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Himalayan Cataract Project E-News: May 2012

Patients at the Dolakha Mini Outreach Microsurgical Eye Clinic.
Joyful patients at the Dolakha Mini Outreach Microsurgical Eye Clinic.

Here you will find news on the latest international eye care activities from the Himalayan Cataract Project (HCP). This month’s newsletter includes summaries on the following:

Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Ethiopia

    • Major Cataract Intervention — Over 1100 surgeries in 6 days!
    • Cornea Training and Eye Banking

  • Ghana

    • KATH Residency Director lectures at Ophthalmology Society of Ghana meeting 
    • Clinical collaboration & training
    • Construction progress at KATH


  • New ophthalmologist at Hetauda
  • Dolahka: 51-year-old can see after two years of blindness
  • High-volume outreach in India


  • HCP Board Members deliver inaugural Global Sight Alliance Webinar
  • Dr. Sanduk Ruit attends Congress at the Vatican
  • Reuters news article features Dr. Sanduk Ruit


Major Cataract Intervention — Over 1100 surgeries in 6 days!

Drs. Tilahun, Oliva, Tabin, Alemu and Ruit examine patients after surgery in Woldiya, Ethiopia.
From left to right, Drs. Tilahun, Oliva, Tabin, Alemu and Ruit examine patients after surgery in Woldiya.

Together with partners from three continents, the Himalayan Cataract Project managed a high-volume cataract event in Woldiya, Ethiopia, which provided over 1,100 sight-restoring surgeries earlier this month. In addition to the local team, our medical team included partners from Nepal, the US and Ethiopia: Dr. Sanduk Ruit and a team from the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology in Kathmandu, Nepal; Dr. Tilahun Kiros and a team from the Quiha Zonal Hospital in Mekelle, Ethiopia; and Drs. Geoff Tabin and Matt Oliva and a host of assistants from the Himalayan Cataract Project. Together the team operated for six days with four operating tables in constant use from dawn until dusk each day.

Woldiya was chosen for the intervention because it has one of the highest rates of bilateral blindness in Ethiopia. The patients had been pre-screened and identified in the months leading up to the intervention. With mules, vans and buses, the local team transported the patients to Woldiya during the surgical week. The patients were nearly all bilaterally blind before the intervention and the post-operative reactions were phenomenal.

The surgical intervention is part of a broader research initiative aimed at assessing the costs of blindness and the economic impact of cataract surgery. In 2011, HCP started working with the RAND Corporation to carry out a three-year initiative centered around the recent surgical intervention in Woldiya. The patients as well as a control group with inoperable cataract or other inoperable conditions will be followed over this period to measure the economic impact of the sight restoration.

In Dr. Geoff Tabin’s words, “Our patients have been incredibly joyous with phenomenal reactions. The scenes have been amazing with hundreds of patients ululating every morning at post op and shedding tears of joy.”

We believe this to be one of the largest cataract interventions in sub-saharan Africa to date. More patients are arriving each day and are being cared for by Woldiya's Dr. Alemu bringing the total closer to 1,200.

High-volume cataract event in Woldiya, Ethiopia
Images from Woldiya, Ethiopia. 
Click to see larger images.

Cornea Training and Eye Banking

The training of local eye care personnel is a priority in all HCP interventions. Prior to the surgical intervention in Woldiya, Drs. Oliva and Tabin worked with local corneal surgeons in Addis Ababa and Gondar, collectively providing 24 corneal transplant surgeries. HCP Ethiopia has the only functioning eye bank in Sub-Saharan Africa. Together with partner NGOs ORBIS and SightLife, HCP has committed to the long-term success of the Eye Bank of Ethiopia through improvements in tissue recovery, surgeon capacity and providing necessary equipment and surgical supplies.


KATH Residency Director lectures at Ophthalmology Society of Ghana meeting

Dr. Lartey and a patient.
Dr. Lartey and a patient.

On May 9, HCP Partner Dr. Seth Lartey delivered a presentation, “The Role of an NGO in a Teaching Hospital” [PDF, 4.3Mb] at the Ophthalmology Society of Ghana meeting in Accra. The meeting, titled “Consensus Meeting on Scaling up Cataract Surgical Rate,” brought together practitioners from throughout the country and a commitment was made to focus on training cataract teams in high-volume delivery. Dr. Lartey is the Residency Director at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) and serves as Vice President of the Ophthalmology Society of Ghana (OSG).

HCP and KATH will work with other OSG members to launch their efforts and are planning on a high-volume intervention later this summer. OSG was formed in 1992 to promote good eye health in Ghana by organizing continuous medical education for members and collaborating with each other and members of other ophthalmological societies to improve patient care. At the time of its establishment, Ghana had only four practicing ophthalmologists — there are now 49. Follow this link to read more about the OSG.

Clinical collaboration and progress at KATH

Earlier this month, two teams from the University of Utah’s John A. Moran’s Eye Center returned to Kumasi for their annual visit to work with KATH’s ophthalmologists, residents and eye care staff. Each workday included lectures and hands-on surgical training in strabismus, pediatric cataract, glaucoma, and phacoemulsification. This visit had a special focus on pediatric surgical care including a prospective survey of the smallest infants in the newborn unit for retinopathy of prematurity. In pediatrics, 12 cataract and 7 glaucoma surgeries were provided out of a total of 83 — all performed in conjunction with KATH faculty or residents.

