It was hard not to use the word,vision,when V.K. Raju received West Virginia Universitys annual Martin Luther King Achievement Award today (Jan. 21) in Morgantown.

The local ophthalmologist regularly performs 25 corneal transplants and 4,000 surgeries to correct cataracts annually. On an average year, he sees close to 8,000 patients in his thriving practice in the University City.

Except in his case, theres really no such thing as anaverageyearand in his vocabulary, that abovementioned word,vision,comes into view with a focus thats decidedly not clinical.

Thats because Raju, who received his award at this mornings Unity Breakfast in honor of King, is just as much a humanitarian as he is a physician.

His work to improve eye care for people who might not ordinarily receive it puts him on the road regularly to all 55 counties in West Virginia and in airplane seats back and forth to his home country of India. He has also personally delivered care to war-torn Afghanistan.

Our community and our state are really blessed to have someone like Dr. Raju among us,said Todd McFadden, associate director of WVU s Center for Black Culture, which helps sponsor the award.

Like Dr. King, Dr. Raju is sharing his gifts with the world,he said.Sight is our most fundamental sense. When you talk about a �€~light in the darkness,it just takes on an amazing, literal meaning with Dr. Raju.

Raju is a native of Rajahmundry, India, a southern city that boasts one of the countrys longest railway bridges to go with its 56 other spans.

Coming from a city of bridges is appropriate for the physician who provides several links for patients and doctors. Over the years, hes performed close to 15,000 volunteer medical operations in India to help restore sight to children and adults who had theirs seriously compromised by way of war and illness.

In 1993, he and a childhood friend, Chandra Sanurathri, founded Indias Srikiran Institute, an enterprise that has cared for 400,000 patients while also offering valuable training opportunities to some 200 ophthalmologists who have completed residencies there.

Raju also helped organize The Eye Foundation of America, which provides fellowships for physicians at clinics in developing counties while forming its own research in the fight against blindness. The organization over the years has also made donations to the Navajo Indians Foundation, West Virginia Eye Institute and West Virginia Eye Bank.

He has received several awards for his work, including the Outstanding Humanitarian Award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology and a Gold Medal from the A.P. Ophthalmological Society in India.

Delegate Charlene Marshall counts herself as both a patient and friend of Raju.

He has unselfishly improved the quality of life for thousands of people across the world,she said.He embodies every principle that Dr. King hoped for us and wanted for us as a society. His vision is Dr. Kings vision, too.

While the word,vision,shares multiple definitions in Rajus experience, Marshalls use ofunselfishly,easily applies both to him and student Yolanda Wiggins, who received WVU s Martin Luther King Scholarship Award.

Shes a political science major from Hyattsville, Md., who balances her full class schedule with volunteer work at the Mountaineer Boys and Girls Club, Bartlett House, Sundale Nursing Home, Rosenbaum House and Ronald McDonald House.

Wiggins also serves on the Council of Womens Concerns and is active as a WVU Gold and Blue Ambassador. In addition, shes the secretary of the Residence Hall Association.

Raju said that a college student with that much outreach experience is already doing whats hes spent his life and career learning to do, which is simply seeing the best in people and circumstances, no matter what.

He summed up that philosophy for a reporter in a 2006 newspaper profile with a quote from a poem.

If there is some good,he said,make that good a little better.