September 21-29, 2019

The countless hours of preparation during the nine months leading up to the mission enabled our Sights on Health team to perform 99 surgeries: cataract removals with implants & for the first time, glaucoma surgeries; all free of charge. Our patients included farmers from rural Andean villages, a teacher from the Amazon, people from Riobamba, laborers from the coastal region, and a Venezuelan refugee. The gift of sight empowers individuals to live happy and healthy lives. With restored vision, the patients we served will be able to ensure the productivity of their farms, care for their children and grandchildren, and lead productive lives.

Our team transported eye surgical supplies worth more than $170,000. Alcon and Surgical Eye Expeditions donated ~ $150,000 worth of the transported supplies.  The nonprofit organizations FIBUSPAM and Partners for Andean Community Health lead by Paul Martel, David Guacho and Sarah Marjane hosted our team of 16 members for the week.  Their ophthalmologist Dr. Carlos Gonzalez and his team screened patients from the surrounding rural areas in the months leading up to our mission. Having the opportunity to work with their extraordinary Ecuadorian team and our USA team was an honor. After our second year of collaboration, we have not only developed a fine working relationship but a friendship as well. One that we hope will continue to deepen through the years.

What we have accomplished is a tribute to all of our team. Each of them displayed a professional work ethic during the long hours of work and their true caring nature was evident for all to see.  Sights on Health, Inc. would like to thank the efforts of each of the participants for the donation of their time, their talents and their passion for helping others that are in need.

2019 Sights on Health Surgical Team

Debra Messina, M.D. – Team Leader
Michael Sable, M.D. – Surgical Director

Cathy Roberts – Administrator
Christina Rager, M.D. – Critical Care Specialist
David Krebs, M.D. – Ophthalmologist
Allison Angelilli, M.D. – Ophthalmologist
Joseph Kristan, M.D. – Ophthalmology resident, Montefiore Medical Center
Shashi Bala Muttreja, R.N.
Alexandra Thanasoulis, R.N.
Lorena Chinchilla, COT
Frank Garcia, COT
Julia Colmenares – Nursing Assistant
Ken Roberts – Sterilization
Pallavi Tatapudy – Fourth-Year Medical Student, Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University
Ginger Thanasoulis – Translator
Michael McDonald – Alcon Representative
Lawrence Miller
Carolyn Cohen

An anonymous donation funded the majority of the operating costs for the eye surgical mission in memory of Marc S. Sablow. The Directors & Officers of Sights on Health, Inc. thank the donor for their generosity. It enabled our team to truly make a difference in the lives of so many people. 

Debra Messina, M.D., President & Co-Founder, Michael D. Sable, M.D., Surgical Director, George N. Coritsidis, M.D., Medical Director, Catherine Roberts, Secretary, Joseph Ng, M.D., James A. Rienzo, Director of Industry Relations and Andrew J. Maggiolo, Treasurer

To experience our day to day on this mission, click here to read the detailed blogs by Pallavi Tatapudy.


July 1-5th, 2019

The Sights on Health team just returned from their John Shanley M.D. M.P.H. Medical & Eye Care Mission in the Sacred Valley of Peru. It was an extremely successful mission; 815 people were examined in the medical and eye clinics.   The clinics were held in the Ministry of Health (MOH) facilities located in the towns of Calca, Maras and Urubamba.

  • 313 patients were examined in the Medical Clinic
  • 134 patients were examined in the Pediatric Clinic
  • 15 ultrasound examinations were performed in the clinic
  • 353 patients were examined in the Eye Clinic
    • 40 patients were referred to CEPRECE clinic & to MOH Cuzco Norde Ocular Health Program for cataract surgery.
    • Over 70 patients received Visual Disability Certificates as part of the Contigo, a Ministry of Health program. After their exams with our eye care professionals, these patients with severely impaired vision will qualify for a monthly benefit from the Peruvian government. This is a new program and Sights on Health made an important contribution to this program, as there are not enough eyecare professionals in Peru to perform the necessary examinations for the large number of patients that exist in the Sacred Valley.

