The Academy is privileged to honor David Heden, MD, with the 2018 Outstanding Humanitarian Service Award. This award recognizes Dr. Heiden for his innovative leadership to bring state-of-the-art blindness prevention techniques to HIV/AIDS patients in politically unstable and poverty-stricken environments.
Dr. Heiden was nominated by Pacific Vision Foundation and Seva Foundation for his efforts on improving eye health for some of the world’s most under-resourced populations. Dr. Heiden started with the unproven premise that local primary care HIV/AIDS doctors could be trained to use indirect ophthalmoscopy to successfully differentiate CMV retinitis from other retinal lesions and could also be taught to safely perform intraocular injections to treat CMV retinitis. His groundbreaking collaborative training approach has convinced local doctors across the world to believe in themselves, resulting in the creation of a sustainable model of care for the prevention of blindness in patients with HIV/AIDS.
Dr. Heiden’s efforts to reach more patients by amplifying the knowledge of front-line physicians treating AIDS is uniquely innovative and recognized now as highly effective, nearly 15 years after his first AIDS mission. Cognizant that there will never be enough ophthalmologists to treat the millions of patients in need of care, his goal has been to create an intervention model teaching local nonophthalmic physicians to diagnose and treat CMV retinitis and other opportunistic infections.
Dr. Heiden’s growing conviction that the transfer of ophthalmic skills would yield results leading to early diagnosis and treatments led to him reaching out to established nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) like Seva Foundation, MSF (Doctors Without Borders) and the Clinton Foundation. The collaboration with MSF started in Siem Reap, Cambodia and continued, including an MSF project in the Bangkwang Maximum Security Prison in Bangkok, at Mother Teresa’s AIDS Hospice in Khayelitsha, a township in South Africa, and in Yangon, Myanmar, then the site of the most neglected AIDS epidemic in Southeast Asia.
The MSF collaboration continued in Laos, India and China, and the Clinton Foundation collaboration gained him entry to teach in the most politically unstable spot and site of the worst AIDS epidemic in China: the city of Urumqi in Xinxiang Province.
Currently, Eastern Europe has the most rapidly growing AIDS epidemic in the world. Dr. Heiden has made 3 visits to train infectious disease experts in the Russian Federation in St. Petersburg but political issues have caused this promising work to be suspended indefinitely. However, he successfully trained AIDS doctors in Kyiv, Ukraine where he delivered an Indirect Ophthalmoscope with a promise to return this year. Along with creating training programs, Dr. Heiden is also intent on documenting results to raise global awareness of the devastating impact of CMV retinitis and the continuing need for medicines, treatments and more trained medical professionals.
Dr. Heiden practices comprehensive ophthalmology at Pacific Eye Associates in San Francisco, Ca. He went to medical school at New York Medical College and completed his residency at the Pacific Presbyterian Medical Center followed by a fellowship in Uveitis at UC San Francisco.