PRESS: Annual Cataract Surgical and Medical Mission to Countries in Need

Patients eagerly await their eye patches to be removed to see what their newfound vision will be like.

Three Stony Brook University School of Medicine alums are part of a nonprofit organization called A Promise to Peru, Inc. that is set to travel to South America for its fifth year to donate their time providing critical healthcare for people in need.

The alums, Natalie DiGioia, MD ’01; Michael Sable, MD ’92; and Debra Messina, MD ’88, established the charitable group four years ago, along with Messina’s husband, Dr. George Coritsidis, and Dr. John Shanley. A Promise to Peru coordinates volunteer physicians, Stony Brook medical students and other health professionals from across the New York metropolitan area and around the United States on healthcare missions across the globe.

After serving in Peru the past several years, the mission will travel to Ecuador this June to provide similar care. This summer’s mission will consist of 54 participants and more than 50 pieces of luggage packed with supplies, ultrasound machines, medications and equipment, most of which was donated by local businesses and private citizens.

A portable full-service eye and medical clinic, as well as a portable operating room, will be transported via commercial airline. During one week, the volunteers will diagnose and surgically remove cataracts and provide general healthcare, including pediatrics, internal medicine, emergency medicine, gynecology, nephrology and ultrasonography, to numerous communities.

Students assist the physicians and nurses in their treatment of the hundreds of patients seen daily for cataract surgery and primary care. In turn, the attending physicians serve as mentors to the students.

Since the nonprofit’s inception, the medical team has accomplished:

  • 7,000 medical exams on patients in remote villages, orphanages and schools
  • 100 portable ultrasonography examinations
  • 2,100 patient examinations in the eye clinic
  • Approximately 200 sight-restoring surgical procedures
  • 3,700 pairs of glasses administered

The financial generosity of donors and businesses has been overwhelming. For example, JetBlue provided 45 round trip tickets (worth $40,000) for doctors, nurses, technicians, medical students and other medical personnel to travel to Lima, Peru, for the 2014 mission.