The inaugural 2014 recipient of the Academy's Artemis Award is John M. Cropsey, MD; nominated by Wills Eye Institute, Philadelphia. Dr. Cropsey was nominated for his dedication to serving the needs of the poor and underserved. He has done so while sacrificing the lifestyle that most of us (and our families) take for granted. He faces often unimaginable daily challenges with a positive and compassionate attitude that has been contagious to the Wills residents who have had the chance to volunteer beside him.
After medical school at the University of Michigan, Dr. Cropsey did his internship at Albert Einstein Medical Center and residency at Wills Eye Hospital, where he served as co-chief resident. While at Wills, Dr. Cropsey and his wife helped found a small group dubbed the "McCropders," students who committed themselves to spending their careers together advancing medicine in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Upon graduation from Wills Eye Institute in June 2009, Dr. Cropsey and his family moved to Tenwek Hospital in Kenya, where he worked as one of only a handful of ophthalmologists to millions in Western Kenya. For two years, he worked to both directly address the eye-care needs of the region's underserved and train national health care providers, including nurses, medical students, interns and residents, etc.
During his time in Kenya, Dr. Cropsey helped establish the first corneal-transplant program in the region. He also oversaw the creation of several training programs for community eye care providers. Together, Dr. Cropsey and the Kenyan staff of the Tenwek Eye Unit provided care for more than 28,000 patients. During those two years, the team also performed more than 4,000 surgeries, conducted weekly mobile clinics and made several week-long surgical trips to remote locations in South Sudan and Tanzania with no access to eye care.
As time went on, however, Dr. Cropsey felt led to an eye program similar to Tenwek’s in another part of Africa. After exploring various possibilities, his family and a team of other physician’s decided to pursue a partnership opportunity in Burundi, a small, war-torn country west of Kenya and bordered by Rwanda, Tanzania and the Congo.
After fundraising and immersive French language study, Dr. Cropsey and his family relocated to Burundi in August 2013. He now works with a team of five other American specialists at the primary teaching hospital for the Hope Africa University’s medical school.
As a clinical faculty member at Hope Africa University, Dr. Cropsey trains Burundian medical students and provides clinical and surgical care for patients. Currently, Burundi has only three ophthalmic surgeons for a population of almost 10 million. All three ophthalmologists reside in the capital city of Bujumbura. Until recently, Kibuye Hope Hospital's eye clinic had the only functioning eye laser in the entire country.
Over the next 20 years, the team wants to transform their small, rural hospital into a 300+ bed training hospital. Ultimately, they want to establish some of the first internship and residency programs in the country. Dr. Cropsey would also like to develop a tertiary eye hospital and training program for the Great Lakes Region of Africa.