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Successful Saligaokars around the globe

by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

Saligaokars have made their mark in various fields and professions in different parts of the world. Right now, I’d like to highlight the achievements of four such successful Saligaokars - O D’Mello, Gracias Saldanha, Justin Francis and Dr Lyndon da Cruz.

O D’Mello

First up is O D’Mello. He has been in government service and was the Postmaster General of Rajasthan during much of the 1970s. Subsequently he was transferred as Postmaster General of Maharashtra and Goa. However, his daughter Janet, who studied dentistry at Grant Medical College in Mumbai, chose to settle down in Jaipur after marriage.

Gracias Saldanha

graciasaldanhaIn the midst of grave reports of downturns and slowdowns and meltdowns in the world economic order, there is the heartening news that a Goan with roots in Saligao, Gracias Saldanha, featured in the US-based Forbes magazine list of the world’s richest persons at No 785, at the end of last year. He’s also the 38th richest in India with a net worth of Rs 4,000 crore. Saldanha founded Glenmark Pharmaceuticals in 1977 and was at its helm until 2001. He is currently the chairman and non-executive director at Glenmark. He holds a Masters degree in Science from Bombay University and a Diploma in Management Studies from the Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai. Prior to setting up Glenmark, he worked with a number of multinational pharma companies from 1964 to 1977. If my memory serves me right, Mr & Mrs Gracias Saldanha and family celebrated the feast of Mae de Deus in 2004.

Justin Francis

In 2003, I received a newspaper cutting from a friend working for a daily in Goa. It was about young Justin Francis, with ancestry in Saligao, doing Goa proud in Canada. Justin was honoured with the Spirit of the Capital Youth Award at the Ottawa Congress Centre. His resume of success is as robust as his inventory of musical instruments. Justin Francis is the son of Fiona Francis and Glen Francis, hailing from Saligao. Justin was born in Canada and brought up in Canada.  “It was a huge surprise for me to get the award, it was a shock,” said 17-year-old Justin, quoted in the report. He has travelled from Toronto to China pursuing his passion for music.

He started playing the piano at the age of three. He played the double bass for about six years and can also play the guitar and electric bass. Beyond Justin’s musical endeavours, the teenager aspires to pursue a career in neurology. Justin believes in one theory: “If you have a dream, work hard and you’ll get there.”  This is a story from the year 2003.  We are now in 2009. How far has Justin Francis progressed since then? Do drop me a line or write in a comment if you can fill us in!

Lyndon da Cruz

LyndonIt was refreshing to read in the Times of India, Goa edition dated February 23, 2009, the news item “Goan doc pioneers bionic eye”. A UK-based ophthalmologist of Goan origin, Dr Lyndon da Cruz, son of Albert and Florinda da Cruz from Cruz-vaddo in Saligao and Perth Australia, is credited with conducting the first three successful operations to implant artificial electronic retinal devices in the eyes of the blind.  The device is called a bionic eye.

On a visit to his grandfather’s house in Saligao recently, the 44-year-old University of Australia graduate told the Times of India that he was also part of another project – the pioneering work of transplanting stem cell-derived retinal cells for restoring sight to the blind patients.  Both projects are at the trial stage.

Da Cruz is chief investigator and surgeon for bionic eye implants in London.  There are a total of 18 bionic eye implant operations that have been done all over the world, including 12 in the USA and Mexico and six in Europe.  Da Cruz has done all three bionic operations in Britain. Says da Cruz in the report, “Since these patients were totally blind, after the operation they don’t see like you and I do.  But they receive light to see where objects are, so they can navigate without the need of a stick or guide dog.”

Da Cruz explains that bionic eyes are a pair of video glasses to capture objects that wirelessly transmit the signal to the device implanted in the eye. The device stimulates the residual retina to generate a signal which the optic nerve carries to the brain. The trials will continue for three years. If doctors can prove that patients benefit from the bionic eye, the device will become widely available, according to da Cruz.

Da Cruz is also working on another revolutionary project – transplanting stem cell-derived retinal pigment epithelium cells into patients suffering from age-related macular degeneration (AMD).  Da Cruz said, “We have succeeded in turning stem cells into retinal pigment epithelium cells.  These are presently being tested in animals to see if they are safe and stable to be implanted into humans who have lost those cells due to diseases.”

Da Cruz, who was born in Mombassa, Kenya, migrated with his family to Australia where he studied medicine, obtained eye surgery training and eventually a doctorate in gene therapy. In the UK, he trained further in retinal surgery.

Many years ago, while I was attending a Portuguese literature class at the Saligao Seminary, our erudite professor of Portuguese was explaining to us a literary work of the famous Portuguese author Camilo Castelo Branco (1825-1890) called ‘Amor de Perdição (Love of Perdition).  Suddenly he stopped, and pointing to yours truly said, “Here is a story for you!”

