Why a retinal surgeon cares about uncorrected refractive error–the “rest of the story”–reading glasses

I recently shared pictures sent to me by my colleagues at One World Surgery in the Dominican Republic–requesting that we send more reading glasses. My staff and I (in addition to my family) had faithfully packed up reading glasses starting in March of 2022 and sent them all summer long. Remarkably, we had sent boxes to cities around the US–Texas, California, Maine, Massachusetts and these strangers had faithfully delivered them.

Each time I see pictures of smiling reading and new reading glasses, I get a little choked up. In 2000, I spent one year preparing to travel to work with local ophthalmologists and to visit a group of people living in a remote village in Brazil who were “losing vision”.  Could it be an  infectious disease, uveitis, or retinal issue or just early cataracts. The “rest of the story” was that basic hygiene–boiling water and hand washing had extended lifespan.  The people living in this remote village could not see to weave baskets or spear fish. Bottom line, life expectancy had extended life to presbyopia and the need for reading glasses. The World Health Organization later categorized “uncorrected refractive error” as a major cause of preventable blindness. We initially bought Walmart out but later partnered with Vision Spring in 2015 and have been purchasing and dispensing ever since. We forget that seeing up close as we age impacts learning, sewing, seeing mobile phones, and studying–education.

Where else can $10 change the lives of 20 people? On Black Friday, remember we can all make a difference in this world. Thanks for supporting our work!