Dr. Victor C. Rambo

Victor Clough Rambo was born in India in 1894 to missionary parents and grew up there until he was about nine years old. Praying for God’s direction for his life, he found it in medicine, where his education was funded through relatives, scholarships and odd jobs. Challenged by the Student Volunteer Movement, Dr. Rambo surrendered his career to missions, turning down a prestigious opportunity to join the staff at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia where he had taken his training. When pressured by the staff to reconsider, Victor said, “I’m sorry, sir. I appreciate your confidence, but I have already committed myself to be a missionary. It’s a commitment I made to God. There will be no change.”

Rambo was assigned to India by the same mission board his father William Eagle Rambo had served under, and soon found his great passion in restoring sight to the blind, both physically and spiritually. However, Dr. Rambo, who would become one of the most famous eye doctors in the world because of his treatment of India’s eye diseases, had never removed a cataract. It was not part of his medical training in the United States. But in India, where so many eyes needed care, Dr. Rambo soon learned how, and later extended his studies in centers of ophthalmology in Philadelphia, Scotland, Austria and elsewhere.

With an estimated five million Indian people blind, Dr. Rambo put considerable thought in how to cure the largest numbers. One way to fix more eyes was to recruit more doctors. Another was to train medical students. As professor and surgeon at the Christian Medical Colleges in Vellore and Ludhiana and the Christian Hospital in Mungeli, Dr. Rambo did both. Sometimes he even held his students’ hands in his own to teach them the procedure.

One day an idea came to him. Why not hold eye “camps” in the villages, where the people were? Dr. Rambo’s team worked out a system. An advance man went to a village to advertise the camp. On the set day, the eye team arrived and cleaned out the school or church or factory where the surgery would take place. The eye team examined the patients to see who had cataracts or other eye diseases and tagged them to show what should be done. Before treatment began, patients and families were told that their eyes were being cured in the Name of Jesus. Sometimes Dr. Rambo tap-danced (on a table) to make people laugh and ease their fear of the knife. Then surgeries began. Often they would last until late at night. Families of the patients cared for them until discharge.

Thousands of Indians recovered their sight. Success rates were equivalent to those in American hospitals at that time. Rambo formed more eye teams and imitators opened eye camps in India and in other nations.

Among his public recognitions was the Kaisar I Hind Gold Medal for public service in India, given to him by Britain’s King George VI in 1947, as well as being made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh. He co-authored (with Arin Chatterjee) “The Curable Blind-Guide for Establishing and Maintaining Mobile Eye Hospitals”. He died in 1987, having served in India with his supportive wife, Louise, for 50 years.