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- Outreach Efforts Have Changed Many Lives
Question: You have been providing sight-saving surgeries to people in underserved areas in Utah and around the world for more than 20 years. What motivates you to reach out and give so much of your time?
Alan S. Crandall, MD: My father was an ophthalmologist—one of the first in Utah—and his philosophy was to treat everybody the same way. If people needed help, regardless of their circumstances, he was there for them. I remember him accepting a chicken or two as payment for surgery, so I grew up learning about compassion and giving back what I could.
When you realize that there are 39 million blind people worldwide, and that 90% of them live in the developing world, it’s clear that the need is overwhelming. The thing is, most blind people could be cured, but they just don’t have access to eye care.
Q: How did you first start doing humanitarian work, and how has the program at Moran grown?
Dr. Crandall: Years ago, one of my patients went to Ghana to find out about her family’s history in Africa. When she came back, she talked to me about the dire need for treatments to help reverse the epidemic of blindness caused by cataracts. So I said, what the heck, let’s go over there and see what we can do. We made contact with the KATH Hospital in Kumasi and started slowly, with just 10 to 15 surgeries. Every year since, we’ve gone back. We have trained their doctors by bringing them here to Moran.
From there, we created a program that now reaches more than 40 countries on six continents. In Utah, we are just beginning to make an impact on the Navajo Nation, where the need is also dire.
Q: How do you feel when you think of the impact you and the Outreach Division have had?
Dr. Crandall: To get to see and experience the happiness of a patient whose vision is restored brings me great joy. I also know that it allows that person to no longer be a burden to family and society. It returns dignity and purpose to his or her life. You can’t put a price on that.
We also get extreme satisfaction from teaching eye doctors from developing countries and bringing them to Moran for even more training so that they can go back home and train other doctors. That element is key—it changes everything. Our eventual goal, which usually takes about 10 to 15 years, is to no longer be needed. We’re no longer needed in Nepal, which is fantastic. We are close to not being needed in Ghana. It’s a great feeling to be able to be part of the team that made that happen. n
Section Editor Bala Ambati, MD, PhD, MBA
• Professor of ophthalmology, John A. Moran Eye Center, University of Utah, Salt Lake City
• Director of cornea research, John A. Moran Eye Center, University of Utah, Salt Lake City
Alan S. Crandall, MD
• Professor, senior vice chair of ophthalmology and visual sciences, director of glaucoma and cataract and the Val A. and Edith D. Green Presidential Endowed Chair in Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. John A. Moran Eye Center, University of Utah, Salt Lake City
• Financial disclosure: consultant to Alcon, ASICO, and Mastel
• (801) 585-3071; firstname.lastname@example.org Virginia Rainey
• Communications consultant, John A. Moran Eye Center, University of Utah, Salt Lake City