Sights on Health worked with our four long standing partners and we are grateful to not only have a strong working relationship with them but also after so many years, we have developed friendships with them.

  • Many thanks to Mike Cipoletti and FNE International for his in country logistical support of our Sights on Health team. He works with our team & Dr. Morales in the months leading up to the mission to ensure the clinic schedule is complete as well as securing safe ground transportation for the team and comfortable & clean lodging (thanks to Kiki and his wife who own the two houses where Sights on Health stayed).
  • A special acknowledgement to Dr. Victor Rozas and the Peruvian American Medical Society (PAMS) for their continued support of our efforts in Peru.  Every year, they work with us in order to obtain the necessary temporary medical licenses and documentation from the Peruvian Government and the Ministry of Health.
  • Many thanks to Francisco Morales, M.D. of Asociacion Winaypaq, Cuzco, Peru.  He works for the seven months before the mission with Drs. Messina, Coritsidis and Triller to ensure we have the proper medications and decides which towns are in most need of our clinical expertise. His involvement enables the mission physicians to refer patients with advanced medical and eye conditions for proper follow up with healthcare providers from the Peruvian Ministry of Health. Dr. Morales works with the local ministry of health (MOH), arranges for the facilities for our team to work in.  Through him, he notifies the local communities which kind of specialists will be arriving from the USA to ensure the neediest and most complicated medical cases are evaluated.  Dr. Coritsidis, our Medical Director transports a portable ultrasound unit every year from the USA.  Having the ability to perform an ultrasound examination provides the physicians with additional information to aid in making the correct diagnosis. Dr. Morales is able to refer the patients seen in our clinics for additional follow up care if necessary, to Peruvian physicians.
  • Five translators from Asociacion Winaypaq, Cuzco, Peru spent the week with our team. Reyna Almirón, Milagritos Usno and Yolanda Siccos provided translation from Spanish to Quechua (ancient Incan language) and Johana Achancaray and Edu Huaracha provided translations from Quechua to Spanish to English.
  • Dr. Silva & CEPRESE provided a nurse Maritza Olarte from his Cusco eye clinic to work with our eye care team for the week and we are grateful for their help.


Thank you to our Sights on Health team for donating their time & talents to make the mission so successful….

  • George Coritsidis, M.D.  Medical Director, Team leader, nephrologist, critical care specialist from NY
  • Tracey Weisberg, M.D. Internal Medicine from Maine
  • Caroline Pombar, M.D. Pediatrician from NY
  • Dr. Darren Triller Pharmacist from NY
  • Damaris Raymondi, O.D. from NY
  • Pauline Leong, O.D. from NY
  • Jenny Steffens, P.A. & her daughter Ellen Church from Maryland
  • Ana Castaneda Pharmacy Assistant from NY
  • Julia Colmenares Eye Clinic Assistant from NY
  • Claire Triller SUNY Upstate Medical School, 3rd y medical student
  • Maggie Triller, Pace University, 3rd y nursing student
  • Tasnin Kahn New York College of Osteopathic Medicine, NY, 1st y medical student
  • Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook, NY, 1st y medical students:
    Nicholas Brown
    Theresa Gammel
    Alex Freedenberg * student group leader
    Kaitlyn Monroig * student blogger
    Brady Quon * student group leader
    Emelio Woodstock
    Priscilla Young


June 2-7th, 2019

Photo Credit: © Claudia Paul
© Artists for World Peace  © AFWP NATIVE EYES

AFWP NATIVE EYES Mission Rosebud Indian Reservation, South Dakota  June 2-7, 2019

