Moran Eye Center Surgical Mission in Haiti to Be Joined by Senator and Ophthalmologist Rand Paul

Moran Eye Center Surgical Mission in Haiti to Be Joined by Senator and Ophthalmologist Rand Paul

Aug 13, 2015 10:48 AM

SALT LAKE CITY –Presidential candidate and ophthalmologist Rand Paul, MD, will join the University of Utah’s John A. Moran Eye Center on a weeklong surgical mission in Haiti beginning August 17, 2015. Moran Eye Center physicians have been working in Haiti since 2012. This August, the team plans to perform 200 sight-restoring surgeries while working with local clinicians to improve care in an isolated region of the Caribbean island.

“There is a high rate of preventable blindness in Haiti, but also a real opportunity to improve eye care,” said Randall J Olson, MD, CEO of the John A. Moran Eye Center and Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. “This is the second Moran mission that Dr. Paul has joined, and we are thrilled that he is helping us to bring further awareness to this epidemic.”

A Nation in Need

Haiti has a high rate of blindness, largely due to the strong tropical sun and a lack of available healthcare. Moran works in a region that has approximately 800,000 citizens, but only five ophthalmologists, making it difficult for those in need to get even basic treatment. The Moran Eye Center provides advanced surgical training to physicians at a local clinic, which employs four of the region’s five ophthalmologists.

“It has been a joy to work with the Haitian staff and physicians. They are incredibly dedicated to their patients and to improving eye care in Haiti,” says glaucoma specialist Craig Chaya, MD, Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the Moran Eye Center.

The clinic’s model uses fees from paying patients (who pay for their care on a sliding scale depending on income) to subsidize charitable care for patients in dire need, and about 30 percent of surgeries are performed free. However, the clinic is understaffed, and there is a major backlog of very low-income patients who would benefit from surgery. Two hundred of these patients who are suffering from cataracts will have their sight restored next week.

Moran’s long-term goal in Haiti is to create a second ophthalmology residency program for Haitian medical students, allowing the country to graduate more eye doctors. Starting in 2016, Moran will also begin sponsoring fellowship training for a graduate of Haiti’s only current ophthalmology residency program, which is administered out of Port-au-Prince. This fellowship will allow a Haitian ophthalmologist to received further training in a specific area of care such as glaucoma, which nearly one third of the nation’s residents suffer from.

The Solution Lies in Education

The global impact of blindness is staggering. Ninety percent of the world’s 39 million blind individuals live in poverty in developing countries. For every blind person, 2.5 individuals are lost from the workforce as others must stop work or school to care for their vision-impaired relatives. The loss of productivity adds up to $2.7 trillion each year.*

Four out of five blind people could be cured; however, many parts of the world don’t have enough physicians to reach all patients in need. Moran Eye Center physicians perform thousands of free surgeries each year for patients in underserved areas both internationally and in Utah, and provide training and equipment for doctors and hospital staff in underserved areas. Moran brings more than a dozen international surgeons to Utah each year for advanced training.

“Our goal is to help physicians in developing countries provide care that is equivalent to what patients would receive at a first-rate hospital in the United States. We seek out talented and dedicated young ophthalmologists in underserved areas and help build the skills they need to deliver this high-quality care after we’ve left. Our focus is on spreading knowledge and helping the people who are already providing care in these communities to become leaders and teachers themselves,” says Alan S. Crandall, MD, Co-director of the Moran Outreach Division and Senior Vice-chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences.

“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 is co-sponsoring the trip. “When Senator Rand Paul approached our organization in 2014 about planning a charitable international surgical trip, we recommended having the Moran Eye Center organize it,” Dr. Chang explained. “Widely acknowledged as having one of the best international divisions among academic ophthalmology departments in the U.S., Moran is able to mobilize an entire team of volunteer surgeons, nurses, and coordinators to do high volume and high quality surgery, while teaching local ophthalmologists in the process. Operating in the developing world presents formidable medical and logistical challenges, and Moran has the most experienced and best organized team that I have ever worked with”. 

About the Moran Eye Center

The John A. Moran Eye Center, part of University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics, is the premiere center for ophthalmology in the Intermountain West and is the largest eye care facility between California and Michigan. With collaborators from around the world, research advancements at the center provide new diagnoses, novel treatments, and creative new procedures designed to cure blinding eye diseases. Moran specialists cover every field of vision care including conditions like age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, cornea, and external eye diseases.

*Statistics from the World Health Organization

For more information, contact Esther Pomeroy at esther.pomeroy@hsc.utah.edu or call 801-585-9700.

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