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Preventing Global Blindness, Sustainably

Retina Global provides retina care to those in need through the help of volunteers.

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Bahamas

Nassau

The Bahamas, formally known as the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, is an island nation situated within the Lucayan Archipelago. It encompasses over 700 islands, cays, and islets in the vast Atlantic Ocean. The country lies to the north of Cuba and Hispaniola (home to Haiti and the Dominican Republic), northwest of the Turks and Caicos Islands, southeast of the U.S. state of Florida, and to the east of the Florida Keys. Originally inhabited by the Lucayan people, a branch of the Arawakan-speaking Taino, the Bahamas holds a significant place in history as the site of Christopher Columbus's first landfall in the New World in 1492. Over time, the Bahamas evolved from being a British Crown colony in 1718 to gaining its independence as a Commonwealth realm in 1973. The national coat of arms of the Bahamas features a shield adorned with national symbols at its core. This emblem is supported by a marlin and a flamingo, which represent the national animals of the Bahamas. The placement of the flamingo on land and the marlin at sea signifies the geographical diversity of the islands. Above the shield rests a conch shell, symbolizing the rich marine life found throughout the archipelago. The conch shell is perched upon a helmet, and beneath it, you'll find the central shield, where a ship, reminiscent of Christopher Columbus's Santa María, sails gracefully beneath the sun. At the bottom, a banner bears the national motto: "Forward, Upward, Onward Together." The Bahamian economy predominantly relies on tourism to drive its economic activity. This industry not only contributes to over 60 percent of the Bahamian GDP but also provides employment for more than half of the country's workforce. In 2012, the Bahamas welcomed 5.8 million visitors, with over 70 percent of them arriving via cruise ships, highlighting the nation's allure as a prime tourist destination. The Bahamas is home to an estimated population of 382,825, with a demographic breakdown revealing 25.9% under the age of 14, 67.2% falling in the 15 through 64 age group, and 6.9% over the age of 65. According to the International Diabetes Federation's data from 2014, there were approximately 34,900 reported cases of diabetes in the Bahamas, with a prevalence of around 13.1% in adults aged 20-79. Alarmingly, an estimated 6,400 cases of diabetes remain undiagnosed, placing a substantial burden on both the nation and its people. Until recently, the Bahamas lacked a resident retinal specialist. Dr. Agrawal, our CEO, has firsthand experience working in the Bahamas between 2002 and 2003 when he was the sole retinal specialist serving the Bahamas and the surrounding regions. Since then, the healthcare landscape has witnessed the return of Dr. Juli Dean, the head of the Department of Ophthalmology at the Princess Margaret Hospital, and Dr. Dawn Russell, who primarily practices in the private sector, to Nassau, Bahamas. However, with the Bahamas comprising numerous islands, ensuring timely and consistent retinal care for the nation's people remains a formidable challenge.

Belize

Belize City

Belize, located along the eastern coast of Central America, holds a unique distinction as the sole country in the region with English as its official language, although Belizean Creole (Kriol) and Spanish are also commonly spoken. It shares its borders with Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the south and west, and is embraced by the beautiful Caribbean Sea to the east. As Larry Waight eloquently elaborates in the Huffington Post, Belize is a country of breathtaking beauty, offering countless reasons for travelers to visit. In the Latin American and Caribbean region, the burden of visual impairment is not evenly distributed. According to PAHO, in many countries, it's estimated that for every 1 million people, 5,000 are blind, and 20,000 suffer from visual impairment. Shockingly, at least two-thirds of these cases stem from treatable conditions, including diabetic retinopathy and other diseases. Remarkably, Belize, with a population of 332,000 (ref), only boasts three practicing ophthalmologists, all operating within the private sector. Strikingly, there is no retinal specialist in the country, which is grappling with a rising tide of diabetes and diabetic retinopathy. While the prevalence of diabetes is approximately 10% (an estimate that may actually be conservative), this translates to roughly 33,000 Belizeans affected by diabetes. Though only about 10% of diabetic patients are likely to develop blinding complications from diabetic retinopathy, it remains a challenge to pinpoint which of these patients are at risk. A lack of regular healthcare access, coupled with inconsistent monitoring of diabetes, poor lifestyle choices, and lack of exercise, all contribute to the heightened risk. Similarly, various other retinal conditions go undiagnosed or untreated, exacerbating the issue. For example, manageable problems like retinal detachment remain undiagnosed or undertreated due to the absence of retinal expertise. Premature infants, who require regular retinal examinations to diagnose and treat retinopathy of prematurity, do not have access to retinal specialists. The Belize Council for the Visually Impaired (BCVI), a not-for-profit organization, has been an essential source of affordable eye care for disadvantaged individuals in Belize for over three decades, operating five offices across the country. These include the National Eye Clinic in Belize City, Belmopan in the Cayo District, Dangriga in Stann Creek, Orange Walk Town in the Orange Walk District, and Punta Gorda in Toledo District. Furthermore, regular clinics are held in Corozal Town (Corozal District), as well as Benque Viejo del Carmen and San Ignacio (Cayo District). BCVI offers free eye exams, and their eyeglasses are available at heavily discounted rates. We have forged a partnership with BCVI to address the current challenges. Our approach involves: Bringing retinal specialists for regular visits to assess patients and perform necessary procedures. Collaborating with our industry partners to explore the possibility of making retinal equipment available at BCVI clinics for the use of retinal specialists. Engaging in discussions with other partners to explore the potential for short-term relocations of retinal specialists who have recently completed their retinal fellowships to Belize. Identifying a Belizean trainee ophthalmologist and facilitating their training in the management of retinal diseases. If you share our commitment to making a difference in Belize, we invite you to support our mission. Your assistance will play a pivotal role in providing the solutions that Belize desperately needs. Together, we can help transform the eye care landscape in Belize and improve the lives of its people.

