These doctors are restoring sight half a world away

OHIOBlogRTFO-H! Dr. Thomas Mauger, chair of the Department of Ophthalmology, (left) with colleagues at the St. Theresa Eye Clinic in Ghana, Africa. The site was redeveloped into a full-fledged hospital earlier this year.


Healthcare professionals from Ohio State often volunteer their time and talents to humanitarian causes around the world. For the physicians, residents and medical students of Ohio State’s Havener Eye Institute, that means traveling to Ghana, Kenya and Haiti, using their skills to restore people’s sight.

“It reminds you of why you went into medicine to begin with.”

Through the institute’s Global Outreach Project, physicians and staff travel to developing countries, providing life-changing sight-restorative procedures, training local physicians and residents to provide better care and helping to improve medical facilities.

“I think it’s kind of a desire to go someplace where there is a tremendous need. It reminds you of why you went into medicine to begin with,” says Thomas Mauger, MD, who leads Ohio State’s Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science.

Dr. Mauger traveled to Ghana, in February, as he has many times over the last decade, to perform vision-restoring surgeries like cataract removal. Ghana struggles to provide basic vision care, with too few eye doctors and a large portion of people unable to afford medical care.

And it’s not a problem unique to Ghana – the project’s mission has taken Ohio State eye experts to Ethiopia, India, Nicaragua, Peru … anywhere inadequate resources meet extraordinary need.

“Globally, there’s a real problem with access to quality healthcare,” says Dr. Mauger. “You go to these areas and discover a completely different approach to disease and healthcare compared to the United States.”

“Global outreach is my ‘why.’”

chaitBut the patients aren’t the only ones who benefit: these outreach trips are an invaluable service-learning experience for Ohio State residents and fellows. Rebecca Chait, MD, (pictured right) a resident at the Havener Eye Institute, joined Dr. Mauger on his recent trip to Ghana.

“Everyone needs a ‘why’ to keep them going through the rigors of medical school and residency. Global outreach is my ‘why,’” says Dr. Chait, who also joined colleagues on previous mission trips to Kenya and South Africa. “Through this project we have the great privilege of partnering with incredible people working on the ground in Ghana. There is a tangible benefit to the individual and to in the community.”

GhanaVideo_1000X1000pxBoth Dr. Mauger and Dr. Chait say the positive effect of the work is infectious, reverberating among their colleagues, the local physicians empowered by new training and the patients who get to see the world with fresh eyes.

Global health now has a central focus in Dr. Chait’s career goals. She said she recognizes the incredible potential outreach can have in the developing world.

“I believe in the power of likeminded people coming together to make positive change. I believe this is something we must do.”

You can support the work of the Global Outreach Project with an online donation.

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