They came to the United States for training and left with the knowledge to transform lives through the gift of sight.
Seven surgeons from three countries converged on Eversight for three separate, week-long crash courses on eye banking this winter, observing everything from Eversight technicians recovering and processing tissue to advanced corneal transplantation techniques at the University of Michigan’s Kellogg Eye Center.
The surgeons, who were from Pakistan, Palestine and Jordan, are taking the lessons they learned back to their home countries to help thousands of people who cannot afford the care they need.
“Providing the knowledge, resources and tools for surgeons to more effectively treat their patients is an important part of our international mission,” said Collin Ross, Eversight Vice President of Global Development. “By partnering with these physicians, we are breaking down the barriers to corneal transplantation in some of the world’s most underserved regions.”
Poorer populations are more affected by blindness and vision impairment, and the problem is compounded by the fact 90 percent of the world’s visually impaired live in developing countries. But every dollar spent on improving eye health in underdeveloped areas generates a fourfold return on investment.
The four ophthalmologists from Pakistan are future Medical Directors in the eye banking system Eversight is helping to build in that country, a program that will provide a sustainable solution to assist an estimated 250,000 corneal blind patients.
“There are many complexities to an eye banking system like Eversight,” said Dr. Qazi Wasiq of the Pakistan Eye Bank Society. “After spending a week here and seeing how Eversight respects the gifts of donation, we understand the inner workings of an eye bank and how to execute a similar model that can work in Pakistan.”
Training eye care professionals is one of the World Health Organization’s top priorities in its global action plan for universal eye health. Dr. Noor Alqudah, a corneal surgeon in northern Jordan, says every ophthalmologist at her hospital has a waiting list with 20-50 patients. It can take years before a patient receives a cornea.
“In the last five months we have recovered just one donor’s tissue at my hospital,” Dr. Alqudah said. “By coming to Eversight, I can take the message about the impact of eye banks in the U.S. for people in need and encourage my nation to follow a similar path.”
Palestinian surgeons Dr. Omar Hammad and Dr. Akram Manasra traveled to the U.S. thanks to a grant from the Issa Foundation and Dr. Said Issa, an Eversight Board of Director. Government hospitals in Palestine serve 84 percent of the country’s population, and a vast majority of the patients cannot afford private healthcare.
While some corneas are shipped to Palestine from the U.S. and other countries, it’s nowhere near enough to meet the need. Dr. Hammad and Dr. Manasra want to develop a self-sufficient eye banking system in their country.
“This time spent training at Eversight is the light for the people in Palestine to create our own organization,” Dr. Hammad said. “You are not just giving us a fish—you are teaching us how to fish.”
Dr. Noor Alqudah, a surgeon at King Abdullah University Hospital in Jordan, practices an advanced corneal transplantation technique at Kellogg Eye Center in Michigan.
Seven surgeons from Jordan, Pakistan and Palestine visited Eversight to learn about eye banking and how tissue is prepared for corneal transplantation.