SOURCE: American Academy of Ophthalmology

American Academy of Ophthalmology

June 24, 2010 12:00 ET

U.S., Latin American Eye M.D.s Join Haitian Colleagues to Rebuild Eye Care

Earthquake Victims Benefit From Delivery of Sight-Saving Supplies

SAN FRANCISCO, CA--(Marketwire - June 24, 2010) -  Haitian ophthalmologists recently received instruments and supplies needed to restore quality eye and vision care to their community, thanks to the generosity of American and international ophthalmologists. The American Academy of Ophthalmology's (Academy) Task Force on Haiti Recovery, with the Pan-American Association of Ophthalmology (PAAO), is coordinating donation and distribution of ophthalmic supplies and equipment, including several complete exam "lanes.*" The in-kind donations are valued at more than a half-million dollars (U.S.). View a complete list of all in-kind donations.

The Academy's task force was created within days of the quake, as reports came in from Haitian colleagues of destroyed offices and hospitals, shortages of supplies and equipment, and the challenges of treating quake-related eye injuries, such as eye socket fractures and corneal abrasions caused by falling debris, and infections that flourished in the unsanitary conditions.

Task force volunteers returned from Haiti bearing long lists of urgently-needed supplies and equipment. The task force worked closely with PAAO and the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute of the University of Miami Health System on the donation drive, and leaders of the Haitian Society of Ophthalmology and the University of Haiti Eye Hospital are collaborating with the Academy on distribution of the eye units and other materials.

"The earthquake left many of our colleagues without the equipment and structure they need to provide proper patient care," said David W. Parke II, MD, CEO of the Academy. "I am proud of the ophthalmic community's overwhelming response in this time of great need and of the Academy's role in the collaborative effort to rebuild the eye care system in Haiti."

Philip R. Rizzuto, MD, was one of several ophthalmologists who went to Haiti to lend a hand. He described conditions in a blog post:

"Haitian ophthalmologists Bridgette Hudicort and François Rocourt welcomed me on arrival, and over the next five days we became friends and teammates," Dr. Rizzuto said. "On Monday we restored a young woman's sight by repairing her damaged eyelid. Two functional operating rooms had been set up in a lovely old motel spared by the earthquake, now called St. Damian Children's Hospital. Later we moved on to the university hospital, where eye surgeries were done under local anesthesia, with a desk lamp for illumination. About five feet from where I was working, I saw a Haitian ophthalmologist performing cataract surgery using an irrigation aspiration bottle and a 10cc syringe. It was a far cry from the outpatient surgical facilities we have in the States."

The Foundation of the Academy also established a Disaster Relief Fund to provide ophthalmic resources and facilitate much-needed patient care. All funds collected will be used for Haitian recovery efforts.

"We are extremely satisfied with our partnership and look forward to continued productivity and collaboration throughout joint efforts still to come," said Frantz Large, MD, president of the Haitian Society of Ophthalmology. 

"The Academy's efforts have been consistent since the disaster," said Michael W. Brennan, MD, chair of the Task Force on the Haiti Recovery. "From the immediate response and evaluation of needs to the subsequent facilitation and solicitation of supplies, we are proud to have been able to aid our colleagues in this trying time."

*A complete exam lane includes an exam chair; a slit lamp, to magnify the eye; a tonometer, to test pressure inside the eye; a projector, to check vision; a phoropter, to determine the vision correction prescription; and an indirect ophthalmoscope, for examination of the retina, the area at the back of the eye where images are transmitted to the optic nerve.

About the American Academy of Ophthalmology
The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world's largest association of eye physicians and surgeons -- Eye M.D.s -- with more than 29,000 members worldwide. Eye health care is provided by the three "O's" -- opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists. It is the ophthalmologist, or Eye M.D., who can treat it all: eye diseases, infections and injuries, and perform eye surgery.

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