Outreach Mission to Micronesia Helps Build Sustainable Eye Care in Island Nation

Jun 04, 2019 2:45 PM


Sophia Y. Fang, MD, MAS, examines a child during a Moran Eye Center Global Outreach eye care clinic in Micronesia in the spring.
Sophia Y. Fang, MD, MAS, examines a child during a Moran Eye Center Global Outreach eye care clinic in Micronesia in the spring.

With each eye care mission, the John A. Moran Eye Center’s Global Outreach Division makes progress toward its goal of building sustainable eye care in one of the most remote regions of the world: the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).

Since the FSM spans more than 1 million square miles of islands and ocean, geography alone limits access to health care. The nation has just one ophthalmologist, Dr. Padwick Gallen, and limited awareness of eye diseases and control measures compound the need for care and education.

From March 26 to April 13, 2019, Moran volunteer physicians and medical personnel conducted their second major outreach campaign to Chuuk State—one of several FSM locations in which they have worked since 2013. They provided over 2,000 adult and pediatric vision screenings, 142 surgeries to restore blindness caused by cataracts and pterygia, 26 procedures for diabetic retinopathy, 500 pairs of reading glasses, and created 400 pairs of prescription glasses with the help of SEE International.

Sophia Y. Fang, MD, MAS, with a group of schoolchildren in Micronesia during a Moran Eye Center Global Outreach Division trip in the spring.
Sophia Y. Fang, MD, MAS, with a group of schoolchildren in Micronesia during a Moran Eye Center Global Outreach Division trip in the spring.

Training Doctors and Nurses

“While every screening, surgery, and pair of eyeglasses makes a critical difference for individuals and their families, we are meeting only a fraction of the overwhelming need,” says Craig J. Chaya, MD, co-medical director of Moran’s Global Outreach Division.

The key to creating a self-sustaining eye care system in the FSM, explains Chaya, is training physicians like Dr. Gallen along with “a front line of nurses to conduct time-consuming vision screenings to free Dr. Gallen to do more surgeries.”

Nurse training is a big part of the FSM National Eye Care Plan.
Nurse training is a big part of the FSM National Eye Care Plan.

Building on a December 2018 trip when three Moran ophthalmic technicians traveled to Micronesia to provide hands-on training to 12 local nurses, the Moran team enlisted nine of those nurses to assist in a major pediatric screening covering 18 different schools inside the Chuuk lagoon during the latest two-week mission. The screenings revealed around 12 percent of the children suffer from issues including corneal scars, eye trauma, retinal scars, and refractive amblyopia (commonly known as “lazy eye”).

They also continued training the nurses in vision screening skills and are moving on to eye surgery anesthesia and surgical technician skills.

A generous grant from the Errol EerNisse Family Foundation supports the team’s ongoing nurse training efforts. 

Moran’s Global Outreach medical team traveled to various islands in the FSM state of Chuuk during the recent spring trip.
Moran’s Global Outreach medical team traveled to various islands in the FSM state of Chuuk during the recent spring trip.

National Eye Care Plan in Motion

Thanks to an FSM National Eye Care Plan established in 2018 by Moran, the nation’s Department of Health and Social Affairs was a primary financial supporter of the mission.

“Financial support from the FSM signifies an important breakthrough,” explained Chaya. “While we also received support from generous donors, it’s important to note that the local government sees the dire need for expanded eye care and the role they can play moving forward.”

Future projects include ongoing nurse/technician training, more surgical training for Dr. Gallen, and the recruitment of a National Eye Care Coordinator to enable expansion in the capacity and depth of eye care in the FSM.

vision education outreach