Dr. Norman Saffra, director of ophthalmology at Maimonides Medical Center, was volunteering at a soup kitchen last Christmas Eve when he learned about a unique opportunity to transform eye care in Jamaica, a country with one of the highest rates of blindness due to diabetic eye disease.

He teamed up with Caron S. Chung, executive director of the American Friends of Jamaica (AFJ), and a collaborative effort was formed with AFJ to bring Dr. Saffra’s ophthalmic expertise to the island.

Expanding his volunteerism, Dr. Saffra boarded the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital — a former cargo plane, now equipped with a state-of-the-art operating room and teaching facility with the ability to transmit lectures to local hospitals. Dr. Saffra lectured aboard the plane and shared vital skills to help area physicians serve vulnerable communities across Jamaica.

“I’ve always wanted to perform mission work. Partnering with AFJ and Orbis was a chance to jump in with both feet,” said Dr. Saffra, a leading expert in vitreoretinal surgery. “In third-world countries, access to highly trained, experienced surgeons is scarce. So, leading this important mission in Kingston was a chance for Maimonides to give back beyond our walls.”

Dr. Saffra introduced residents to advanced laser and surgical techniques in the Orbis high-tech simulation center. He also assessed medical equipment and conducted essential troubleshooting to ensure the local health center met appropriate standards for safe, quality care.

In November, Dr. Saffra will be returning to Kingston with Orbis and AFJ. In addition to lecturing and performing surgery, he will be teaching surgery at the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Kingston, and assisting the school with their new diabetic eye disease screening program.

“I want to raise the level of eye care in Jamaica, and give physicians on the front lines greater knowledge and the ability to create a healthier future,” said Dr. Saffra.

Click here for more information on Dr. Norman Saffra and the Maimonides Eye Institute or call 718-283-8000.


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