Surgeons from Vance Thompson Vision Make Impact with Mission Trip to Honduras
BOZEMAN, Mont: This spring, Russell Swan, MD led a team of surgeons from Vance Thompson Vision and the University of Iowa, plus staff members, on a mission trip to Honduras.
The team spent time in clinic, evaluating patients for surgery, caring for postoperative patients, and doing surgery alongside the local team. Advanced cataract techniques that are less commonly employed in the emerging world, like phacoemulsification, were the primary focus. This less invasive approach to cataract surgery was complemented by training on minimally invasive glaucoma surgeries as well. This is particularly beneficial in Honduras because follow up care is often difficult to achieve and medications are hard to come by.
The Vance Thompson Vision team also built relationships with the staff and local surgeon team, creating cross-cultural partnerships. This included invitations for the surgeons in training to meetings in the United States, of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery. Dr. Swan, in particular, has a heart for the underserved and a mind for having the highest impact medical mission care possible. He believes that focusing not only on patients, but also on developing and training young doctors and infrastructure support, will be the most sustainable way to create care for emerging countries.
Although some examples were heartbreaking, such as children who could not see or young adults with no therapeutic options, the overarching theme of the week-long project was joy and gratitude. Joy from the patients and the surgeons in training, being able to see and learning new skills, and gratitude from the American team for the incredible hospitality and graciousness shown during the visit.
"For our team, we understood that in order to make an impact we needed to focus on developing relationships, training, and infrastructure support," said Dr. Russell Swan. "Long term, my hope is that San Felipe hospital will serve as a model on how to transform eye care delivery in emerging countries."
The surgeons in training in Honduras work incredibly hard, typically starting their day at 6:00 a.m. and ending it at 7:00 p.m. with nearly four hundred patients being seen each day. The Vance Thompson Vision team left Honduras with renewed hopefulness that global ophthalmology is moving in the right direction every day.