Making an Impact in Honduras: A Journey of Ophthalmology Mission (2023)

Introduction: Embarking on international ophthalmology missions has become a transformative experience for numerous American ophthalmologists. Over time, these missions have evolved to prioritize accessibility and create lasting impact. One particular destination that has witnessed significant progress is Hospital San Felipe in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Join us as we delve into the inspiring story of a recent mission trip that left a lasting impression on the lives of both patients and doctors alike.

The Mission Trip: In July of 2023, a dedicated group of U.S.-trained ophthalmologists, featuring esteemed surgeons Dr. Patricia Sierra MD, Dr. Julia Agapov MD DO, and Dr. Tom Harvey MD, embarked on a mission trip to Hospital San Felipe. Nestled within the heart of Honduras, this hospital boasts the distinction of housing the country’s first and only ophthalmology residency and anterior segment fellowship program, which has been operating since 1992.

The Journey to Empowerment: One of the challenges the residency program faced was the lack of phacoemulsification training due to budget constraints. In 2017, Dr. Patricia Sierra and her team took a leap toward bridging this gap by donating equipment. This act of generosity enabled the integration of phacoemulsification training into the program’s curriculum, empowering the residents and elevating their skills to new heights.

Building Bridges and Sharing Knowledge: Through regular visiting partnerships, known as “brigadas de ojos” in the local community, U.S. surgeons like Dr. Patricia Sierra have fostered a deep connection with Hospital San Felipe. With biannual visits, they bring essential supplies and dedicate an entire week to providing invaluable surgical training for the residents. This collaboration has not only enhanced the surgical capabilities of the hospital but also forged lasting professional relationships.

Unleashing Potential: The Anterior Segment Fellowship: In 2021, Dr. Barber, in collaboration with Honduran ophthalmologists Dr. Luis Lagos and Dr. Mariela Castillo, initiated an anterior segment fellowship. Hosted at San Felipe Hospital and facilitated by One World Surgery, a nonprofit surgery center that hosts various U.S. surgical missions, this fellowship offers young ophthalmologists an extraordinary opportunity to immerse themselves in a year of high surgical volume. The fellowship experience is further enriched by online surgical mentorship or guidance from visiting U.S. surgeons.

Beyond Surgical Impact: Education and Skills Transfer: The humanitarian work at San Felipe focuses not only on performing surgical cases but also on education, skills transfer, and long-term impact. This collaborative model has the potential to revolutionize medical training and uplift the overall quality of care across the nation. By equipping local ophthalmologists with advanced techniques like manual small-incision cataract surgery, knowledge sharing becomes a two-way street, where both parties learn and grow.

Conclusion: The mission trip to Honduras exemplifies the immense potential of international ophthalmology missions. Through their commitment to education, skills transfer, and building professional relationships, these dedicated ophthalmologists have left an indelible mark on the lives of the residents at Hospital San Felipe. Their efforts have not only enhanced the quality of care but also set the stage for a brighter future in ophthalmology for generations to come.

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