As far as the local West-Island Lions Club is concerned, ‘We serve!’ is more than just a slogan. During a recent Saturday afternoon ophthalmology clinic, over 150 patients quietly waited for their turn as over 50 doctors, residents, nurses and volunteers made sure that everyone would get their turn to have their eyes examined.
“Lots of people don’t get proper eye care because they don’t know how to access the system,” said MUHC spokesman Paul Logothetis. “This is all about doing something for people who have difficulty decent eye care because of money problems, and other barriers that prevent them from getting access to normal health care.”
Supported by the local Lion’s Club, basic eye exams screened people’s eyes for a variety of ailments, including glaucoma, cataracts, retinitis, and secondary effects due to diabetes.
“Actually, we had one person come in who was about to have a stroke,” said Logothetis. “We called emergency and got him there just in time before he got into some big trouble.”
Based upon his desire to provide better eye care to people who – for one reason or another – weren’t getting the care they required, Dr. John Chen began to organize the free eye care clinics in his own clinic for more than a decade before the local Lion’s club stepped up to help support Chen’s initiative with money, logistical support, and a solid core of inspired volunteers.
As a former president of the west island Lion’s Club, Patrick Beaudry was sharing a moment with Dr. Chen when he told The Suburban that the club was serious about its ‘Sight First’ mission. Not only do they help Dr. Chen with his clinics, but they also raise, and sometimes match, money raised by other clubs and assorted supporters in order to help Chen buy the equipment he needs to provide proper care for his patients.
“It’s a great help,” said Dr. Chen, as he referred to a specific ‘heads-up’ display screen that helps surgeons perform accurate ocular micro-surgery without spending hours bent over a patient’s eye. Others, including the MUHC’s Dr. Henry Fung, said that the sky’s the limit “...when you consider what the research is looking at these days.”
When Dr. Chen and the Lion’s Club are get ready to hold another clinic in a few months’ time, volunteers will begin to show up in local malls and shopping centers in order to promote the free clinic while they answer questions about the importance of ocular health and safety issues.
According to Dr. Alice Yang Zhang, “...people should always be getting regular checks, because It’s always easier to prevent a problem than it is to fix it later when it gets out of hand.”