by Amy E. Lane

Onboard the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital, Thomas E. Johnson, M.D., professor of clinical ophthalmology operates on hundreds of patients and teaches doctors from around the world, exemplifying the diverse talent and adaptability of Bascom Palmer’s physicians.

Their ability to adjust to different environments with different cultures and still perform the most complicated surgeries is one of the ways Bascom Palmer makes a global impact. This is just one way Bascom Palmer faculty members continually volunteer in much needed ophthalmic missions throughout the world, as well as residents and fellows who participate in international efforts as part of their educational curriculum.

Faculty members use satellite and digital networks to provide telemedicine and videoconferencing services abroad. They handle complex cases working closely with medical professionals in local communities. To see Dr. Johnson in action, visit

Bascom Palmer’s physicians are also active volunteers in Haiti, one of the most medically underserved countries in the Western Hemisphere. In Mexico, a team of physicians, residents and fellows performed more than 90 cataract surgeries in an indigenous community.

In the remote Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador, a new Bascom Palmer humanitarian initiative is bringing badly needed vision screening and eye care services to thousands of local residents.

Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 a team of physicians and technicians traveled with the Bascom Palmer Vision Van, a 40-foot, custom designed mobile eye clinic donated by the Josephine S. Leiser Foundation, to Louisiana to meet the eye care needs of storm victims and emergency responders.

Most recently following Hurricane Irma, Richard K. Lee, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of ophthalmology, made an advance trip to assess conditions in the Upper Florida Keys and dropped off a load of medications at the Islamorada Fire Rescue Station. He determined that ophthalmic care was a pressing medical need in the Keys for residents and medical responders.

The Bascom Palmer Vision Van rolled out of Miami on September 15, carrying medications for glaucoma and other eye conditions, as well as eyeglasses donated by the Bascom Palmer Optical Shop.

“Eye injuries are very common after a disaster, as are lost eyeglasses,” Leesaid, “Restoring eye health is a priority, because when people can’t see, they are at higher risk for other injuries, as their whole environment becomesunfamiliar.”

In addition, closed pharmacies mean that people quickly run out of medications and have a need for antibiotics for acute eye injuries. As Hurricane Maria formed in the Caribbean, Bascom Palmer’s attention was then directed to assisting colleagues in the region. This year’s historic hurricane season came to an end with Bascom Palmer’s professionals ready and willing to assist wherever they were needed.

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