December 2020


ASCRS Foundation News
Your commitment has made all the difference:
A letter to our supporters

by Don Bell ASCRS Foundation Executive Director

“Before surgery, driving was my biggest concern. My cataracts progressed quickly, and I was afraid I would hurt someone. I had to negotiate my hours with my employer to be home before dark or before it started raining. Because my vision was failing, I was often unstable and would fall. I have been given the gift of sight through Operation Sight. I am no longer afraid to drive, try new things, exercise, or just go for a walk.
I will use this gift as a platform to make changes in my life and hopefully help someone in return.”

—Maria, Operation Sight patient

Stories like Maria’s are received every day through Operation Sight, the ASCRS Foundation’s domestic charitable cataract surgery program. They remind us of how critical sight is for independence, stability, and taking care of our families.
The past year has been a time of unprecedented challenge for the ASCRS Foundation and the thousands of patients in need it serves. We’ve struggled, adapted, and found new ways to move forward. I am incredibly proud of our resilient team and the hundreds of volunteers who’ve continued to deliver on our mission.
I’m hoping that you see yourself in our story. Your steadfast commitment in a time of great uncertainty illustrates ophthalmology’s resilience and willingness to share its incredible benefits with those less fortunate.
When the pandemic first hit, the ASCRS Foundation reached out to its U.S. and international partners to explore how we might best mobilize the power of the ophthalmic community. We used the time to launch a new ASCRS Foundation website, providing a dynamic platform with more detailed information on Foundation programs and volunteer opportunities. We highlighted the work of those who donate their time and talent in hopes of motivating others.
Operation Sight has been crucial for patients during the COVID-19 crisis. Between March and October, we saw a 78% increase in applications resulting from the employment, insurance, and economic impacts of the pandemic. The program serves financially vulnerable, uninsured American patients who risk job loss due to decreased vision. Through a network of more than 500 volunteers across the nation, more than 670 charitable surgeries were delivered during that period. During National Sight Week, volunteers “Stepped Up for Sight” by referring colleagues to help eligible patients on our waitlist and delivered the program’s 5,000th charitable surgery.
Overseas, a lack of PPE at our Robert Sinskey Eye Institute in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia created severe restrictions on its ability to continue serving patients. Working with the Himalayan Cataract Project and an international supplier, we were able to procure the supplies needed to keep the hospital open and continue serving patients.
With a focus on international physician training and infrastructure building, we are proud to work with multiple partners to create lasting change in the fight against global cataract blindness. This summer, the ASCRS Foundation’s International Division convened a series of virtual update meetings on COVID-19’s impact on humanitarian eyecare efforts. Discussions centered on the Foundation’s Ethiopian Master Trainer Initiative and how best to conduct the annual ICO Board Review Course held each year in Addis Ababa. All six of Ethiopia’s residency directors participated, sharing advice on how they’ve adapted education and training within their programs during the pandemic period.
The Foundation continues to recognize those leaders whose work advances global ophthalmology. We were proud to celebrate 99-year-old Lowell Gess, MD, as the 2020 Chang Humanitarian Award Recipient. Dr. Gess earmarked the $50,000 award to the Lowell and Ruth Gess Eye Hospital in Sierra Leone, where the funding will be used to expand facilities and provide a more complete eyecare program. In October, the Foundation announced it will rename the award, the Chang-Crandall Humanitarian Award, in recognition of the late Alan Crandall, MD’s, exemplary life and commitment to charitable service.
The Foundation remains steadfast in its commitment to delivering educational and innovative experiences to promising young ophthalmologists. Ten Resident Excellence Awards and five Young Eye Surgeon International Service Grants were made as a means to improve access to education and help inspire a lifelong commitment to humanitarian eyecare.
All of this has been possible through your support. You’ve enabled our many patients to experience joy, independence, and stability at a time when these things are in short supply. Thank you for your belief in the mission and for standing with us as we look with optimism to better days ahead.

Your commitment has made all the difference: A letter to our supporters Your commitment has made all the difference: A letter to our supporters
Ophthalmology News - EyeWorld Magazine
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