Outreach That Multiplies Hope
SRIVANI PERERA, SENIOR ASSISTANT LIBRARIAN at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, thanked the Academy on behalf of ophthalmology residents (above) who were thrilled to receive the Academy’s BCSC® (Basic and Clinical Science Course™). In 2018, the Academy’s Education Distribution Project provided 275 full sets of the 13-volume series to residency programs in developing countries, and an additional 165 sets to programs in partnership with the International Council of Ophthalmology. In addition, more than 425 bags of educational books and DVDs were distributed to AAO 2018 attendees from developing countries.
A FEW YEARS AGO, a team of volunteers converged on the Philippine island of Negros Occidental, in one of the country’s poorest and most neglected regions. In a week of long days that stretched past midnight, the team completed 532 cataract surgeries. Many of their patients had been blind for years. Some had given up hope of ever seeing again.
The team’s leaders — Alex Sangrador, MD, of Iloilo, Philippines, and Jeffrey Levenson, MD, of Jacksonville, Fl. — had met two years earlier, when Dr. Sangrador visited the U.S. as a guest of the Rotary Club Host Project and Dr. Levenson served as his host. The project brings foreign ophthalmologists to the host’s hometown for a week, and to the Academy’s annual meeting where they gain new skills and invaluable professional experiences. The encounter was mutually inspiring, and the doctors were moved to plan the mission on Negros Occidental together. After such success on Negros Occidental, they established an ongoing outreach partnership, which now facilitates about 300 cataract surgeries every three months in places of great need throughout the Philippines.
“We restore sight, share our talent, and pay forward the gift first granted by the Rotary Club Host Project,” said Dr. Levenson. “Our program is sustainable, it’s leveraged, and it’s enhanced the lives of thousands of people. None of it would have been possible without the generosity of the Academy and the Rotary Club of Jacksonville.”
The Rotary Club Host Project brought a total of 10 ophthalmologists to AAO 2018, where they attended clinical courses and enhanced their surgical skills. Since 2000, we have hosted 132 guests, provided educational opportunities to ophthalmologists from 61 countries (four new countries in 2018 — Gabon, Micronesia, Niger and Mozambique) and partnered with 34 Rotary Clubs. These inspirational programs spawn brighter futures for the patients we serve.
Learn more about the Academy’s global outreach programs at aao.org/international/outreach.
During a recent trip to the Philippines, doctors Sangrador and Levenson performed 500 surgeries on patients who were almost all
completely blind in both eyes. Dr. Levenson said, “I’ve been doing this for years, but the awe and pathos of post-op day still takes my breath away. The crowd is subdued. The prayers are silent and fervent. One by one, a patch is removed, and a modern miracle revealed. They try to thank me, and I take their hand. Neither one of us has words for what’s passed between us.”
JEFFREY LEVENSON, MD