Rosebud Indian Reservation, Mission, South Dakota

Our nonprofit, Sights on Health, Inc. is proud to have the opportunity to work with the nonprofit Artists for World Peace for the second year. The AFWP NATIVE EYES mission was established in 2017 by Wendy Black-Nasta, Founder & Executive Director of AFWP and Raymond Dennis, a licensed optician and Professor & Program Coordinator of the Ophthalmic Design and Dispensing Program at Middlesex Community College, Middletown Connecticut. They have done an exceptional job again this year in providing comprehensive eye exams and eye glasses for approximately 1,000 people living on the 1.2 million acre Rosebud Indian Reservation. Their planning starts 12 months before the mission, working with members of the tribal community on Rosebud and Sinte Gleska University to pre-register patients.  The focus has been on the young and the elders in the community by gathering children from the Head Start programs and instituting a mobile van to service the residents of a nursing home. The reservation has one Indian Health Service optometrist for 25,000 tribal members so the wait for an eye exam can be years.  Many of the patients have high astigmatism which renders their near and far vision extremely blurry.  Wearing glasses will correct this and if the young children are prescribed glasses, amblyopia can be prevented.  AFWP obtained a grant from the Essilor Foundation (for the second year in a row) to supply custom made eyeglasses for 763 people.  Sights on Health worked with Wendy and Ray for the 6 months leading up to the mission.  Below is a brief summary of Sights on Health’s contribution to the AFWP NATIVE EYES mission. It was a pleasure and an honor working with AFWP with the common goal of providing much needed comprehensive eye examinations.

Photo Credit: © JW Perkins
© Artists for World Peace  © AFWP NATIVE EYES

Sights on Health team: Cathy Roberts, Debra Messina, M.D., Michele Levi, M.D., Michael Prywes, Arnold Prywes, M.D., Bill Epstein, M.D

Summary of Sights On Health’s contribution to the mission:

  • Funded $1,830.00 for two optometry students from Midwestern School of Optometry, Chicago, Illinois. They were an essential part of eye team who refracted ~ 878 patients for eyeglasses.
  • Secured $55,107.44 In-Kind donation of diagnostic and therapeutic eye medications from Surgical Eye Expeditions International  (Allergan: $52,998.44, Akorn: $2,109 )
  • Recruited 5 ophthalmologists, William Epstein, M.D. from Oregon, Alex Zaffaroni, M.D. from California, Arnold Prywes, M.D., glaucoma specialist, Michele Levi, M.D. pediatric ophthalmologist and Debra Messina, M.D., an administrative assistant, Cathy Roberts, & an ophthalmic technician, Michael Prywes, all from N.Y.
  • Purchased ~ 1,000 non-prescription adult & children sunglasses for eye clinic patients
  • Revised eye exam form and reviewed 2018 charts to ensure necessary follow up exams for 2019 clinic.
  • Obtained donation of eye equipment for Artists for World Peace- one slit lamp, one phoropter
  • Established referral agreement with ophthalmologist, John Berdahl, M.D. of Vance Thompson Vision in Sioux Falls for follow up ophthalmic care and/or surgery. Dr. Berdahl will accept insurance payment or no payment for these patients. (Thanks to Dr. Epstein for this referral option)

Medical and Behavioral Care on the Reservation:

  • After last years’ experience working on Rosebud with the NATIVE EYES team, it became apparent the significant need for general medical care and behavioral health services. Nine months of conference calls between the physicians of Sights on Health, Matthew Tobey, M.D., MPH, Associate Program Director of the Rural Health Leadership Fellowship, Massachusetts General Hospital, Nicole Collins, MPH, Program coordinator of Rural Health Leadership Fellowship on Rosebud Reservation, and Damon Leader Charge from Tribal Health.
  • Dr. George Coritsidis, Dr. Joseph Ng & his wife Frances, arrived June 5th from N.Y. to attend several exploratory meetings organized with the significant help of Wendy Black- Nasta to ensure there was participation of the tribal leaders from the Health board and Nicole Collins to ensure participation of the IHS and the Drug treatment director. The Sights on Health team met with Lionel Bordeaux, President of Sinte Gleska University, Wendy Black- Nasta, leaders from the Tribal Health Board, the Director of Methamphetamine Drug Treatment program and members of the Indian Health Service June 6 and 7th.  More information to follow on the developments as they unfold!


