Global Outreach in Ethiopia
Ethiopia is often referred to as the “cradle of civilization” because it is widely believed to have been the origin of the human race. Today, it is home to over 80 million people and has the largest economy in East and Central Africa. Despite this, 30 percent of the population lives below the international poverty line and 85 percent of the population lives in rural areas. There are fewer than 100 qualified eye doctors in Ethiopia, with the majority located in the capital city and the biggest towns. Consequently, there are only 15-20 eye doctors serving the remaining 70 million people. It is estimated that more than 1.2 million Ethiopians are blind and that half of those people are blind from cataracts.
“That is a huge number and it is just terrible,” said Dr. Tandon. “Cataracts are a reversible condition, something that can be fixed. They just need to have access to eye care and cataract surgery.”
With this in mind, Dr. Tandon, along with ophthalmology residents traveled to Ethiopia to perform much-needed cataract surgeries. Because of the rural conditions and lack of supplies, they had to perform extracapsular cataract surgery (removal of the cataract in one piece) instead of the more modern phacoemulsification (the cataract is broken into tiny pieces using sound waves and is removed using suction).
“It is the old-fashioned way to do it,” said Dr. Tandon, “but it still works. We were able to perform about 70 surgeries in a week.”
Dr. Tandon was able to spend time with residents and faculty of a newly established residency program. The program is very open to having visiting ophthalmologists teach, lecture and demonstrate western medical techniques.
With the successful trip now behind him, Dr. Tandon is making plans to return and do more to help.
“We went to help do cataract surgeries,” said Dr. Tandon. “But, we also wanted to learn what is needed there and to see how they practice medicine. The plan for the future is to go back, to take supplies and to teach them how to do phaco surgery. That way they can be more efficient, see more patients and help more people.”
Global Outreach in Ghana
Ghana is nation struggling to provide even basic eye care. In addition to having too few ophthalmologists for a population of 23 million, almost 30% of Ghanaians are unable to afford healthcare, as they live below the international poverty line of $1.25 per day.
Dr. Mauger andcommunity faculty members, residents and fellows of the Havener Eye Institute, have both conducted trips to the impoverished nation. Dr. Mauger travelled to St. Theresa Eye Center in Akim Akroso, Ghana. They also volunteered at the Bishop Ackon Christian Eye Center in Cape Coast, where they performed surgeries and trained Ghanian physicians and residents, even providing instruction in phacoemulsification (a modern cataract surgical technique) to some of the local ophthalmologists in Tema, Ghana.
“I admire the many people in ophthalmology at Ohio State who have done multiple mission trips over the years” said Dr. Adam, community faculty member. “We made several trips to Ghana with Ohio State residents, and that helped inspire me to go also. Restoring sight to people who otherwise would not have access to care at any price helps me to get back to the best reasons we all went into ophthalmology.”
The Havener Eye Institute is proud of the faculty and alumni who have volunteered to help out in these developing countries. Their generosity inspires us all to greater levels of giving.
Global Outreach in India
With a population of over 1.2 billion citizens, the largest concentration of people living below the World Bank’s international poverty line of $1.25/day and only one ophthalmologist per 100,000 citizens, eye care in India is often out of reach for those who need it most. Thomas Mauger MD (Department Chair), along with ophthalmology residents, traveled to Kutch, a desert region in the northwest part of the country. Earthquakes have devastated the already underdeveloped area leaving very little infrastructure. Dr. Lena Chheda (former resident & fellow) had always wanted to participate in international missions, but felt especially drawn to the region of India where her grandparents grew up.
“All my family moved to the city, so going back there always reminds me of my grandparents because I never met them. It’s just really nice to be able to give back to people who support you.”
A family friend of Dr. Chheda’s, had started a clinic which hosts a medical specialty every month and treats as many people as they can. They go out to the villages all over the state to hold large screening events. People line up for hours and are divided into the different ophthalmic categories (cataracts, surgical patients, patients who need glasses, etc.). Surgical patients are then brought to the clinic and are given free food and housing for the duration of their surgery and post-operative care.
During the week of their visit, Dr. Mauger and Dr. Chheda saw patients in the morning and performed surgeries in the afternoon. They also saw a lot of Vitamin A deficiencies, old corneal scars, traumatic injuries and corneal burns.
“When we were there, we did a fair amount of cataracts on a wide variety of ages; including a 3-month-old baby with bilateral congenital cataracts. His mother had come from 3 hours away. Ministers, priests, and even local area doctors all came to be operated on by Dr. Mauger.”
Considering the rural area, the facilities were fairly modern, however, many surgical items still needed to be donated. Antibiotics, intraocular lenses, eye drops, and medical supplies were provided by Alcon.
“When I was growing up I heard about this amazing clinic that helps so many people. It’s why I got into ophthalmology. When you go to other countries, it’s a completely different attitude. They are so grateful for their opportunities and the physicians that help them. There is so much appreciation; it makes you enjoy what you do so much more. I can’t wait for my next opportunity to go back.”
Global Outreach in Nicaragua
Despite being the largest country in Central America, Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. At least partially due to these factors, medical care for the almost six million citizens of Nicaragua is limited, and can be far more expensive than many Nicaraguans can afford. To help alleviate the difficulties facing Nicaragua’s healthcare system, volunteer physicians and staff operate a free clinic called el Centro Nacional de Oftalmología (the National Ophthalmology Hospital) in Managua, Nicaragua. Among these volunteers are some of our own faculty, department chairman Dr. Thomas Maugerand Dr. Rebecca Kuennen.
They traveled to Nicaragua to volunteer their time and abilities, and were also able to take ten donated corneas supplied by the Tissue Bank International. Because Nicaragua does not have a tissue bank, these donated corneas were a particular blessing to those requiring extensive surgery.
“There was one girl,” said Dr. Kuennen, “about twelve or thirteen, who needed a cornea transplant. She was a beautiful girl, but her cornea had been badly scarred. After the surgery she was crying, she was so happy she could see again.”
Drs. Mauger and Kuennen treated about fifty patients, ranging in age from two to eighty. They performed corneal transplants and other necessary surgeries, while the local physicians, residents and staff at the hospital watched and learned. In a letter, one grateful nurse shared her appreciation: “Thanks to our dear friends Dr. Tom Mauger and Dr. Rebecca Kuennen...Nicaragua is a needy nation...the patients, hospital and doctors here [are] very grateful.