The John A. Moran Eye Center's Global Outreach Division, along with the Utah Lions Eye Bank, recently hosted their first booth at the American Academy of Ophthalmology's annual meeting in New Orleans. Division staff and physicians shared how the program, funded completely by donors, is working to end curable blindness worldwide.
Below, learn more about how Moran is making a difference in Tanzania.
With its lush, forested mountains and the vast Serengeti Plain, there is no denying the beauty of Tanzania and its people. Yet, this East African nation is also one of the fiscally poorest countries in the world, and it faces a daunting backlog of curable blindness. Half a million of its 52 million residents suffer from vision loss mostly from cataracts.
"With only 37 ophthalmologists for the entire country, access to eye care is as profoundly lacking as anywhere in the world," according to Moran physician Jeff Pettey, MD. The outreach team from Moran's David W. Bernolfo Global Vision Center, along with key partners, is working to turn the tide.
Outreach and Training
As part of a long-range plan to train local physicians and staff while providing free eye surgeries to as many people as possible, the team and partners completed their second large-scale surgical outreach trip to the capital city of Dodoma in February 2017. That same month, they launched their first large-scale medical eye camp further north, in the villages of Chome, Same, and Makanya. In all, the teams provided 761 sight-restoring surgeries, over 5,700 vision screenings, and distributed 800 pairs of prescription eyeglasses.
"Each donated surgery and pair of glasses has the potential to change a life," said
Pettey, "but the ultimate goal is to help train enough providers so that Tanzanian doctors can start caring for their own population and do it well."
Since 2014, Pettey has partnered with Dr. Grace Sun of Weill Cornell Medicine's Ophthalmology Department and Dr. Frank Sandi at the University of Dodoma College of Health's Benjamin Mkapa Ultramodern Hospital to create the Tanzanian government's first ophthalmology residency program. This transformative effort to establish high-quality ophthalmology training in the heart of Tanzania could be up and running in as soon as one year.
Craig Chaya, MD, joined the second half of the mission and led the outreach team's 2017 eye camp further north in the Chome region, near Kilimanjaro.
Local doctors Frank Sandi and Japhet Bright Boniface trained side-by-side with Moran ophthalmologists through the entire mission, and the team established an on-the-ground network that will help them better understand the exact needs for eye care in the region.
Among those who received the gift of sight in Tanzania is 12-year-old Ezeleda Julius. She was collecting firewood for her family when she was stabbed in the eye by a stick. Without treatment, she developed a traumatic cataract and nearly lost all sight in that eye.
Ezeleda (pictured below) showed strength and courage during her operation, and when her sight was returned, so was her smile.