YO Blog

Reflections from Taveuni Eye Project in Fiji

taveuni eye projectJust after completing residency, in November 2013, I had the life-changing and awe-inspiring experience of learning manual small-incision cataract surgery from Dr. Jeff Rutgard at the Taveuni Eye Project in Fiji. For two weeks, we treated patients that had traveled sometimes as far a 14-hour boat ride from the most remote of Fijiian islands who came to Taveuni for the annual eye surgery mission. After carefully learning his technique, I operated in the same room alongside Dr. Rutgard each day, starting early and ending late. We had a fantastic operating room team to keep each case running smoothly and efficiently. If I had a question, Dr Rutgard was right there at the adjacent operating table. In between cases, we performed retrobulbar blocks on the upcoming surgical patients. Then, we stepped outside where volunteers from New Zealand, Australia, and Fiji checked visual acuity and dilated patients. We walked down the rows of patients to examine them and complete the surgical screening process for cataract and pterygium patients. Then volunteers would check the general health status and perform IOL calculations. For lunch, there was a fabulous group of Fijiian volunteers, who cooked generous and delicious lunches each day. While seeing the post-op patients from the previous day, we were always inundated with profusely thankful patients who on a few occasions sang beautiful Fijiian folk songs. Not only did I learn impeccable surgical technique from the most patient of teachers, Dr. Rutgard, I had an amazingly uplifting experience working with a group of good-hearted and sincere volunteers from all over, and providing sight to the most grateful and kindest of patients.


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