Moran Outreach Team Continues Commitment to Provide Much-Needed Eye Care in Utah’s Remote Four Corners Region

Jun 21, 2019 12:20 PM


Five-year-old Shayla checks out new sunglasses from a Moran Eye Center Global Outreach Division clinic in May in Monument Valley.
Five-year-old Shayla checks out new sunglasses from a Moran Eye Center Global Outreach Division clinic in May in Monument Valley.

Five-year-old Shayla had been having trouble seeing the chalkboard in her kindergarten classroom at Bluff Elementary in southern Utah. A physician with the John A. Moran Eye Center’s Global Outreach Division got to the bottom of her difficulties during a free eye care clinic held at her school, diagnosing the girl with astigmatism—a common condition that causes blurred vision.

The next day, Shayla traveled with her family to pick out prescription eyeglasses at a Moran outreach clinic in Monument Valley, held in partnership with Utah Navajo Health System (UNHS). She and her younger two siblings were excited to get free sunglasses, while her mother, who also has astigmatism, picked out new glasses to replace the pair she recently lost.

About 125 adults and 80 children received free or low-cost eye care from Moran’s global outreach team during vision clinics in May in Monument Valley.
About 125 adults and 80 children received free or low-cost eye care from Moran’s global outreach team during vision clinics in May in Monument Valley.

Shayla and her mom were among 125 adults and 80 children receiving free or low-cost eye care from Moran’s global outreach team during vision clinics held May 17-18 in San Juan County and on the Utah strip of the Navajo Nation. Physicians volunteering their time performed six surgeries, and the team made 102 pairs of prescription eyeglasses and distributed UV-blocking sunglasses.

The Moran Eye Center, collaborating with UNHS, the non-profit Blue Mountain Hospital in Blanding, and other local partners, is committed to bringing pediatric and adult eye care to those in need in the remote Four Corners region several times a year, providing vision screenings, prescription eyeglasses, sight-restoring cataract surgeries, and other procedures.

Moran’s outreach eye care in Utah and around the world receives funding solely by individual, foundation, and corporate donations.

Supporters of Moran’s outreach care were among the volunteers on the trip, including Lily Hudson, a granddaughter of founding donor John A. Moran.

The chance to help with the pediatric eye exams inspired Hudson, an early childhood education specialist from New York, to volunteer on her first Moran outreach trip.

Volunteer Lily Hudson, a granddaughter of founding donor John A. Moran, assists with pediatric eye exams at the Monument Valley clinic.
Volunteer Lily Hudson, a granddaughter of founding donor John A. Moran, assists with pediatric eye exams at the Monument Valley clinic.

“We’re really proud of my grandfather, and it’s so special to be here and provide this care,” she said.

Those living in the remote Four Corners region, where Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado meet, struggle with daunting obstacles, including a lack of specialized health care like ophthalmology. The high incidence of Type 2 diabetes, UV exposure, and the overall impact of poverty has created a critical need for eye care.

“It’s been a big plus for Moran to come down and provide these services,” said Margaret Nakai, specialty clinic coordinator assistant for UNHS and a translator for non-English speaking Navajo patients.

About 125 adults and 80 children received free or low-cost eye care from Moran’s global outreach team during vision clinics in May in Monument Valley.
About 125 adults and 80 children received free or low-cost eye care from Moran’s global outreach team during vision clinics in May in Monument Valley.

Glasses are a big need, Nakai said, as insurance coverage is often limited or excluded altogether. There are no optical shops on the Navajo Nation.

Surgeries to remove cataracts, the thickening and hardening of the eye’s natural lens, is another critical need.

Moran outreach teams are working to provide both.

“The most positive thing I hear from the elderly,” Nakai said, is “‘I’m really glad I got my surgery done on my eyes. I can see now.’”

In the past, Cardon Slade, along with his mom Donna, needed to make the 300-plus-mile trip from their home in Blanding to Salt Lake City for surgery related to cataracts the now 33-year-old was born with in both eyes.

Thanks to the May outreach trip, Cardon only had to travel to Blue Mountain Hospital in his hometown for surgery to reposition an artificial lens in his right eye. 

Cardon Slade, left, and his mom Donna are pictured with Alan S. Crandall, MD, following a post-operation checkup at the Monument Valley clinic.
Cardon Slade, left, and his mom Donna are pictured with Alan S. Crandall, MD, following a post-operation checkup at the Monument Valley clinic.

The surgery marked another kind of homecoming.

The surgeon adjusting the lens was Alan S. Crandall, MD, who first implanted Cardon’s artificial lenses 17 years earlier at the Moran Eye Center. Crandall, who serves as senior medical director of the Outreach Division, also repaired a lens in Cardon’s left eye dislocated in a car accident several years ago.

“I had lots of memories flooding back in when I saw Dr. Crandall,” Cardon said. “He’s got an awesome personality, and I really like him.”

One day after his latest surgery, Cardon said the sight in his right eye, previously blurry, was already “so much better — just overnight.”

Robert O. Hoffman, MD, head of Moran’s Division of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Eye Muscle Disorders, examines a patient during the Monument Valley clinic.
Robert O. Hoffman, MD, head of Moran’s Division of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Eye Muscle Disorders, examines a patient during the Monument Valley clinic.

“It’s much easier to have the care closer to home,” he said. “It’s been a really awesome experience.” 

Moran Eye Center physicians volunteering their time in addition to Dr. Crandall, were Brock Alonzo, MD; Sophia Y. Fang, MDRobert O. Hoffman, MD; and Christina Mamalis, MD. The volunteer team also included adjunct ophthalmologist Gary Wallace, technicians, nurses, medical students, and Dr. Satish Kumar Muddana, an international observer from the Aravind Eye Care System in India.

View more photos here.

vision outreach patient care