Crossing the Ben Franklin Bridge may be the extent of work travel for many of us, but our surgeons trek the globe to screen patients, attend clinic, perform surgery, lecture at international universities, and work with foreign residents, fellows and peers. We will periodically be updating you on their trips.
This past March, Dr. Michael Pro traveled to Fond-des-Blancs, Haiti in collaboration with the Wills Eye Hospital Glaucoma Service, SEE International and the Global Eye Project, to treat patients with glaucoma and related disorders in this underserved part of the world.
SEE International, or Surgical Eye Expeditions, is an organization that coordinates with local physicians in developing countries to reach patients who otherwise have little access to eye care. According to SEE, since their founding in 1973, their teams of eye surgeons have examined and treated upwards of 3.6 million patients and performed over 440,000 surgeries.
For this trip, Wills Eye Hospital and SEE International partnered with a clinic in Fond-des-Blancs, Haiti, funded by the Global Eye Project. Established in 2015 after years of work by dedicated volunteers, St. Boniface Hospital Foundation is the only eye clinic in the region. The first group of ophthalmologists from Wills Eye Hospital traveled to St. Boniface in January of 2016, followed by a second group in March, including our own Dr. Michael Pro.
Haiti has an incredible need for eye care. There are only about 50 trained ophthalmologists in the country, and only half of that number is able to perform surgery. There are no optometrists available to provide routine eye care, either. Due to the lack of trained professionals, many patients simply do not seek treatment, and those who do face long waits for care that can be very expensive. In impoverished areas like Fond-des-Blancs, routine eye care, much less specialty treatment for disorders like glaucoma requiring medication and often surgery, are simply out of the question. While the primary goal of these trips is to provide these patients with access to affordable and necessary care, it is also important that skilled surgeons, like Dr. Pro and the other Wills Eye volunteers, begin to train ophthalmology residents and healthcare workers in Haiti so that they can then establish their own homegrown practices.
During the week he was in Haiti, Dr. Pro screened over 100 patients for glaucoma. Of those 100 patients, he performed 16 Laser Iridotomies for narrow angles in 10 patients, YAG capsulotomies in 2 patients, and 9 Selective Laser Trabeculoplasties, or SLT procedures. Now that they have returned from their successful trip, Dr. Pro and his fellow volunteers are working on ways to continue to support the clinic in Fond-des-Blancs, from training Haitian ophthalmologists to utilizing new technology like electronic medical records and telemedicine. Next stop, Kigali!