Senator and presidential candidate Rand Paul visited the John A. Moran Eye Center on Saturday, August 29, to tour Moran's state-of-the-art surgical suite and learn about the game-changing work our researchers are doing to understand and cure blinding conditions.
Paul, an ophthalmologist, joined Moran's Global Outreach Division on a sight-restoring mission to Cap-Haitien, Haiti, a region with only five ophthalmologists for 800,000 people and an extremely high rate of blindness, largely due to the strong tropical sun and lack of available healthcare. The Moran team performed almost 200 cataract surgeries during their weeklong stay.
This was Paul's second time working with Moran. Last year, he joined a surgical camp in a remote region of Guatemala. His participation has brought critical attention to the problem of global blindness, as well as Moran's efforts to bring sustainable care to these areas.
"I enjoy working with some of the best surgeons in the world," Dr. Paul said of the Moran Eye Center's physicians. "They are able to handle anything out in the field—even the most difficult cases." Paul plans to travel with Moran again in the future, most likely to the Navajo Nation in Southern Utah.
Moran physicians have been working in Haiti for three years, providing advanced surgical training to physicians at the Vision-Plus Clinique (VPC), along with much-needed equipment.
Moran chose to partner with VPC as they have an excellent model for providing sustainable care in a low-income country: they subsidize charitable care for patients in dire need using fees from paying patients (who pay for care on a sliding scale depending on income), and about 30 percent of surgeries are performed free.
One patient in need, Marguerite, is a widow. Six of her eight children have passed away, and she is raising 12 grandchildren by herself. She sold fruit and milk to support her family until her cataracts made that impossible. Upon receiving surgery, she was overjoyed that she could work again and earn money to pay for her grandchildren's education.
Moran's long-term goal in Haiti is to create an ophthalmology residency program at VPC for Haitian medical students, allowing the country to graduate more eye doctors. Next year, Moran will also sponsor fellowship training for a graduate of Haiti's only current ophthalmology residency program. This fellowship will allow a Haitian ophthalmologist to receive further training in a specific area of care, such as glaucoma, which nearly one third of the nation's residents suffer from.
"The Moran Eye Center is uniquely qualified in its ability to mobilize a top notch international outreach team," says David F. Chang MD, co-chair of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS) Foundation, which co-sponsored both missions. "When Senator Rand Paul approached our organization in 2014 about planning a charitable international surgical trip, we recommended going with the Moran Eye Center."