The Academy is privileged to honor William L. White, MD, with the 2018 Outstanding Humanitarian Service Award.
This award recognizes Dr. White for his dedication to blindness prevention in the developing world.
The Missouri Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons nominated Dr. White, who purchased property and built an eye clinic in Haiti, the most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere. His work provided ophthalmic service to people who had none. Along with other volunteers, Dr. White has served in a region where thousands of surgeries and tens of thousands of examinations have been performed free of charge for more than 15 years.
When Dr. White first heard about an eye team going to Haiti and the work of the Northwest Haiti Christian Mission more than 20 years ago, it sparked an interest and became his personal motivation to seek out the place. On arrival, armed with just a bag of reading glasses and bottles of artificial tears, Dr. White’s eyes and heart were opened by what he witnessed. As he began to treat each patient, he was filled with compassion for people who could not see. His subsequent discovery of Haiti’s dire health care needs drove his commitment to help.
After soliciting funds to purchase property adjacent to the Northwest Haiti Christian Mission, Dr. White secured the purchase of two and a half acres for the construction of a 2,500-square-foot eye clinic. Over the years, donations helped secure three working lanes and a YAG laser. The eye team was not just interested in providing sight-saving or pain-relieving ocular surgeries, but to instruct Haitian doctors in the clinical and surgical practice of ophthalmology. He has worked with four Haitian ophthalmologists to help improve their cataract skills as well as develop basic YAG laser and SLT laser skills.
Dr. White has assumed considerable personal expenses and subjected himself to physical risks in the developing world, including government overthrow, hazardous travel and exposure to diseases. He has provided care following a series of natural disasters that struck Haiti, including earthquakes, hurricanes and tropical storms.
Dr. White and his wife have solidified their commitment to care in Haiti by financing a young Haitian through college and medical school. He has spearheaded a tidal wave of positive social impact in Haiti, and his work among the poor has restored sight to the blind, saved lives and provided hope to a desperate region. Dr. White’s work has been life-changing, not only for patients, but for the volunteers, residents, attending surgeons and students who have learned and benefited from his experience.
Dr. White practices ophthalmic plastic and reconstructive surgery at Associated Ophthalmologists of Kansas City, Mo. Dr. White went to medical school at St. Louis University School of Medicine and completed his residency at the Brooke Army Medical Center and a fellowship in plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.