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Pacific eye care team to restore sight in Micronesia

Pacific eye care team to restore sight in Federated States of Micronesia

The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ is sending a team of eye doctors and nurses to The Federated States of Micronesia for the first time this March. The outreach team will be traveling from Fiji and the Solomon Islands to the capital of Chuuk for a week of sight restoring surgeries in the remote island nation.

“Fred Hollows would be proud to see our team doing the hard yards to deliver eye care to people in need,” said Andrew Bell, The Foundation’s Executive Director. “The people of the Federated States have no access to regular eye care and many of them are blind but don’t need to be.”

The Federated States, made up of four states and 607 islands, is found south of Guam and east of the Philippines. It marks a new territory as The Foundation continues in its quest to provide eye care to the whole of the Pacific region. The NZ charity already operates in 13 countries from Kiribati to Timor-Leste. The team of five eye care staff will need to travel first to Seoul and then to Chuuk - the journey presents a number of logistical challenges getting personnel and equipment to the Federated States.

Bell said that the outreach - an expression of friendship between The Foundation and the Federated States’ government - is part of a pilot program in the region, and shows The Foundation’s commitment to training local doctors.

“This outreach represents a fantastic collaboration between The Foundation and the government of the Federated States, with each of us paying for half the cost. They had the finances and we had the staff and expertise. Together, we are taking another step to build a sustainable eye care program. It is truly an exciting time,” said Bell.
Bell says the outreach also has a special significance for one of the doctors who's currently in training at the Pacific Eye Institute.

“The Foundation is training a talented young doctor from the Federated States. Dr Padwick Gallen has shown a strong commitment to his studies, and using his medical skills to help people in the developing world. Once he’s finished training, he’ll likely go on to lead the eye care services in the Western Pacific region.”

Dr Gallen hails from Palau, a neighboring island country west of the Federated States. He is currently in his third year of study at The Foundation’s Suva training facility, The Pacific Eye Institute, on a scholarship funded by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. Prior to accepting a Foundation scholarship to pursue ophthalmology, he worked at Chuuk State Hospital and felt helpless when patients presented eye care problems.

“There is definitely a lack of eye care in the Federated States because nobody is looking after eyes,” said Dr Gallen.

“It’s sad to see a place like that with no eye care staff. Patients come to the hospital and ask if we can help with their eyes. Before I did my studies I would say, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t have a clue.’ We would check their eyes, look, but what are you looking at?”

For Dr Gallen, the chance to return to his home country is a great opportunity to share his skills with his own people.

“I like helping people, that’s why I went to medical school,” he said. “The cataract surgery is a very rewarding operation - you operate today and they see tomorrow. I’m very happy to get a chance to offer this surgery to people in my own country.”

The outreach team will be screening patients from 17-21 March and then performing surgeries from 24-28 March. All members of the public are encouraged to come and get their eyesight checked, and all services are provided free of charge.

The team expect to conduct approximately 120 surgeries over five days. The majority will be sight-restoring cataract surgery but they are also prepared to handle other eye problems such as pterygium and lid conditions.

To watch video with Dr Gallen, please click here:

About The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ
The Fred Hollows Foundation carries on the work of a legendary New Zealander, the late Professor Fred Hollows. Fred was an internationally acclaimed eye surgeon and social justice activist who championed the right of all people to high quality and affordable eye care. The Fred Hollows Foundation shares Fred’s vision of a world where no one is needlessly blind, and works to end avoidable blindness in 30 developing countries across Asia, Africa and the Pacific. In the last five years alone, The Foundation has performed nearly one million sight-restoring operations and treatments, and trained more than 38,000 local eye health specialists.

The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ works in the Pacific Islands, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste where 4 out of 5 people who are blind don’t need to be; their condition is preventable or treatable. We restore sight to the needlessly blind and train local eye health specialists to provide eye care services in their own communities.

OutreachFred Hollows Foundation outreach to Federated States of Micronesia
DatesScreening patients from 17-21 March 2014
Eye surgeries from 24-28 March 2014
LocationChuuk State Hospital, Weno
General informationMembers of the public wishing to get their eyes checked should phone the Chuuk State Hospital on 691-330-7936.


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