CBI and Dr. Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital: Fighting Blindness Together
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By Olivia and Zoe Scott
Earlier this year, we had the opportunity to travel with Combat Blindness International to India. Dr. Suresh Chandra and the extensive CBI network provided us with an incredible understanding of what the organization has accomplished through its efforts to eliminate preventable blindness. Each portion of the trip deepened our appreciation for the CBI mission and left us with great admiration for a truly wonderful country.
Upon arrival in Delhi, Dr. Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital (SCEH) welcomed us into their facility and walked us through the very impressive achievements made possible by its partnership with CBI.
We were especially struck by the Certified Ophthalmic Personnel (COP) Program. This program trains young women from India’s most underserved communities to be ophthalmic technical assistants. After completing the training at SCEH, the COPs students return to their communities to participate in the screening, treatment and follow-up care of patients. The program was initiated as an effort to serve more patients by increasing the support needed by physicians to effectively care for their patients during each stage of treatment. While speaking to the students, it was evident that in addition to making the hospital more efficient, the program was also empowering each of the young women to lead a life that would otherwise not be accessible. The students described coming from backgrounds where they had very little opportunity for formal education or means of economic independence. Each young woman spoke about her role in the program with commendable pride and enthusiasm. Each expressed a genuine dedication to becoming the best care provider possible, as well as a role model for other women in their community. It was overwhelmingly clear that the program would have lasting effects on both the quality and sustainability of eye care, while also strengthening the next generation of Indian women. The willingness of the hospital and CBI to champion this program exemplified the value of integrating creative approaches to the traditional system of care.
Next, we traveled to a screening camp near Vrindavan, between Delhi and Agra. The screening camp was set up in a local one-room schoolhouse and made possible by the partnership between key community members, SCEH and CBI. COPs graduates screened each patient upon arrival. After screening, the doctors further evaluated patients and offered treatment options. Some patients were able to travel and undergo surgery at the Delhi clinic the very same day. Patients that did not require surgery were fitted and provided with glasses. Dr. Chandra explained some of the most common problems screening centers catch and demonstrated how these were identified and then corrected. What struck us most was the patients’ gratefulness to Dr. Chandra and the other onsite providers. Patients expressed that they wanted and needed help with their eye health, but had few means of gaining access to it prior to visiting the screening camp. It was very uplifting to see the level of trust CBI’s efforts have been able to establish with each and every patient served.
We would like to thank everyone at CBI for allowing us to take part in the critical work they do and to experience the impact they are having on millions of lives throughout India. This trip clearly illustrated not only the importance of CBI’s mission of compassion, but its ability to execute that mission with such graceful efficiency. After seeing what this incredible organization does day in and day out, we have full confidence that the organization will only continue to serve higher numbers of people in need through its thoughtful partnerships and dedication to sustainable programs.