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Libby Mitchell

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Aug 20, 2015 9:29 AM

Senator Rand Paul with Moran global outreach team
Senator Rand Paul with Moran global outreach team

Rand Paul is running for President. However, politics is not his first love.

“This is what I love doing,” he said as he entered a small operating room in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, ready to begin a day of cataract surgeries.

Paul had joined the Global Outreach Team from John A. Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah to restore the sight of hundreds of Haitians during a week of surgeries August 15-22. While the senator was only with the group for part of the mission, his impact on the trip was tremendous.

Having Senator Paul participate in our mission brings awareness to the tremendous need in Haiti,” said Craig Chaya, M.D., an ophthalmologist with Moran.  “It helps to further our mission to eradicate curable blindness in this part of the world.

This is actually Sen. Paul’s second time working with the outreach team, having joined them in Guatemala in 2014. The partnership was formed in part by the American Society of Cataract Refractive Surgery, which recognized Moran’s position of excellence in global vision care and Sen. Paul’s desire to help those in need.

“I enjoy working with some of the best surgeons in the world,” Paul said. “They are able to handle anything out in the field — even the most difficult cases.”

The region surrounding Cap-Haitien is home to approximately 800,000 people — and five ophthalmologists. This makes it extremely difficult for residents to even get basic vision care. That fact, added to the expense of cataract surgery in a country where the average wage is just over $2 a day, means many of the patients would have faced a lifetime of blindness if not for the Moran team.

“We are hoping to do as many as 200 surgeries during our time in Haiti,” said Alan Crandall, M.D., an ophthalmologist with Moran.

To do that, the team is putting in long days of up to 50 surgeries a day, moving patients in and out of the operating room in a perfectly timed surgical ballet.

During their time in Haiti, Moran partnered with the Vision Plus Clinique (VPC), where all the surgeries were performed. Vision Plus was chosen as the location of the mission based on its model of care that uses the fees from patients who can pay in a private clinic to fund the treatment of low-income patients in their social clinic.

“They’ve really been able to operate a sustainable model of eye care,” said Chaya. “They’re able to meet the needs of people at all economic levels and serve as an example to others.”

While the mission of the Moran team and VPC is large, it is the small moments on the trip that make it the most worthwhile. Every morning before beginning surgery, the team removes the patches from those who were operated on the day before. For many, it is the first time they have seen clearly in months, or even years.

For some, the first sight they saw was Rand Paul, a man they may not know as possibly the next President of the United States but definitely know as the surgeon who restored their sight. 

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