Returning the favor: Never too late to give back as a premium surgeon
Whether local or international, through donation of services or funds, there is a way for everyone to give back.
by Mitchell A. Jackson, MD
As the holidays approach, I always think of how I can return the favor for all the success and privileges I have had as a premium surgeon.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology meeting was highlighted by an awesome Fight Blindness musical extravaganza event at The Warfield Theatre, raising a significant amount of funding for the Foundation Fighting Blindness led by chief operating officer Jason Menzo. The Two Blind Brothers, Bradford and Bryan Manning, an extension of this organization, took the stage with Quentin Allen (DJ Eye-Q) and me (DJMJ) to launch an amazing evening. Hosted by the CEDARS/ASPENS organization and executive director Sarah Rimmele, this event was just one of many ways premium surgeons raise awareness to fight blinding retinal conditions such as Stargardt disease, which the Manning brothers have endured since a young age.
There are several ways to return the favor: perform free surgery in your subspecialty in your local region, travel to do mission trips internationally and volunteer to examine patients and perform surgery, set up telemedicine clinics to outreach underprivileged areas, or just donate funds to a variety of eye foundations and charitable organizations. Involvement from industry and companies to supply necessary eye drops, medical supplies, surgical supplies, phacoemulsification machines and IOLs is just as critical in the process, as well as their sponsorship in events raising funding for blindness research. I personally want to thank the 25 companies that helped raise funding at the San Francisco Fight Blindness event.
Donating free surgery in our subspecialty, mainly cataract surgery, can be done in so many ways, from offering free femtosecond laser technology to offering an entire free procedure or placing upgraded IOL technology in patients who, for example, cannot wear glasses postop. Reaching out to your local Lions Club or chamber of commerce is simple. Our practice routinely donates free femtosecond laser cataract surgery for those patients with dense cataracts and true financial hardship. Companies such as Lensar also have been charitable when a patient will truly benefit from the technology.
Every year, as a premium surgeon, I attempt to go on at least one mission trip internationally, with most of my experience traveling to Cambodia to provide cataract services at the Khmer Sight Foundation led by Sean Ngov and medical director Sunil Shah. There are so many opportunities in our field of expertise to aid patients abroad, such as the Hawaiian Eye Foundation providing care to the Pacific Rim, Honduras ECHO Foundation, East Kenya Foundation in Africa and the Nepal Eye Care Foundation, to name just a few. I implore that each and every premium eye surgeon travel at least once in their lifetime to return the favor for those in need. Access to eye care and appropriate surgical services is scarce in many parts of the world. CorneaGen, led by Monty Montoya, is a mission-driven company committed to transforming how corneal surgeons treat and care for the cornea by simplifying the process of Descemet’s membrane endothelial keratoplasty.
Roger Zaldivar, MD, of Argentina, current president of Refractive Surgery Alliance, has worked diligently to provide eye care to far regions of South America. His telemedicine efforts have been instrumental and can be the way medicine is practiced worldwide as we move further in an era of reduced medical reimbursement for standard services.
Lastly, if time is constrained or travel is not in your wheelhouse as a premium surgeon, then simply donate to any of these organizations or the eye foundation of your choice. Local eye banks always can use donations for corneal transplant access and research as another example of donation options. There is a way that is perfect for you to return the favor as a premium surgeon. November was designated as Eye Donation Month, and CorneaGen promoted stories shared from individuals who received the life-changing gift of sight.
Fight Blindness may have been the theme I created during AAO, but fight blindness should be our theme as premium surgeons every day we practice. Remember this holiday season to return the favor. I look forward to hearing great stories from all of my colleagues in the coming months of how they returned the favor.