Construction progress at KATH

Construction is nearing completion on the new surgical eye center at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital. See the latest images, below.

  • Construction at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital.


New ophthalmologist in Hetauda

Dr. Pratibha Lama Joshi.
Dr. Pratibha Lama Joshi.

Dr. Pratibha Lama Joshi has been named the new Hospital Chief at Tilganga’s Hetauda Community Eye Hospital in Nepal. With support from HCP, Hetauda transitioned from a Community Eye Center to a Community Eye Hospital (CEH) in 2009 and offers 24-hour emergency services, telemedicine, patient education, and extensive outreach.

After the eye hospital opening in 2008 the number of yearly surgeries steadily increased from 135 in 2008 to 3,320 in 2011. The goal for 2012 is 3,500 surgeries.

Eye Camp in Nepal restores sight and independence to 51-year-old woman

Before and after pictures of Bishnu.
Before and after pictures of Bishnu.

Bishnu Maya Thami, a 51-year-old female from a rural village in Nepal, was blind for two years before arriving at the Dolakha Eye Center in May. Before her sight was restored, Bishnu Maya was completely dependent on her daughter-in-law and neighbors. Through an outreach event, Bishu had her sight restored by a team from Tilganga.

Since November 2010, when HCP committed essential funds allowing Tilganga to take over the eye center’s management, more than 10,500 patients have benefited from its services. Tilganga’s clinical staff travels to Dolakha four times a year to perform outreach surgical events restoring sight to patients like Bishnu who wouldn’t be able to make the trip to Kathmandu and who would otherwise have no access to eye care.

Mr. Hasta Rai, Ophthalmic Assistant from Okhaldhunga Community Eye Centre
Mr. Hasta Rai, Ophthalmic Assistant from Okhaldhunga Community Eye Centre (a branch of Tilganga), examines a patient with a direct ophthalmoscope.

High-volume cataract workshops in India

Tilganga’s Dr. Govinda Paudel traveled to Mangarh, Uttar Pradesh (UP), a remote region of India to continue providing cataract surgery training to local eye care personnel working at Jagatguru Kripalu Charity Hospitals located in Mangarh and Barsana, UP. In two days 2,150 patients were examined, 791 cataract surgeries were provided by three surgeons — Dr. Paudel from Tilganga and local Drs. Mahanthi and Anand.

Amazingly, Dr. Paudel hit a new surgical milestone during the workshop — performing 247 high quality cataract surgeries in a single day. This is the highest number of surgeries that a single surgeon has performed in all of Tilganga’s work.

  • High-volume cataract workshops in India


HCP Board Members deliver inaugural Global Sight Alliance Webinar

On May 30, Drs. Geoff Tabin and Matt Oliva led a webinar through the Global Sight Alliance titled, “Performing, Teaching, and Expanding Access to high volume, high quality cataract surgery in sub-Saharan Africa.” Drs. Tabin and Oliva shared their recent experience at the high-volume cataract program in northern Ethiopia and addressed the myriad ways in which needless blindness negatively affects the overall health of the individual, family, and community in the developing world. For further details, please visit the Global Sight Alliance website.

Dr. Sanduk Ruit attends Congress at the Vatican

Dr. Sanduk Ruit
Dr. Sanduk Ruit is seen in the back-right of this photo from the event.

On May 13, Co-Director Dr. Sanduk Ruit attended a special congress at the Vatican focused on blindness in addition to delivering a lecture. The congress was attended by ophthalmologists, different associations for the blind and leaders of pharmaceutical and biomedical companies. They discussed the newest research toward finding a cure for blindness and the affect it would have on medicine, the economy, and society at large.

Follow this link to learn more about the congress.

Reuters news article features Dr. Sanduk Ruit

“Nepal's ‘magic’ surgeon brings light back to poor”

Dr. Sanduk Ruit
A patient with cataract waits outside a surgery room before his surgery at the Tilganga Eye Center in Kathmandu. Photo by Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters.

A Reuters article on Dr. Sanduk Ruit was featured on the websites of Good Morning America, Chicago Tribune, MSNBC and Fox News. The story showcased Dr. Ruit’s efficient, high-quality, high-volume cataract surgery delivery system and his efforts to cure blindness for tens of thousands of people in Nepal and other countries in Asia and Africa.

We are trying to set up a model of how you can conduct a very high quality prevention of blindness program at low cost and make it sustainable. If you can do it in Nepal it can be done anywhere in the world.” — Dr. Sanduk Ruit

The article states, “Ruit recalled how he was moved by a woman who had given birth to a baby boy when she was blind but saw her son for the first time when he was 4-years-old after surgery in a field camp in eastern Nepal (Dolakha). She looked at the child for a few moments, then jumped to grab him, wept tears of joy and began kissing him, Ruit said, eyes glinting with emotion. ‘I was totally moved by the expression of her face. This is the power of such a simple surgical intervention,’ he said.”

Read the article online here.

A child is treated in Rwanda.
A child is screened in Rwanda.

The Himalayan Cataract Project works to eradicate preventable and curable blindness through high quality ophthalmic care, education and the establishment of a world-class eye care infrastructure.

Please visit our Web site at to keep up with the latest HCP news. There you will also find information on HCP’s finances, its founders, staff and board members, and ways that you can give the gift of sight.

Remember, through the Himalayan Cataract Project it takes a gift of only $20 to provide life-changing cataract surgery to someone struggling with blindness in the developing world.