June 2 – 9, 2018

A Promise to Peru is excited to share with our supporters the details of our first mission held within the United States.   After many years of attempting to establish a relationship with Native American communities in the USA, we were able to join forces with several other non-profit organizations to serve the Native American community of Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota.  The mission was named Native Eyes.  A Promise to Peru was able to join this team of 35 people.  Thanks to an invitation from the leaders of Native Eyes, Raymond P. Dennis, M.A., Professor of Ophthalmic Design & Dispensing at Middlesex Community College, Connecticut and Wendy Black-Nasta, Founder & Executive Director, of Artists for World Peace .  The team included eye care professionals from Vision Health International, Middlesex Community College, and A Promise to Peru.

A total of 1,234 people were seen and thanks to the generosity of Essilor, 900 pairs of distance, reading and bifocal glasses are being custom made for these patients, free of charge!  

There was a tremendous need for eyeglasses- the amount of astigmatism was extreme- none of the ophthalmologists had seen that level of cylinder – in many cases over 5 diopters!  The organizers of the mission focused on advertising to the younger population – they are doing poorly in school and given their need for glasses it is no wonder that they are not seeing well.  Next year, the emphasis will be placed on getting the older population to the facility for an exam and visiting the nursing homes.  There is a need for eye care specialists  -just not surgery at this point.  There also appears to be a need for medical and dental clinics, a meeting with the tribal council is being planned in August.

The link for the local news video about Native Eyes:

A film crew who is creating a documentary film and a professor of English from Connecticut chronicled our week.  Details of the mission can be read here.

The reservation is one of the poorest counties in the USA, the unemployment rate is over 50%, the suicide rate is extremely high and life expectancy is in the 50’s.  Background reading about Rosebud Indian Reservation can be found below.


In summary, it was a tremendously worthwhile mission.  Our organization has the potential to have a positive, sustainable effect on this Native American community within our own boarders and that is an exciting opportunity!  A Promise to Peru’s team was composed of Dr. Debra Messina, Dr. Bill Epstein, Dr. Pranav Patel, Nicholas Coritsidis and Neil Patel.   We thank them for their participation and dedication.

We will keep all of our supporters posted on our next trip to South Dakota and we hope that you will be able to join us.

Thank you to for the beautiful photos!











Dr. P Patel examining a patient for eyeglasses.



Nicholas Coritsidis and Neil Patel measured patient’s glass prescriptions for the doctors, over 1,200 patients were seen in the clinic.




Demonstration of the Grass Dance, this is performed in the fields to press the tall grasses down in order to prepare the soil for planting



Denise One Star demonstrating The Jingle Dance, her outfit is made of beads made from rolled chewing tobacco tin lids.

Our Dr Bill Epstein greeting Chief Leonard Crow Dog, a Sicangu Lakota medicine man and spiritual leader for the people of the Rosebud Indian Reservation

Thunderstorm on the South Dakota




June 5, 2018

Our medical mission in Peru began Monday the 25th. Our team has six medical students from stony brook university, three medical students from UConn and a nursing student from Pace Univeristy. The physicians on the trip include a pediatrician, oncologist, nephrologist, pulmonologist, critical care physicians and a doctor of pharmacy. Our first day began in Maras, around 30 minutes from our home base of Urubamba. We saw approximately 100 patients and provided pediatric services, general medicine, and conducted ultra sounds. The UConn students tested patients for both H. pylori infections and diabetes. Patients who tested positive were then treated appropriately with medication and counseling. The next day was spent at Qotowuincho, where we saw around 120 patients. Between Wednesday and Friday, our team spent our days in the town of Ollantaytambo. We worked alongside the municipality’s ministry of health which provided us with tents and a trailer, as well as media advertisements to alert the populations of each town about our upcoming clinic. In Ollantaytambo we saw over 130 patients each day, many of whom were part of the indigenous population of Peru and only spoke Quechua. We had two translators who worked tirelessly to translate dialogue from Quechua to Spanish so that we could understand their complaints and do our best to treat these individuals.

