Stephen L. Beaty, MD, was nominated by the Georgia Society of Ophthalmology and West Georgia Eye Care Center.
Dr. Beaty’s commitment to caring for underprivileged patients spans four continents and has focused primarily on Africa. His love of Africa and its people comes from his childhood experience growing up in Africa, where his parents worked as Christian missionaries in Zimbabwe.
From the time he entered private practice Dr. Beaty has been acutely aware of the desperate need to train ophthalmologists in the developing world. Over a span of twelve years, between 1987 and 1999, he participated in eleven medical mission trips, providing free eye care to indigent people in Honduras, Mexico, South Africa, Jamaica, India and Zimbabwe. Eventually, aware of the epidemic of preventable blindness in Southern Zimbabwe affecting more than 125,000 patients, he followed his heart and in 2000, he took a four year leave of absence from his practice and went with his wife and three children to Zimbabwe. There he worked as the Provincial Medical Officer for Matabeleland Province from 2000-2004, not only treating numerous patients but also providing eye care education to Zimbabwean doctors, residents, and nurses. He was able to upgrade the equipment at the hospital in Bulawayo which enabled him to teach phacoemulsification to ophthalmology physicians and residents. Despite severe political upheaval in Zimbabwe during this period Dr. Beaty continued to teach and see patients and, ignoring personal risk, continued to travel to remote areas of Zimbabwe to provide eye care for patients.
Aware that educating Zimbabwean doctors and nurses was the only long term solution to the desperate shortage of eye care and other practitioners, Dr. Beaty increasingly devoted himself to fostering medical education in Southern Zimbabwe. He volunteered as a visiting lecturer at the local medical school, and also spearheaded the formation of a sister hospital relationship between St. Francis Hospital in Columbus, Georgia and The Mater Dei Hospital in Bulawayo. Beginning in 2013, several groups of physicians representing a variety of disciplines have travelled to Zimbabwe to teach their counterparts. A number of Zimbabwean doctors have also journeyed to Georgia for hands on specialty training.
Since the inception of the Eyecare to the Needy organization in 2000, Dr. Beaty has conducted many eye camps, examining thousands of patients in rural and remote parts of Zimbabwe, as well as delivering quality care in hospitals in Sanyati and Matabeleland. Through this nonprofit entity, he has collected donations to fund these endeavors and has obtained significant donations of used equipment such as microscopes, phacoemulsification and anesthesia machines, as well as large amounts of pharmaceuticals and surgical supplies.
Dr. Beaty continues to travel to Zimbabwe for months at a time each year, serving poor rural villagers in that nation and training the country’s eye surgeons in the latest surgical techniques in Bulawayo. He has seen thousands of patients in eye camps, traveling from village to village, enabling villagers to sometimes see for the first time. Without sight, men and women are unable to work and support their families. His work has had a substantial economic impact as well as an impact on the quality of their life.
Dr. Beaty gives selflessly and sacrificially to those patients who otherwise would not have an advocate and no hope. The Academy is proud to honor Dr. Stephen L. Beaty with this year’s Outstanding Humanitarian Service Award.