The St. Boniface hospital in Fond-des-blancs, Haiti has been developing an eye clinic over the past 4 years under the sole guidance of Anshu Chandra. Dr. Chandra is an optometrist from New York who began working in FDB about 5 years ago through her organization, the Global Eye Project. At that time, the Haitian central plateau did not have any accessible eye care to speak of. A long and arduous journey to Port Au Prince, most of the rural community could not make such a tiresome and expensive trip even in time of emergency. After several trips to establish a clinic at St. Boniface Hospital, Dr. Chandra decided that it was necessary to move permanently to Haiti in order to ensure the success of the clinic and to provide continuous care to the local population. Very quickly after establishing the full time clinic with only a few examination stations in a 500 square foot space, she realized that much more was necessary to provide the level of care needed by the community. Since then she has made incredible advances including the addition of many more examination lanes total 11 stations as well as diagnostic equipment such as a visual field machine and a spectral-domain OCT (optical coherence tomographer). Though the clinic was small in surface area, the density of equipment gave opportunity for assistance – though with no medical training facilities in sight, Dr. Chandra had to get creative. Beginning two years ago she started training assistants to tech patients for her so that she could successfully get through an enormous clinical volume without sacrificing quality of patient care. These locals often times had very limited formal education so for two hours prior to clinic every morning Dr. Chandra teaches basic and clinical ophthalmic sciences, all in the local Creole dialect. From there the team dives right into long clinic hours which can last until 10 o’clock at night or later depending on the volume of patients that show up that day.
The clinic is currently undergoing its next step in advancing the comprehensive nature of local ophthalmic care delivery – the institution of a full surgical program. During my short visit to the clinic, they received a shipment of a quality surgical microscope donated through the Global Eye Project. We spent our time assembling the microscope and taking stock of the surgical equipment currently available at the hospital so that the operating rooms can be fully loaded in anticipation of upcoming surgical teams. The first surgeons expected early in 2018 are American ophthalmologists assisting Dr. Chandra with the huge backlog of cataracts waiting to be removed. Very quickly however, Dr. Chandra plans to transition to Haitian ophthalmologists who will be coming regularly to fill in the surgical schedule. All in all it is phenomenal effort on the part of Dr. Chandra which began with an empty room and a vision, and has developed into the only location for quality, comprehensive eye care in the region.