Cochabamba

Bolivia, a landlocked nation in western-central South America, shares its borders with Brazil to the north and east, Paraguay to the southeast, Argentina to the south, Chile to the southwest, and Peru to the northwest. With an estimated population of 10 million, Bolivia is a diverse country characterized by a rich tapestry of ethnicities, including Amerindians, Mestizos, Europeans, Asians, and Africans, with Spanish being the dominant language spoken. Regrettably, according to 2013 estimates from The World Factbook, Bolivia ranks 161st in life expectancy, with an average of 68.2 years. A study conducted by the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations International Emergency Children's Fund highlights a startling statistic: over 230 infants succumb daily in Bolivia due to the lack of access to proper healthcare. The majority of the population remains without health insurance and lacks essential access to healthcare services, underscoring a pressing need for improved healthcare infrastructure and services in the country. Our current focus centers on the vibrant city of Cochabamba, nestled in a valley that bears the same name within the Andes mountain range of Central Bolivia. As the capital of the Cochabamba Department and the fourth largest city in Bolivia, Cochabamba boasts an estimated population of 630,587. This enchanting city has earned the monikers "City of Eternal Spring" and "The Garden City" due to its consistently spring-like temperatures throughout the year. However, as lifestyle changes and urbanization continue to shape the landscape, there's a noticeable uptick in the prevalence of diseases, particularly diabetes, in large cities like Cochabamba. This shift has brought about a growing diagnosis of age-related macular degeneration, adding to the healthcare challenges in the country. In collaboration with the Fundacion Boliviana de Oftalmologia, based in Cochabamba, we aim to make a significant impact. This foundation has established a strong presence in the city, with an effective outreach program and a robust residency program that offers a well-structured teaching and training curriculum. Our collective efforts will involve working closely with the ophthalmologists in Cochabamba and across Bolivia to deliver essential retinal care at the grassroots level. Our overarching objective is to facilitate the training of a retina specialist who can ultimately provide care to the many patients in the country, ensuring that the residents of Cochabamba and beyond have access to the specialized care they require.

Burundi

Bujumbura

Bujumbura, situated on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, is the capital of Burundi. Lake Tanganyika is a remarkable natural wonder, being the second largest freshwater lake in the world by volume and the second deepest, second only to Siberia's Lake Baikal. Additionally, it holds the distinction of being the world's longest freshwater lake, and it boasts one of the highest concentrations of heavy water in any body of water. Despite these natural riches, Burundi faces profound challenges. It ranks as one of the five poorest countries globally, with one of the lowest per capita GDPs. The nation has grappled with conflict, corruption, and limited access to education, contributing to a high rate of emigration among its youth. Notably, Burundi is among the least globalized nations according to a 2012 DHL Global Connectedness Index. The Global Hunger Index for 2013 revealed a grim reality, with Burundi earning the dubious distinction of being the hungriest country worldwide in terms of percentage. Currently, in a population of approximately 10 million, Burundi lacks a retina specialist. While the country does have a few ophthalmologists, including Dr. Levi Kandeke and his associates in Bujumbura, Dr. Chantal Giramahoro in Ngozi, and Dr. John Cropsey in Kibuye, the eye care infrastructure is underdeveloped. Compounding the issue is the rising prevalence of diabetes among Burundians, with inadequate access to care leading to the development of diabetic retinopathy. Ocular trauma cases also abound, with patients suffering from traumatic cataracts, corneal and scleral wounds, vitreous hemorrhage, retinal detachment, and even intraocular foreign bodies. Unfortunately, many patients seek treatment only in the later stages of their conditions, making management more challenging. Our vision is to address these pressing issues by: Providing frequent retinal care to the people of Burundi in the short term. Identifying and supporting the training of young Burundian ophthalmologists currently in residency programs, particularly in the field of retinal care. Assisting in establishing infrastructure and providing retinal instrumentation to enhance the capacity for retinal care within the country. We are driven by the hope that our collective efforts will ultimately lead to a sustainable solution, greatly improving the lives of the people of Burundi and addressing their urgent eye care needs.

