Immaraba! Impuyje kapaj sokAm , naun deszogo!
Thank you very much all the invited guests for honoring us with their presence!
I am originally from Central Eu from a small country called Hungary. After finishing med school I immigrated to the US and became an eye doctor. I worked in private practice there for 25 years. It has always been my dream to work in a developing country, so I started to do 2-week long cat surgery outreaches to Central America and Africa in 2003.7 years ago I moved to Tamale permanently, as I realized that my skills will better serve the needy here than in the US. It was dr Wanye who convinced me to come to Tamale, so I am eternally grateful to him for this.
I have been working in the Tamale Teaching Hosp since. A few years ago with a few friends, namely dr Collins, Jangu Ibrahim and Mashood Osman we decided to start an independent eye hospital. We named it the NCEH.
Our mission is to consistently provide comprehensive and good quality eye care to all patients, regardless of their age, race, tribe, religion and financial status. Our services are easily accessible and affordable. We will also provide general eye health education, and after the initial setup period, we are also going to train eye care workers.
Our team is committed to treat all patients with professionalism, compassion and in a way to preserve their dignity.
The word “Community” in the name of our hospital means that the needs of our community, meaning whole North Ghana, guide all our decisions. We do not want to take care of only the rich and affluent. We are realizing a special business model, called Aravind, already working well in many Asian and African countries. It is based on differential pricing, so we can take care of everyone in the community, rich and poor equally. This will take some time to develop and implement and there will we mistakes made in the beginning, so we are begging you, the public, to be patient with us. We promise that we will live up to your expectations.
We already applied to NHIS and hopefully within a few months we will be approved. This will make our services even more affordable.
What I see as one of the major problems preventing Ghana to develop more rapidly is the general lack of cooperation and collaboration. So many of us spend valuable time, energy and talent fighting each other instead of working together to advance our cause, whatever that might be. The reason is that we perceive each other as competitors, sometimes even as enemies. Just in my field, some eye doctors fight the optometrists and the eye nurses, and the optoms the eye nurses. We are not enemies of each other, our enemy is blindness, and we have to fight together to conquer it. So I hope that the NCEH will be an agent in promoting good quality eye care in Ghana and also cooperation and collaboration among eye care workers and the whole community.
Two River Eye Docs Volunteer In Africa
By Art Petrosemolo
A dedicated group of local ophthalmologists will leave for 14 days in Senegal, West Africa January 20th to treat cataracts and eye diseases. It’s their 11th humanitarian mission since 2007.
Similar to the well known Doctors Without Borders, the Right to Sight and Health group led by Drs. Donald MacDonald and Judith Simon of Monmouth Eye Care, Tinton Falls, go to areas where the need is greatest. They lead a small, highly trained group of volunteers who will work up to 12 hour days treating hundreds of men, women and children for eye diseases. Many times it is the first time patients have seen an eye doctor.
The first missions were to Mexico and Central America, however, for the last several years the group has worked twice a year in countries throughout Africa.
Although treating patients is key to the mission, the group also provides medical and eye-care education to local doctors and health care personnel through lectures, joint clinics and one-on-one teaching.
The group formed their non-profit two years ago and began accepting donations from interested friends. Volunteers pay their own expenses and donations by friends and medical organizations allow the Right to Sight and Health group also to donate medications, eye-drops, diagnostic instruments, ophthalmic equipment, surgical supplies, educational materials and glasses to patients and their hosts on each trip.
It began with Dr. Simon, a Hungary native who trained at Hahhnemann University in Philadelphia. She spent time in Mexico in 2002 on a volunteer medical mission as she finished her eye training. Additional medical trips included more visits to Mexico and stops in Nicaragua, the Phillipines, Ghana and Senegal. Dr. Simon got her colleague, Dr. MacDonald, medical director of Monmouth Eye Care, interested in medical missions when she joined the practice. With colleague Dr. Tracey Lewis the group started, in 2007 their own medical outreach program. They go overseas twice yearly. In recent years, working with church groups and the Peace Corps, RTSAH has centered its mission in Africa.
“Because we only have two weeks on each trip,” Dr. MacDonald says, “to do the most good, we need in-country support so we can start with patients from our first day.” The Presbyterian Church, according to the doctors is very active in Ghana and provide on-going support to RTSAH trips. The group feels Africa is where the need is highest now. “There are not enough doctors in Africa,” Dr. MacDonald says, “and most medical services are centered in the cities. The real need,” he stresses, “and where we go is to outlying, rural areas.”
