For many, a vacation is time to relax and recuperate from work. So when someone uses their well-earned time off to share their talents with underserved populations, you know that they must have a real passion for what they do. John Pajka, MD (left photo), is a Havener Eye Institute alum and an extremely busy ophthalmologist from Lima, Ohio, who spends his vacation time bringing eye care to under-privileged countries.

“People ask me why I do this mission thing so much,” said Pajka “and I frequently find myself quoting Dr. Havener, ‘Find a job you love and you don’t have to work anymore.’ Ever since my residency at The Ohio State University, my wife Linda and I wanted to do some sort of mission work.”

Dr. Pajka and his wife have been all over the world, from Africa to South America, bringing ophthalmic care to thousands of impoverished people. He is tireless in his dedication to restoring sight. On a recent trip, Dr. Pajka visited the remote region of Bushenyi, Uganda (right photo) located in equatorial Africa. The Bushenyi people have virtually no access to cataract surgery of any kind. Like many countries in the developing world, they lack the resources and infrastructure to provide, in some cases, even the most basic health care, let alone eye care.

“Most of the people we operate on have been blind from cataracts for years,” said Pajka, “not seeing loved ones, not able to see to feed themselves, let alone to work. They have become totally dependent on family or neighbors for everything. A simple cataract operation doesn’t just restore their sight, it changes and restores their lives, and gives hope where often there was none.”

For decades, Uganda’s economy has suffered from devastating economic policies and instability, leaving Uganda as one of the world’s poorest countries. While as many as 420,000 people in Uganda are blind, the country has only 39 ophthalmologists, mostly in urban areas. With such a desperate need, doctors like John Pajka are making a difference, not only in individual lives, but for the entire community.

“There are few procedures in medicine where we can make such a profound impact on so many people’s lives in so short a time,” said Pajka. “I feel very fortunate to be able to do this, giving back, paying forward. I have a great job and missions like this help remind me why I went into medicine, to help people. There is nothing like it!”