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  • Unsung Heroes: Alejandra de Alba Campomanes, MD

    Sep. 16, 2020

    After pediatric ophthalmologist Alejandra de Alba Campomanes, MD, completes sight-saving surgery, her work is not done. Dr. Campomanes then goes to work on the barriers that threaten to block her patients’ access to quality eye care. It’s what drives her to spend hours educating parents about their child’s condition and getting insurance companies to provide necessary medication.

    It’s also what led her to a brilliant solution for children who have trouble finding glasses that fit well. As she watched her patients with craniofacial abnormalities struggle with eyeglasses for their unique faces, she devised a simple solution: 3D print eyeglass frames for a perfect fit. Children across the country can now receive customized eyeglasses regardless of their facial anatomy or background.

    “Sometimes simple interventions can have a huge impact in how patients see the world, how they live their lives,” Dr. Campomanes said. “Our dream is that one day anybody anywhere in the world can just take a 3D scan of their child's face and upload it, get a pair of glasses and print them locally at a 3D printer.”

    Dr. Campomanes’ colleagues say her dedication to her patients inspires them every day. Dr. Mariana Flores says she never forgets that she’s not just treating an eye disease, she’s treating a person.

    “I have seen her sit down on the computer and instead of looking at the screen, she will turn around, see the patient and say, ‘You know what? How you doing for real? What is going on? Are you having trouble with the glasses? Are you having problem with the patching? Is the eyedrop not working? What is really going on with your life?’” Dr. Flores said. “She always goes further than the eye examination. She actually cares about the patient as a whole person and their family. The kids come attached with the mom and siblings and everybody there.”

    And when she’s done seeing patients in the hospital, she volunteers her time treating patients at the UC San Francisco homeless clinic, screening for eye diseases and providing free glasses to those who otherwise would not have access.

    Dr. Campomanes is grateful to simply be an ophthalmologist. “A child just opening their eyes after surgery in marvel and starting to look around or follow a spinning toy in awe is one of the best feelings that you could ever have,” she says. “We [ophthalmologists] are lucky.”

    Ophthalmology has an abundance of unsung heroes who save sight, sometimes overcoming great challenges to deliver medical and surgical eye care. During 2020: Year of the Eye, the Academy is featuring stories about some of these heroes. Their colleagues nominated them for quietly serving the underserved, mentoring the next generation and sharing their skills with the world.