Irene Sasaki, MD
Irene Sasaki, MD
Ophthalmology · Long Beach, CA

Cambodia mission to Banteay Meanchey 2023

January 25th
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Project Description

As an ophthalmologist with fellowship training in glaucoma and expertise with both glaucoma and cataract surgery, my skills will fulfill the demand for Ophthalmic surgical and medical therapy. The Cambodian people have a disproportionate amount of severe eye disease that requires surgical treatment. My contributions can save the eyesight of many. This in turn will help improve the quality of life of the individual and will help their families by removing the requirement of another adult family member to care for a blind relative.

Population Served

Long Beach, California, the city where I practice, has the largest population of Cambodians outside of Cambodia. They immigrated here after the brutal regime of Pol Pot and the killing fields. My practice was located on the edge of Little Cambodia when I began practicing in 1995. Many patients were referred to my office and I offered care. The Cambodian community was traumatized and fearful of unknown western medicine. This population is plagued with more ophthalmic disease than most other populations. They have a high rate of angle closure glaucoma and suffer much blindness and morbidity due to Glaucoma. Most accepted medical therapy but refused surgery care until they were desperate. More than 80% of the Cambodians cancelled their scheduled surgeries. With patience, compassion and good care I earned the trust of the community. Now, my Cambodian patients rarely cancel their surgeries and refer their family and friends. I have learned a few Cambodian phrases and have educated myself about the history of these people through readings and by visiting the recent exhibit on Angkor Wat at our local museum. These people have suffered. I would like to visit their homeland and give back to their people with my Ophthalmic clinical and surgical expertise.

Expected Impact

This will be my first medical mission. I am Seeking a scholarship for this mission because I would like to make the greatest impact possible. I believe This mission will give me a better understanding of the community that I currently serve and increase my compassion for those I serve and for all of my patients as well. The experiences and skills that learn from this mission will increase my creativity and ability to adapt to a more wide variety of clinics and surgical situations. This mission will improve my ability to provide the best possible care to all future patients.

Trip Photos & Recap

The people of the Banteay Meanchey province of Cambodia are mostly farmers with broad smiles and warm demeanors. Each day brought dozens of people blinded by cataracts, glaucoma and other conditions to our free clinic. Our efforts were made possible through the generosity of many. We were allowed use of the Mongkul Borey Referral hospital eye center, an operating microscope and supplies from the Battambang Ophthalmic Care center, donations of ophthalmic surgical supplies from SEE international, and volunteer manpower supplied through the Cambodia Healthcare Professional Association of America. These collaborations allowed us to provide free sight restoring cataract surgery to forty patients and pterygium removal for seven patients. The country is rebuilding their healthcare system after it was destroyed by genocide and there is tremendous need. I feel fortunate to have worked with so many dedicated individuals to help provide care in this beautiful country.