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The Mentors | Jul/Aug '14

A Call to Action

Mark Kontos, MD, speaks with Steve Slade, MD, and Geoff Tabin, MD, about their efforts to combat treatable blindness in the developing world, examining the events that put them on the path to humanitarian outreach and the rewards of helping others regain sight.

According to the World Health Organization, there are about 300 million people worldwide who are blind or have severe vision loss, with the majority of them living in developing countries. What strikes me most about all of this is the fact that 100 million of these individuals are blind simply because of cataracts. That means that if they could only have access to the kind of care we routinely provide every day to our patients, they could see. Just think of that for a minute, 100 million people—that’s the equivalent of everyone in California, Texas, and Florida combined. As ophthalmologists, I think we have an obligation to do whatever we can to change those numbers, and that means working in the field when and if you can or supporting those who do.

For this edition of The Mentors column, I had the opportunity to sit down with two people who have made a dent in the number of people living with treatable blindness, with one of them making it his life’s work. Steve Slade, MD, worked with Orbis early in his career, performing surgery and teaching other surgeons in developing countries how to take care of their countrymen. Geoff Tabin, MD, cofounded the Himalayan Cataract Project, which has become the blueprint by which treatable blindness throughout the world can be eliminated. Listening to their stories is fascinating to be sure, but, more important, it is a call to action for us all to do what we can for those who need us most.

Mark Kontos, MD

Mark Kontos, MD, is the Senior Partner at Empire Eye Physicians in Spokane, Washington. Dr. Kontos may be reached at (509) 928-8040;mark.kontos@empireeye.com/