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Tower Clock Eye Center’s Matthew Thompson, MD, brings surgical skills to Haitians in need.
- Posted on: Mar 14 2016
Matthew Thompson, MD, an ophthalmologist at Tower Clock Eye Center, recently visited Haiti for the fifth time to help citizens there who suffer from vision-robbing eye conditions such as cataracts, tumors and corneal scars. The purpose of these visits is simple: to help the people of Haiti get high quality eye care and lead better lives.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and the populace there is largely underserved for medical care. With a complicated history and little infrastructure, Haitians are desperate for medical help. “Most Haitians have only limited access to the most basic healthcare services,” Dr. Thompson said. ”Surgical care is very rare and so most problems that require surgery are left untreated and become very advanced.”
Doing such work is a dream come true for Thompson, “I actually decided to go to medical school after hearing a missionary speak about the overwhelming need for healthcare in the developing world. Being able to go and serve in a place like Haiti is one of the most satisfying projects in my entire life.”
Dr. Thompson works with several nonprofit organizations, including Green Bay-based Friends of Haiti, to help these patients see again. Friends of Haiti started around 2010 with a small contingent of specialists visiting the resource-poor country. Thompson was the first ophthalmologist to join the group and heads up the eye care mission for the organization.
In his journeys to Haiti, Dr. Thompson has performed well over 250 surgeries and completed countless other exams and tests. As he becomes more efficient working in a foreign country, each trip allows him to do more, yet Thompson realizes that more good could be done with additional personnel.
“Recognizing that a team is needed, I have begun to recruit other ophthalmologists to go with me. I help the doctors who want to go by arranging their trips and gathering supplies. By the end of 2016 I will have arranged for 10 ophthalmologists to visit Haiti,” he added.
During his last visit, Thompson and his fellow eye doctors were able to screen hundreds of Haitians for ocular problems. In addition to evaluating new patients, the team of doctors furnishes patients with free eyeglasses, provides follow-up care for previous patients, and performs vision and pressure tests, slit lamp exams and dilated fundus exams.
As helpful as these tests can be, the doctors can be limited by a lack of quality equipment. “Some of the equipment is a bit older and is heavily used, so it can be a challenge,” Thompson said about the situation. “When you’re in a developing country you just have to figure out how to make things work.”
To circumvent some equipment issues, Dr. Thompson often brings along his own instruments, as well as some equipment on loan from Tower Clock Eye Center. Thompson and the other ophthalmologists have even donated equipment to the cause, as have companies such as Alcon and Bausch + Lomb.
The Friends of Haiti relief project is growing and Thompson looks forward to future missions, “There is a huge need and I can’t wait to go back. In several trips I have made some good friends and I am looking forward to seeing them again.”
Despite the time commitment and work involved with traveling outside of the U.S., Dr. Thompson knows and enjoys the affect his journeys have on each patient he sees, “It feels good to change someone’s life for the better.”
The relief groups Dr. Thompson works with in Haiti include: