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American Academy of Ophthalmology Responds to the Haiti Earthquake

02/02/2010   04:55:00 PM

Relief efforts undertaken in conjunction with the Haitian Society of Ophthalmology

SAN FRANCISCO – Reports from Haitian ophthalmologists tell of practices destroyed, a shortage of supplies and equipment, and an increased demand for ophthalmic care. To respond to the urgent and ongoing need for quality eye care in Haiti and to coordinate ophthalmic recovery efforts, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (Academy) has formed the Task Force on Haiti Recovery.

The task force is led by former Academy president Michael W. Brennan, MD, a military veteran with unique humanitarian experience in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It is comprised of Academy members and will be in close collaboration with the Pan-American Association of Ophthalmology (PAAO), the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and the Association of Haitian Physicians Abroad.  All of the task force members have direct connections and experience in Haiti or with strategic partners in humanitarian relief. 

In the coming months, the task force will work closely with Haitian leadership – the Haitian Society of Ophthalmology and the University of Haiti Eye Hospital – in a cooperative effort to facilitate the recovery of ophthalmic practice and delivery of eye care. 

Through financial and equipment donations and in conjunction with PAAO, the Academy is undertaking a campaign to provide five portable eye units to ophthalmologists in Haiti. Portable eye units can be carried by an individual ophthalmologist and will facilitate microscopic evaluations of the eye, treatment of lacerations, removal of foreign bodies, injections and other severe eye conditions, outside of a clinic or university setting.

Mildred Olivier, MD, is a Haitian-American ophthalmologist and task force member currently assisting in relief efforts in Haiti. "We have met with our Haitian colleagues and are working to rebuild their capability to practice," reports Dr. Olivier. "Many of their clinics have been destroyed. They need a way to bring the care to the patient." 

To support the campaign, the Foundation of the Academy has established a Disaster Relief Fund to provide ophthalmic resources and facilitate much-needed patient care. All of the funds collected will be used for Haitian recovery efforts.  In addition, the Academy will be working to coordinate the deployment of ophthalmologists interested in volunteering with federal and private sector organizations responding to the earthquake. Volunteer information will be found on the Haiti Earthquake Relief section of the Academy’s website, along with relevant relief efforts and firsthand member reports from the field.

"As a result of the disaster, many ophthalmologists currently lack the equipment and structure to provide quality patient care," said David W. Parke II, MD, executive vice president and CEO of the Academy. "By working closely with our colleagues in Haiti, we hope to ease the difficulty in providing eye care and support the rebuilding of ophthalmic education in the future."

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About the American Academy of Ophthalmology
AAO is the world's largest association of eye physicians and surgeons—Eye M.D.s—with more than 27,000 members worldwide.  Eye health care is provided by the three “O’s” – opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists. It is the ophthalmologist, or Eye M.D., who can treat it all: eye diseases and injuries, and perform eye surgery. For more information, visit the Academy's Web site at www.aao.org.

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