In Africa, RTSAH doctors say, millions need surgery and may wait many years to get it, if they ever do. In the United States, almost no one loses their sight because of cataracts but in Africa that is not the case. Cataracts can be caused by many things including a virus, trauma or diet, but it is mainly caused by aging. In Africal, RTSAH doctors are teaching medical hosts small stitch incisions for this surgery which is new to the continent. “African doctors can’t get this type of training,” Dr. MacDonald says, “and, if they could, it would costs them thousands of dollars. “Working with us,” he continues, “they proceed from observation to performing this type of surgery within two weeks.”
For the January 2011 trip to Tambacounda, Senegal, the Peace Corps is handling the arrangements and because of their in-country organization, Dr. MacDonald is optimistic they will be able to see more patients than ever.
The group carries its equipment, including a large ophthalmic microscope, used in cataract surgery, on every trip. Although only 20 percent of the work on these missions involves cataract surgery, it, according to Dr. MacDonald, is the most life changing. “There is very little cataract surgery being done across Africa,” he says, “and when it is done, the equipment or techniques are not sophisticated enough to accurately match new lenses to the patient, and the results are frequently poor. With our sophisticated equipment, we can perform better quality surgery.” Dr. MacDonald says. “It is life changing for them. No longer are they a burden on their family but can return to work and an active life.”
Dr. MacDonald shudders when he describes some of the primitive cataract procedures local tribal healers still perform on patients. These treatments, he says, can do more harm than help. “On this trip, we are planning, for the first time, to use side by side tables, so members of our team and their medical hosts can prep patients as we operate allowing us to move from table to table, hopefully, completing 20-25 cataract surgeries a day besides our other treatment of eye problems.”
“We go where there is the most need,” Dr. Simon emphasizes, “and we are constantly evaluating where to take the next trip. Naturally, hospital and medical groups where we already have visited want us back and we might return but we are always looking for new places to bring our medical skills.”
The traveling group usually includes Drs. MacDonald and Dr. Simon and usually another medical doctor. Surgical nurses and health care workers also volunteer for particular missions so the traveling party can be about eight. Dr. Simon and Dr. MacDonald’s mentors from medical schools also send them student volunteers. “Many times we have more people who want to make a mission with us than we can accept,” they say. The group will return to Africa in late spring for a May-June first time eye mission to Tonga in Cameroon, West Africa and plans for January 2012 are being discussed.
Long term the group would like to build a facility in Africa where RTSAH and local doctors can provide specialized health care to treat eye diseases and perform eye surgery. RTSAH has applied for grants to take the next step but in the meantime, plans for twice yearly, hands-on visits to Africa continue.
In summarizing his overall philosophy and the philosophy of the group, Dr. MacDonald believes that doing community service should be encouraged. “If we all took just a little bit of time every year to help others in need, the world would be a much better place. Instead of that vacation to some exotic place, a week or two dedicated to improving life of our fellow human beings will do much to improve the world.”
For more information about the Right to Sight group, check their website: https://www.righttosightandhealth.org
SUMMER BULLETIN 2010 PORTSMOUTH ABBEY SCHOOL
Donald A. Macdonald, MD, Portsmouth Abbey Class of 1973.
Interviewed by Tom Anderson
Dr. Donald Macdonald’s interest in medicine was developed while a student at the Abbey and being inspired by his teachers Rev. Dom Leo Van Winkle, Rev. Dom Andrew Jenks and Dr.Donal O’Brien. After graduating from the Abbey and Williams College, he attended Dartmouth Medical School and completed his residency in ophthalmology at the Manhattan Eye, Ear & Throat Infirmary and his fellowship in Oculoplastic Surgery at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary. He returned to the New Jersey shore where he was born and raised and where he lives today with his wife, Lore, having raised their four children Donald, Ali, Meg and Ian. Don and Lore have dedicated themselves to a life of stewardship in keeping with the Benedictine tradition. In March 2007, Don and a few colleagues formed a non-profit organization, Right to Sight and Health (www.righttosightandhealth.org), which provides medical and surgical eye care to indigenous populations who suffer due to extreme poverty and/or a total lack of available healthcare in areas where they live. Right to Sight and Health is a non-religious organization, and they treat people in need regardless of their nationality, race, ethnicity
This past March, Don returned from a two week mission in Kedougou, Senegal, the organization’s eleventh such mission since 2007, where he and his team of surgeons, nurses and allied health workers and volunteers performed cataract, trachoma and pterygium surgeries, distributed 600 pairs of eyeglasses, trained the local ophthalmic nurse, and donated a laptop computer and 50 lbs. of medical and surgical supplies to a
local hospital. They also donated enough money for building a new nurses quarters. The services he and his team provide free of charge combat blindness, one of the leading causes of infirmity in countries such as Senegal, Ghana, Cambodia, Nicaragua
and the Philippines. This summer Don is planning to be in Ghana working with the Presbyterian Church in two remote locations.
