In May, I plan to travel to with a group of ophthalmologists to Guatemala City for a medical mission. We will partner with Clinicas Visualiza, a local ophthalmology practice dedicated to the eradication of preventable blindness. Founded in 1995, the practice now accounts for approximately 20% of cataract surgeries in Guatemala. With this expansion, they have maintained an interest in social medicine and provide eye care services to those with limited resources and/or access. Our group will consist of specialists in cataract surgery, vitreoretinal disease, glaucoma and ophthalmic plastic & reconstructive surgery. We plan to dialogue with Visualiza to identify how our experience can best serve their needs and their patients’ needs. Our curriculum will include one week of lectures and operating room preceptorship. We hope this multi-pronged approach will enable Visualiza to optimize their health care delivery and improve their ability to reach the underserved.
We hope that both the indigent population of Guatemala and the ophthalmologists serving this population will benefit from our visit. Ophthalmology is a unique specialty in that a large proportion of our conditions are morbid yet preventable. Providing the gift of sight can do wonders to empower a vulnerable population. We have chosen to align with Visualiza because we share the same values that healthcare is a right. Although our mission will be held in Guatemala City, it will be attended by ophthalmologists from the entire country, and we thus hope the effects of our mission can extend to even the most remote geographic areas.
Although part of the mission will be operating room preceptorship, the ultimate goal is not simply volumetric surgery. Rather, we hope to empower the local ophthalmologists by both enhancing and expanding their current skill set to best serve their community. We feel this effect will persevere long after our departure. Furthermore, we hope this is just the beginning of a longitudinal relationship with Visualiza. If all goes accordingly, we hope to return with regularity, on at least an annual basis.
With the help of the Seva Foundation, we partnered with Visualiza, a local multi-specialty ophthalmology group dedicated to providing eye care to the underserved. Currently, they run a large social clinic, provide outreach to the surrounding community, and operate a satellite office in the rural north. They are continuing to expand and now account for nearly 20% of cataract surgeries in Guatemala.
Our group was asked to help establish a longitudinal knowledge exchange to enhance their skills and maximize their potential to serve their community. This was manifest through lectures and clinical experience in the office and operating room. As an oculoplastics specialist, I was asked to mentor one of their young associates and provide advice to some of their senior associates who currently perform oculoplastics procedures.
It was my privilege to work with these talented physicians and to serve such a warm, welcoming community, many of whom were indigenous Mayans. The next phase of our collaboration is already in the works, as two of their physicians will be visiting our offices later this year. I am excited to continue to nurture this relationship and am grateful to have been a part of this new venture. Thank you Doximity!