“Camilo Castelo Branco had a history of failing vision and as a last resort consulted Professor Dr. Cláudio Caetano António Júlio Raimundo da Gama Pinto (1853-1945), the internationally famous ophthalmologist from Saligao who had consulting rooms in the Instituto de Oftalmologia de Lisboa (renamed in 1929 as Instituto de Oftalmologia Gama Pinto) in Lisbon.  After Branco’s eyes were examined, Dr. Gama Pinto informed the author he could never be cured. Highly distressed, the famous literary romanticist committed suicide soon after.

While in Portugal, visiting the Institute of Ophthalmology Gama Pinto, I met with a number of senior ophthalmologists at the Institute (Travessa de Larga, 2, Rua do Passadico, 37, 1169-019 Lisboa), but none could either confirm or refute this story of the link between the diagnosis and the suicide of Branco.

Nevertheless, a century later, another ophthalmologist with roots in Saligao, Lyndon Da Cruz, has pioneered the bionic eye, potentially providing rays of hope and light to many with impaired eyesight.

8 comments on Successful Saligaokars around the globe

  • I am glad to read about the connection between Camilo Castelo Branco (1825-1890) and the Goan ophthalmologist Dr.Cláudio Caetano António Júlio Raimundo da Gama Pinto (1853-1945). I do not remember what our Professor of Portuguese language and Portuguese literature, Fr.Manuel Filinto Cristo Dias, said about Camilo Castelo Branco. But while reading his biographies, I found the following in http://www.prof2000.pt/users/fmcmeschol/BibliografiaDeCamiloCasteloBranco.htm:
    “Com a colaboração de Ana Plácido funda e dirige em 1868 a Gaseta Literária do Porto. Nesse mesmo ano reconhece a loucura do seu filho Jorge e os sintomas de cegueira agravam-se cada vez mais.
    O que o leva a deslocar-se, em 1886 e em 1887, a Lisboa em busca da cura para a cegueira que se avizinha. Por iniciativa de João de Deus, Camilo recebe em Lisboa no dia do seu aniversário a consagração de escritores, artistas e estudantes. Em 23 de Dezembro é visitado pelo destronado Imperador do Brasil, D. Pedro II. Depois da visita do oftalmologista Dr. Edmundo Magalhães Machado, a 1 de Junho de 1890, Camilo suicida-se com um tiro na cabeça.” Also in http://www.tertuliabibliofila.blogspot.com: “Depois da visita do oftalmologista Dr. Edmundo Magalhães Machado, a 1 de Junho de 1890, Camilo suicida-se com um tiro na cabeça, na freguesia de Ceide, Vila Nova de Famalicão.”
    I found also in http://pt.wikipedia.org the following: “Camilo passa os últimos anos da sua vida ao lado de Ana Plácido, não encontrando a estabilidade emocional por que ansiava. As dificuldades financeiras, e os filhos dão-lhe enormes preocupações: considera Nuno irresponsável e Jorge sofre de uma doença mental. A progressiva e crescente cegueira (causada pela sífilis), impede Camilo de ler e de trabalhar capazmente, o que o mergulha num enorme desespero. Camilo Castelo Branco, depois da consulta a um oftalmologista que lhe confirmara a gravidade do seu estado, em desespero desfere um tiro de revólver na têmpora direita, ás 15h15 de 1 de Junho de 1890, acabando por morrer às 17h00 desse mesmo dia.”
    I do not know know how to reconcile or assess the historical data, which are divergent in our accounts ( was it when he was 37 years old? He died at the age of 92).
    Anyway, we cannot solve the riddle. Let us appreciate our Goan physicians!

  • I came to know from my classmate, Fr.Nascimento Jose Mascarenhas, that my co-villager, Dr.Paulo Ramalho Sousa, who is presently the Director of the Ophthalmological Insitute Dr.Gama Pinto, has given him the information, anmely that the ophthalmologist who told Camilo Castelo Branco that he would become blind, was none other than our Goan Dr.Claudio da Gama Pinto. I do not have data to verify the information given by Dr.Paulo Ramalho and do not know how to reconcile these two divergent statements…

  • giuseppina Guarino

    Ho conosciuto a Londra il Prof. Da Cruz. Spero che iniziata la sperimentazione delle staminali per la retina,possa anch’io sottopormi.La mia RETINITE MIOPICA, purtroppo va avanti,il mio campo visivo si va sempre piu’ restringendo.Mi auguro di essere fortunata e non raggiungere la cecita’ totale.
    Guarino Giuseppina (Palermo)

  • Rudy Fernandes

    It is gratifying to read about the “Successful Saligaonkars around the Globe”. May I share with your readers the outstanding success of another son of Saligao, Dr Colin Saldanha, son of Alex and Ophelia Saldanha of Karachi, originally from Ararim, Saligao.

    Dr Saldanha has many accomplishments to his credit and for which he has received numerous awards. A recent one is the prestigeous Gordon S Shipp Memorial Award for being named Mississauga’s Citizen of the year 2010. The transcript from the Mississauga News reads as under:

    “Top citizens recognized

    Top dad. The Mississauga Real Estate Board and The Mississauga News hosted the 2010 Civic Awards Reception at the Civic Centre today. (Dr. Colin Saldanha, 2010 Mississauga Citizen of the Year with his family, from left, sons Jason and Warren, wife Sheila and daughter Diane.)