Haiti

Port-au-Prince

Haiti, officially recognized as the Republic of Haiti, stands as a sovereign state situated on the island of Hispaniola within the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean Sea. Haiti occupies the western portion of the island, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. With an estimated population of 10.8 million people, Haiti holds the distinction of being the second-most populous country in the entire Caribbean region. Spain's discovery of the island of Hispaniola took place on December 5, 1492, during Christopher Columbus's historic first voyage across the Atlantic. Columbus, upon landing in Haiti, initially believed he had reached India or Asia. However, on Christmas Day of the same year, Columbus's flagship, the Santa Maria, ran aground to the north of what is now known as Limonade. Faced with this situation, Columbus ordered his crew to salvage what they could from the ship, and thus, the first European settlement in the Americas was established, bearing the name "La Navidad" in commemoration of the day the ship was lost. Haiti is widely recognized as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010 exacerbated the nation's hardships. The earthquake claimed the lives of over 310,000 individuals, left approximately 300,000 injured, and rendered more than 1,000,000 people homeless. The catastrophe also inflicted significant damage on the country's healthcare facilities. Despite a population of 10 million people, Haiti currently lacks a fully trained retinal specialist. Patients seeking retinal care must rely on doctors with limited experience or undertake an arduous 8-hour bus journey to the neighboring Dominican Republic for treatment. The shortage of specialized medical professionals poses a significant challenge to the healthcare system in Haiti.

Narok County

This program is focused on providing retinal care to the underserved population in Masaai Mara region of Kenya. Working in collaboration with AC Letein Hospital, our project team, with the project lead Diane Steinhilber, is focused on providing screening and access to retinal care to patients in the region. We are working with the County Health Officials to identify and train an ophthalmologist to get advanced training in retina. We will continue to provide support to the trained retina specialist in terms of instrumentation and other needs as they settle down after the training to provide retinal care.

Volunteer

California

Orange County Eye Project

The mission of the Orange County Eye Project (OCEP) is to establish regular and sustainable specialized eye care for the underserved population of Orange County, CA, with the primary objective of preventing and mitigating blindness within this community. As an integral part of our initiative, we enthusiastically promote education and research. Our program engages Ophthalmology/Retina Fellows and Ophthalmology Residents in the evaluation and treatment of patients under expert supervision. Furthermore, they play a pivotal role in instructing medical students and premed students who shadow them, nurturing a culture of knowledge-sharing. We actively encourage students to embark on research endeavors and contribute to the academic sphere by crafting scholarly papers. In our pursuit of this noble cause, we are actively seeking volunteers who can contribute their expertise and dedication. We are looking for the following individuals to join our mission: Retina Specialists Anterior Segment Specialists Comprehensive Ophthalmologists Retina / Anterior Segment Fellows Ophthalmology Residents Medical Students Ophthalmology Techs (preferably with experience in vision/IOP testing, OCT scans, etc.) Ophthalmology Scribes (preferably with experience working with Anterior Segment /Retina Specialists) Volunteers who possess proficiency in speaking, understanding, and writing Spanish Anyone who wishes to volunteer and make a meaningful impact Your involvement can play a significant role in helping us fulfill our mission and provide vital eye care services to those in need. Join us in our journey to prevent and reduce blindness, and together, we can make a lasting difference in the lives of the underserved population in Orange County. The population of Orange County (OC) is experiencing a significant annual growth rate of 10%, with a notable portion of this growth occurring among the elderly. Aging increases the susceptibility to eye diseases, and statistics indicate that approximately 1 in 3 elderly individuals are at risk of developing vision-reducing eye conditions like macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy by the age of 65. These ocular diseases often remain asymptomatic, leading to a delayed awareness of visual impairments, and regrettably, at this point, treatment is primarily aimed at preventing further vision loss. Moreover, systemic diseases such as diabetes are on the rise among adults, particularly in underserved populations. A conservative estimate suggests that around 8% of OC's population is affected by diabetes, with one-third of these individuals likely to develop diabetic retinopathy. Early screening and management are crucial to preventing visual impairment and potential blindness. In OC, the poverty rate stands at approximately 12.1%, while roughly 8% of the population lacks access to health insurance. This leaves a significant portion of the community struggling to obtain essential health services, including specialized care. The OCEP project is a collaborative effort with the Lestonnac Free Clinic and Serve The People. It is driven by the dedication of our volunteers, with Retina Specialists and Ophthalmologists generously offering their time and expertise to evaluate and treat patients in the clinic. In addition, volunteer technicians and others assist by checking in patients, recording medical histories, and evaluating vision and eye pressure. Our volunteers hail from various regions in Southern California, and we extend our heartfelt gratitude to each of them for their unwavering commitment to making a difference. The OCEP program is proudly sponsored by the Alcon Foundation, whose generous support plays a vital role in the success of our initiatives. We are also fortunate to have the backing of Norlase, an innovative laser company based in Denmark, with a strong presence in the United States. They have graciously provided us with their cutting-edge LION laser, which we use in the clinic to perform laser photocoagulation on patients with conditions like diabetic retinopathy. Additionally, Heidelberg Engineering US has made a significant contribution by donating their advanced OCT machine, Spectralis, to Retina Global. This invaluable equipment empowers the OCEP program to offer intravitreal injections for patients with conditions such as wet macular degeneration and diabetic macular edema. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to both Norlase and Heidelberg Engineering US for their unwavering support, which enables us to enhance the quality of care we provide to our patients.

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Mission Trip to Kenya, December 2023

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