In a recent conversation with Don, we had a chance to explore some of the reasons why he undertakes these missions:
TA – Where did the idea come from that motivated you to startthe Right to Sight and Health missions?
DM – Every year local doctors have been doing medical missions
in South America and the Philippines. I always wanted to go,
but did not want to leave behind my young children. It was not
until two doctors, Dr. Tracey Lewis and Dr. Judith Simon, joined
my practice. They had been to Chiapas in Mexico and Africa
several times. After several missions, Dr. Simon actually was
organizing and running her own missions and it was she that
made the non-profit a reality. I wanted my daughter Meg to go
into medicine, so I asked her to go with me to Nicaragua. Well
she is going into psychology, so I failed to get any of my children
to follow me into eye care. But I got hooked on giving the gift of
vision to so many blind people. Here was something very powerful
that I myself could do to help people in a big way. Other
types of medical care in the Third World are difficult or impossible,
since medications are not readily available. But cataract
surgery could actually restore vision and there are a multitude
of people completely blind from this condition. It is the largest
treatable cause of blindness in the world.
TA – What kind of a difference has these missions made in these
patients and their families’ lives?
DM – When we were in Senegal in March, a 12 year old girl
came in totally blind. After we did both cataract surgeries, she
could see. You can only imagine how this will change her life.
This is true for countless other people who cannot walk anywhere
and so they are confined to their homes. A 16 year old
came in one evening after getting poked in the eye. We did his
traumatic cataract and saved him from losing his vision forever.
There is no eye care available for these people.
TA – How did your experience at Portsmouth play/not play a
role in establishing Right to Sight and Health missions and serving
the needs of those less fortunate?
DM – I don’t know if I can say that Portsmouth played a specific
role, except to say that Portsmouth shaped me more then any
other experience I ever had. Only at Portsmouth did I learn
about right and wrong and living an upstanding, honest life. I
wish all medical students went to a place like Portsmouth and
maybe there wouldn’t be such a health care crisis!
TA – What sense of accomplishment or personal gratification do
you derive from working on these missions?
DM – It is hard to describe the great gratification I get from our
work. Everybody thinks you are on some safari, but you are
working day and night in temperatures over 100° F, even on
weekends. But it is so exciting that you eat voraciously, drink
water all the time and barely stop to rest. We always have a
team that seems to work well together, and it is a great life experience
for the doctors, nurses, students, and Peace Corp volunteers.
We also teach local doctors our small incision Third
World cataract surgery techniques so that they may go out and
improve their outcomes. This is just as gratifying as giving the
gift of vision.
TA – Finally, what wisdom would you impart to our fellow alums
and current students on the importance of volunteerism to
DM – Often it seems that so much of the community service our
children are encouraged to do is not followed up in our adult
life. If we all took just a little bit of time out every year to help
others in need, the world would be a better place. Instead of
that vacation to some exotic place, a week or two dedicated to
improving the life of our fellow humans would go a long way to
improving the world. I am amazed how much work there is to
do. It is never ending. I encourage everyone I see to contribute
their time and money to causes such as ours. Catholic Medical
Mission Board (CMMB) is another organization that is doing
much to improve the world. And there are many more like
these that do so much for others.
Don and his team plan future missions to Assin Praso/Adobue,
Ghana, in June-July 2010 and Tambacounda, Senegal, in January,
2011. To learn more about the missions and how you might
help, please visit Right to Sight and Health at www.righttosightandhealth.