WATERBURY, Vermont – Founded in 1995 by ophthalmologists Dr. Sanduk Ruit and Dr. Geoff Tabin, the Himalayan Cataract Project is on a mission to eradicate curable and preventable blindness around the world. The Project provides eye care to people in some of the world’s neediest areas, even in places where clean water and reliable electricity are difficult to come by. Currently, they have programs in the Himalayan regions of Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, and Tibet, which have particularly high rates of cataract blindness. They also have several programs in poorer areas of Sub-Saharan Africa.
The Project often partners with local groups to run clinics, set up operating theaters, and educate people about eye care. Their goal is to provide efficient, effective hospital quality care to all patients, regardless of where they live. HCP’s work includes four different phases, which it describes as:
- Teaching ophthalmic care at all levels,
- Furthering specialized care through training and skills transfer, country by country,
- Establishing self-sustaining eye care centers
- Performing sutureless cataract operations in 6 to 7 minutes at a low cost
This combination of education and technological innovation has proven to be a winning model for patients and for the organization. In particular, the sutureless cataract operations, which require only high-powered microscopes as their most expensive tool, have been shown to be as effective as more conventional surgical techniques typically performed in Western hospitals.
Poorer nations tend to experience higher rates of preventable blindness because of malnutrition, waterborne disease, and inadequate health and education. Ninety percent of the world’s blind people live in developing nations, and according to the World Health Organization, most of those people live in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific.
The Himalayan Cataract Project is the subject of the new book Second Suns: Two Doctors and Their Amazing Quest to Restore Sight and Save Lives (Random House, June 2013). To learn more about HCP, or to donate to the organization, visit www.cureblindness.org.
– Délice Williams