto cure thousands in Nepal, Bhutan and Ghana. The work that we have done has grown and grown over the last year and so far the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation has cured over 23,000 people of needless blindness and plan to cure between 300,000 and 500,000 by 2030.
Curing blindness is part of the goal to contribute towards ahceiving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #1 — which is to eradicate extreme poverty everywhere by 2030. With such a big goal ahead of us we pride the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation on being ambitious, sustainable and devoted to our cause.
Much like the work of the Tej Kohli Foundation, we aim to leave a lasting legacy in the countries we visit. This is achieved by training local medical staff in Dr Ruit’s seven minute cataract removal surgery. The innovative technique allows a patient to be cured of cataract blindness within seven minutes and for less than $50. Curing blindness has also been shown to improve the economic production of the individual by 1500% within the first postoperative year.
Many of those who live in the underserved and isolated regions are unable to work or earn a sufficient living meaning they cannot afford medical treatments. More often than not, the patients are unable to access medical centres or hospitals to seek out prevention or cure. This is why the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation travels to difficult to reach areas and cure patients for free.