    Four citizens who epitomize the spirit of community service and volunteerism were feted today at the 2010 Civic Awards reception at City Hall. The annual awards are presented by the Mississauga Real Estate Board and The Mississauga News.

    Dr. Colin Saldanha received the Gordon S. Shipp Memorial Award as Mississauga’s Citizen of the Year.

    A general practitioner, Saldanha, 56, immigrated from Pakistan in 1981 and has run a busy medical practice for the last 20 years. He has become the leader of almost every organization he has been involved with, including The Peel Multicultural Council, the Police Services Board, Safe and Sober Driving Coalition, Mississauga Board of Trade and the United Way of Peel.
    Saldanha says he was overwhelmed when he heard he had been chosen for the award, named in honour of the late senior member of the Shipp clan and one of Mississauga’s building pioneers.
    “As an immigrant to this country, there’s not enough ways to say ‘thank you,’ and I find the (volunteer) work very rewarding,” he said. “When people ask me why I do the things I do, I say I think it’s my deep Christian faith to give back, my upbringing and my sense of gratitude to Canada.” jchin@mississauga.net

    Dr Colin Saldanha was also the winner of the Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award 2009. Despite being a very busy medical practitioner he makes the time to serve societal needs. Dr. Saldanha’s community involvement includes serving as Vice Chair of the United Way of Peel and Chair of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce Health Policy Committee and the Mississauga Board of Trade. Previously he served as President of the Peel Multicultural Council, Vice Chair of the Peel Police Services Board, Vice President and President of the Canadian Association of Police Board, and President and Chair of the Mississauga Board of Trade. The list goes on and on – thanks to Dr Saldanha’s amazing commitment to community, country, church and family.

    We are “Proud out Loud” of the many fine contributions to society made by Dr Colin Saldanha, a son of Saligao, to the fabric of Canada – a great country we lovingly now call home.

    Rudy Fernandes

  • Francis D’Souza
    Anchor & Reporter, CityNews

    Francis caught the television bug after being selected from Citytv’s Lunch Television audience to perform the opening announcement on Queen Street. Now, Francis is at Citytv in a more “permanent” capacity delivering the news that Torontonians need to know, weeknights on CityNews!

    Francis loves telling the stories of the people that make up this vibrant city. Some of his most memorable moments at Citytv include anchoring the newscast that won the 2008 RTNDA Charlie Edwards Award for best spot news and delivering live extended coverage outside on the street during a December snowstorm that paralyzed the city. Francis has also received awards from the Toronto Fire Services and Toronto Crimestoppers to commend him on his news reporting.

    Growing up in the western part of the GTA in the city of Mississauga, Francis is an alumnus of Ryerson University holding a B.A. in Radio and Television Arts. Prior to joining Citytv, Francis was an anchor with CTV in Northern Ontario and hosted Plugged In! on Rogers Television.

    Francis is involved with many charities including Daily Bread, Peel Children’s Aid, Peel Victims Services, and Big Brothers and Big Sisters, to name a few. Francis is also a journalism instructor at Sheridan College and still makes ample time to spend with his wife Mi Seong, and their son Corey. From watching the sunset over the Taj Mahal to swinging on vines in Venezuela’s Amazon jungle – Francis is a devoted traveler and is always up for a new adventure!

    (Francis is the son of Colleen & Oswald D’Souza of Arrarim)

  • Dear Rudy,
    Happy New Year 2012 to you and yours My prayers and thoughts are with you.
    Thank you so much for sharing with us regarding our ganv-bhav Dr.Colin Saldanha from Arrarim de Saligao/Karach/ Mississauga. We were proud of him for being awarded prizes for his dedicated work over there. Thank you forletting us know about Dr. Collin I will personally congratulate him as you were kind enough to give me his e-mail address.
    I surely knew you in Saligao and also at Mater Dei. More recently I was happy to read the book GOA MASALA and your Foreword to the book as well as ths story on Dr. Rodolfo de Melo, entitled ” A Day to Remember” The book is a facinating one with contributions of so many Canadian Goan.I congratulate you also for putting the stories of so many Canadian Goenkars in book form. My thoughts and warm wishes are with them and with their families I wish them a Grace-filled, Healthy and Peaceful New Year I hope we will have many such books in future too
    May God bless all your endevours. Kindly pray for us . Thanks, fr. nascimento mascarenhas

  • Dear Kevin,
    Thank you very much for letting us know about Mr. Francis D’Souza, son of Colleen and Oswald D’Souza from Arrarim de Saligao, being the Anchor and Reporter, City News overthere. Please send me his e-mail address so that I can congratulate him personally. A happy New Year to you and yours. Much love, fr. nascimento mascarenhas.

  • cedric Carvalho

    Happy to read about these accomplished Canadian Saligaokars as I take on the mantle of celebrating the Saligao Mae De Deus social in May 2018.

    I would like to showcase these famous Saligaokars and appreciate folks emailing me other Saligaokars creating inspirational ripples on the global stage.

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