Rwanda mission surgeons

Wisconsin surgeon Matthew Thompson, MD, performed life-changing cornea transplants and medical training in Kigali, Rwanda

Eversight-backed medical mission restores sight to eight people in Rwanda

In October 2022, Eversight, along with SEE International and Focus, supported a medical mission to Kigali, Rwanda with one of Eversight’s surgeons, Matthew Thompson, MD, of Tower Clock Eye Center in Green Bay, Wisc.  

Eversight provided Dr. Thompson with eight tissues for this medical mission. Six of those tissues were for penetrating keratoplasty and the other two were for endothelial keratoplasty procedures. All eight cornea transplants were successful. 

Dr. Thompson also worked with the only ophthalmology residency program in Rwanda that trains four surgeons a year. The inaugural residency class is just now graduating and expanding into subspecialty care. As part of the trip, Eversight and Dr. Thompson provided cornea tissue and training in advanced cornea surgery techniques to the resident physicians.

“I really appreciated having the donor tissue,” Dr. Thompson said. “Rwanda currently does not have an eye bank, and it will probably be some time before they're able to get to that level of technology.”

Dr. Thompson said he enjoys working with the residents and faculty in resident programs when doing these medical missions because he knows that the time spent working on surgical techniques is going to benefit people in the future as that knowledge gets passed on. 

In addition to performing sight-restoring cornea transplants and training Rwandan ophthalmologists, Dr. Thompson worked with a Rwanda International Institute of Ophthalmology (RIIO) optometrist on contact lens technology that may help prevent the need for some cornea transplants by slowing the progression of keratoconus, a disease he says appears to be common in the region. 

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Dr. Thompson said he enjoys working with the residents and faculty in resident programs when doing these medical missions because he knows that the time spent working on surgical techniques is going to benefit people in the future as that knowledge gets passed on. 

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In addition to performing sight-restoring cornea transplants and training Rwandan ophthalmologists, Dr. Thompson worked with a Rwanda International Institute of Ophthalmology (RIIO) optometrist on contact lens technology that may help prevent the need for some cornea transplants by slowing the progression of keratoconus, a disease he says appears to be common in the region. 

“Some of these transplants can be avoided in the future,” he said. “There is a very long waiting list for transplantation, so finding alternative treatments for these patients is going to be of great benefit.” 

Eversight Partner Relations Director Kara Kelly, who coordinated the tissue for Dr. Thompson, said Eversight provides charitable tissues to surgeons for these medical missions to further Eversight’s vision of a world without blindness. 

“Whenever possible, we like to support medical missions around the world, so that people who wouldn't otherwise have access to this type of health care or this level of expertise and ophthalmology can have their sight restored,” Kara said. 
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With the help of surgeons who are willing to take their time and expertise to give the gift of sight, Eversight strives toward making vision a reality for more people worldwide. 

“I don’t know how long these patients have had to wait in the dark, so to speak, in blindness,” Kara said. “I’m glad their wait is over.” 

Dr. Thompson plans on returning to Rwanda for additional trips and treatments in the future with the help of Eversight providing tissue to those in need of sight-restoring transplants. 

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