Cataracts are the leading cause of preventable blindness worldwide. Both at home and abroad, cataract surgery has been shown to be one of the most cost effective medical interventions available. In developing nations, cataracts come at an earlier age, progress more rapidly, and often don't get treatment. In these countries, when a person is blind from cataracts, their life expectancy drops rapidly (due to injury or infection), and family or community members are needed to care for them (taking the caregiver out of the workforce).
Recently I had the opportunity to travel to Ghana with my mentor from medical school, Dr. Albert Alley, and his foundation World Blindness Outreach. I first became interested in eye surgery after accompanying him on a mission trip to Ecuador in 2007, when I was a wide-eyed student. Now more than a decade later, we went as peers and surgeons.
We were able to operate on over 75 patients at St. Luke's Catholic Hospital in Apam, Ghana in under a week. Apam is a rural area with mostly subsistence farmers, and most commercial business centers on fishing. Here, regaining sight = regaining life.
Back at home, all of our surgeons at Thorp Bailey Weber Eye Associates teach the residents at Wills Eye. Recently, Wills began a program to sponsor international resident education and faculty outreach to foster a desire for global service, and to assist in training local surgeons abroad ("Teach a man to fish..."). We are privileged to have the skills to restore sight, and even more privileged to share that with a new generation of surgeons who will take it worldwide.
Bilateral cataracts pre-operatively:
In the operating theater, much different than at home, but very well run and maintained
Very happy after surgery (she still has the right eye yet to go)!
Traditional garments (I am taking their patches off the first day after surgery)
We did pediatric cases as well.
My mentor, Dr. Albert Alley and I, visiting the home of the first patient shown. She is in the same post-surgical sunglasses that you see worn here in the US and quite happy with her new found sight!