Entries From January – Feubraury 2018
***The following several entries are from my January - February 2018 trip to Sierra Leone and Liberia. Due to a paucity of internet access (and electricity) at the time these are being presented on my return to the USA***
This week I arrived in Serabu, Sierra Leone with Dr. Cathy Schanzer and her husband Tom Lewis. The pair of Missionaries have spent the past 30 years working in Africa, and the past 12 years developing one of the strongest surgical programs for comprehensive ophthalmology and treatable cataract blindness in Sierra Leone. The small town of Serabu consists of only about 5,000 residents living life in the post-war region without electricity or water service. Since Tom and Cathy have been working in Serabu, they have not only built a medical center but also invested heavily in the community. Several years ago they brought a team who drilled 7 wells throughout the town, providing the first clean and readily available water source for the people of Serabu. These water sources have proved invaluable, cutting down childhood mortality, presence of water-bourne diseases and overall ease of obtaining a basic necessity. Their employees and volunteers have taught sanitation lessons to the villagers over the past several years as well. Many have attributed these efforts to the success Serabu saw in avoiding the Ebola epidemic, having no reported deaths from Ebola during this two year crisis.
The couple have observed excellent global health principles in establishing this clinic, employing and training many locals from the town and recruiting anesthesia and nursing staff from Freetown to support the clinic during surgical periods. The clinic now has year-round staffing for all clinical and surgical needs, while twice a year the complete surgical team comes to provide high-volume cataract surgical care and to provide consultation for complex cases. The team is looking further into partnering with the limited local ophthalmology force, which is currently made up of 4 Sierra Leonean doctors, one of which now is mostly administrative for the health department. We met with Dr. Vandy (the leader of ophthalmology in the Sierra Leone) on our first day in the country in order to discuss the clinic and how it will fit into the growing landscape of the country. We hope that Dr. Vandy and one of the young ophthalmologists from Freetown will join us in Serabu later this week to continue developing this relationship, and to provide some training in phacoemulsification surgery to the young physician.