The world has changed.

In November 2019, we received the PayPal Gives Grant to aid our medical students at University of Arizona College of Medicine where I teach Global Health and Ophthalmology. Normally, I travel to the Dominican Republic at the end of every May. Our volunteer faculty and I take 15 eager first year University of Arizona medical students from Phoenix who are just finishing “doctoring.” They are so excited to serve and in a low resource setting. This excitement among our students is infectious.

This was a special year for me, 2020, because since I started my residency training in 1990, I wanted to make a difference in global ophthalmology–the goal was by the year 2020, we as eye care professionals would eliminate global blindness. I chose my specialty because 85% of vision loss is preventable and to me, the gift of sight is truly a “gift”.

So when the students asked for help in 2018, I put it on the back burner and said, “God is really going to have to deliver this project”. In 2018, I was just starting up my private practice here in Scottsdale and the students pictured below were passionate about finding eye care for the homeless in Phoenix. They had just completed a needs assessment and explained the need for glasses and eyecare was “substantive”. I acknowledged that there were “now a billlion blind globally and, despite the advances of  technology, this number suffering has merely grown.” I received periodic emails from the passionate students asking about any updates or ideas while they pressed forward.

SHOW students

Pictured above: Jeffery Hanna  and Justin Zeien (UA Street Medicine Phoenix), Robin Martini and Dr. Ross at Global Retina Institute

One day, a patient, David, who I treated for floaters asked about our non profit. I shared our work and he explained that PayPal Gives had never given a Scottsdale organization a grant. He championed our cause. In February 2020, we received the grant in Chandler. Then COVID arrived. A mentor of mine once said, if you have to cancel a surgical case, this is called “found time.” Shortly after, all our elective surgical cases were cancelled. We set about working on our project. We teamed up with the folks at PlenOptika and purchased the Quicksee.

Shivang Dave PhD, PlenOptika co-founder, and inventor of QuickSee for refraction in low resource settings immediately offered on line training. How cool, an inventor and founder willing to work with us and provide online training for the students. This revolutionary technology will be combined with reading glasses from Vision Spring. Robin Martini, put the readers into special microcases. Each microcase contains reading glasses representing a presbyopic reading power: +1, +2, 0r +3. We have another plan for custom glasses.