“The ASCRS Foundation and the Moran Eye Center is uniquely qualified in its ability to mobilize a top notch international outreach team”, said David F. Chang MD, an ASCRS Past President and International Committee Chair of the ASCRS Foundation.
Fairfax, Virginia (PRWEB) August 26, 2015
Presidential candidate, ophthalmologist and senator, Rand Paul, MD, joined the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS) Foundation and the University of Utah’s John A. Moran Eye Center on a weeklong surgical mission in Haiti, beginning on August 17. Moran Eye Center physicians have been working in Haiti since 2012. The collaborative team performed 200 sight-restoring surgeries while working with local clinicians to improve care in an isolated region of the Caribbean island.
“There is a high rate of preventable blindness in Haiti, but also a real opportunity to improve eye care,” said Randall J. Olson, MD, CEO of the John A. Moran Eye Center, Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, and an ASCRS Binkhorst Medal Lecturer and member. “This is the second ASCRS Foundation-Moran Eye Center mission that Sen. Paul has joined, and we are thrilled that he is helping us to bring further awareness to this epidemic.”
A Nation in Need
Haiti has a high rate of blindness, largely due to the strong tropical sun and a lack of available healthcare. The team will work in a region that has approximately 800,000 citizens, but only five ophthalmologists, making it difficult for those in need to get even basic treatment. Part of the mission is to provide advanced surgical training to physicians at a local clinic, which employs four of the region’s five ophthalmologists.
“It has been a joy to work with the Haitian staff and physicians. They are incredibly dedicated to their patients and to improving eye care in Haiti,” said glaucoma specialist Craig Chaya, MD, Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the Moran Eye Center.
The clinic’s model uses fees from paying patients (who pay for their care on a sliding scale depending on income) to subsidize charitable care for patients in dire need, and about 30 percent of surgeries are performed free. However, the clinic is understaffed, and there is a major backlog of very low-income patients who would benefit from surgery. Two hundred of these patients, who are suffering from cataracts, will have their sight restored for free, next week.
The long-term goal in Haiti is to create a second ophthalmology residency program for Haitian medical students, allowing the country to graduate more eye doctors. Beginning in 2016, the Moran Eye Center will also begin sponsoring fellowship training for a graduate of Haiti’s only current ophthalmology residency program. The selected Haitian ophthalmologist will receive further training in a specific area of care, such as glaucoma, which afflicts nearly one-third of the nation’s residents.
The Solution Lies in Training More Ophthalmologists
The global impact of blindness is staggering. Ninety percent of the world’s 39 million blind individuals live in poverty in developing countries. For every blind person, 2.5 individuals are lost from the workforce as others must stop work or school to care for their vision-impaired relatives. The loss of productivity adds up to $2.7 trillion each year.*
Four out of five blind people could be cured; however, many parts of the world don’t have enough physicians to reach all patients in need. Combined, the ASCRS Foundation and the Moran Eye Center physicians perform thousands of free surgeries, each year, for patients in the United States, Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. Additionally, they provide training and equipment, and bring more than a dozen international surgeons to the U.S. for advanced training.
“Our goal is to help physicians in developing countries provide care that is equivalent to what patients would receive at a first-rate hospital in the United States. We seek out talented and dedicated young ophthalmologists in underserved areas and help build the skills they need to deliver high-quality care after we’ve left. Our focus is on spreading knowledge and helping the people who are already providing care in these communities to become leaders and teachers themselves,” said Alan S. Crandall, MD, Co-director of the Moran Eye Center Outreach Division, Senior Vice-chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, and an ASCRS Best Paper Session (BPOS) winner and member.
“The ASCRS Foundation and the Moran Eye Center is uniquely qualified in its ability to mobilize a top notch international outreach team”, said David F. Chang MD, an ASCRS Past President and International Committee Chair of the ASCRS Foundation, which is co-sponsoring the trip. “When Sen. Paul approached our organization in 2014 about planning a charitable international surgical trip, we recommended having the Moran Eye Center organize it,” Dr. Chang said. “Widely acknowledged as having one of the best international divisions among academic ophthalmology departments in the U.S., the Moran Eye Center is able to mobilize an entire team of volunteer surgeons, nurses, and coordinators to do high-volume and high-quality surgery, while teaching local ophthalmologists in the process. Operating in the developing world presents formidable medical and logistical challenges, and the Moran Eye Center has the most experienced and best-organized team that I have ever worked with”.
*Statistics from the World Health Organization