Donald L Budenz, MD, MPH, was nominated by the American Glaucoma Society to receive this year’s Outstanding Humanitarian Service Award.
Since 1995 Dr. Budenz, Chair of Ophthalmology at the University of North Carolina, has passionately devoted his life to spending weeks to months each year abroad at his own expense. He has sacrificed his family, his work, and his free time making several journeys per year to Ghana, West Africa. Each trip has lasted between one to three weeks. His time in Ghana has been spent providing clinical care, teaching local ophthalmologists and other health care providers, and conducting research.
It was during these trips that Dr. Budenz developed a keen interest in Ophthalmic Epidemiology and International Health, which prompted him to pursue a Masters of Public Health degree at the prestigious John Hopkins School of Public Medicine focusing his studies on these two disciplines. He conducted the first well-designed epidemiology study of glaucoma prevalence in West Africa. Instead of an academic exercise, his study focused on assessing the types and severity of diseases so that he could develop approaches to attack and minimize blindness. He has developed research protocols to answer the question of how to better detect and treat diseases in Ghana.
Dr. Budenz’s countless trips to Ghana have been spent setting up the infrastructure and conducting clinical evaluations of subjects who failed ocular screenings in the field. He outlined the responsibilities of the clinical evaluators to ensure that the research was conducted in an ethical and professional manner. The success of his projects were directly related to the high regard that Dr. Budenz was held by the team of people conducting the screenings from the van drivers to the physicians in the clinic.
Dr. Budenz has devoted countless hours serving patients in West Africa. In 2009 he established the Christian Eye Ministry, which supports two clinics in Ghana. He works under the philosophy that it is far more effective to impact an underserved area of the world by developing an infrastructure for sustained care rather than performing single interventions. He is presently creating a Glaucoma Center of Excellence in Ghana.
Dr. Budenz is currently serving as the principal investigator in two large, prospective studies in Africa. One study is investigating the incidence and outcomes of glaucoma in an urban West Africa setting. The other is a randomized clinical trial comparing glaucoma tube implant surgery and trabeculectomy with mitomycin C as an initial surgical treatment for glaucoma. These studies will provide important information to elevate the quality of patient care in underserved areas of the world.
Dr. Budenz embodies the highest ideals of our specialty. His impeccable service, tireless efforts to teach and to serve, and his devotion to healing is nurtured by his generous heart of compassion. He has made enormous contributions toward overcoming world blindness. The Academy is proud to honor Dr. Donald Budenz with this year’s Outstanding Humanitarian Service Award.