Among pediatric patients the most common complaints were the common cold, parasite related illnesses, and parents were counseled on nutrition and dental hygiene for their children. Adult patients suffered from general body aches and many chronic headaches. Through speaking to our patients, we found out that many did not consume adequate amounts of water because of the inconvenience that it posed to them while they worked throughout the day.

This years medical mission was made a success by the amount of patients we were able to treat with both educational counseling and medications such as antibiotics and anti-parasitics. It was also a success based on the willingness to work hard and come together as a team displayed by all of our participants on this year’s Promise to Peru mission.




June 23-30, 2018

It has been a very busy month for A Promise to Peru, Inc.  After returning from our eye mission at the Rosebud Indian Reservation, South Dakota on June 9th, our team left for the Sacred Valley in Peru on June 23rd.  Our team leaders – George Coritsidis, MD, Medical Director & Board Member of A Promise to Peru, Inc. and Mike Cipoletti,  Executive Director of FNE International assembled a team of 17 people. Christina Rager, MD, Tracey Weisberg, MD, Carolina Pombar, MD, Saad Bhatti MD, Darren Triller pharmD, StonyBrook medical students Joshua Kogan, Hayley Scott, Jheison and Monica Giraldo, Courtney Balgobin, Alexandra Coritsidis, nursing student Maggie Triller, Graduate student Nicholas Coritsidis and three medical students from University of Connecticut.

During the first two days the team examined close to 250 patients in the towns of Maras and Ccothuncho!  The last three days pop up tents were placed in the town square of Ollayatambo so that our doctors would examine patients and perform ultrasonography.  The total amount of patients examined were 600.  Our team was thrilled to work so hard and to take care of so many people in need. The last day of the mission, the Mayor of Ollayatambo, Elvis Flores Farfan and the Director of Education presented the key to the city as a symbol of their sincere appreciation for A Promise to Peru & FNE International’s successful medical mission.  Many thanks to Mayor Farfan for his municipal support and Enrique Pollack for hosting the team at his home.

And a special acknowledgement to Dr Victor Rozas and the Peruvian American Medical Society (PAMS) for their continued support of our efforts in Peru.  Every year, they work with us in order to obtain the necessary temporary medical licenses and documentation from the Peruvian Government and the Ministry of Health.

Pictured above are: Dr George Coritsidis, Dr Carolina Pombar, Mike Cipoletti, Mayor Farfan with other elected officials in Ollayatambo.

A Promise to Peru, Inc. and FNE International teams with their host, Enrique Pollack.


Below - Our pharmacist, Dr Darren Triller is pictured in this portable tent, dispensing medications ordered by the examining physicians.  The pharmacy area was always one of the busiest in the clinic.


September 22-30, 2018


Barbara and Brian Shore funded the operating costs of the eye surgical mission, in memory of Barbara’s mother, Marjorie T Sablow. Through their generosity they enabled us to perform sight-restoring surgeries and truly make a difference in the lives of so many people. Our team transported eye surgical supplies worth more than $160,000 as the result of a grant from Alcon and Surgical Eye Expeditions.  Over 60% of the indigenous population in Chimborazo Province live in extreme poverty.  Over 240,000 people in Ecuador suffer from blindness. The nonprofit organization FIBUSPAM, lead by Paul Martel, Sarah Marjane and David Guacho hosted our team of 16 members for the week.  Their ophthalmologist Dr Carlos Gonzalez and his team screened patients from the surrounding rural areas in the months leading up to our mission. Our surgical team performed 81 eye surgeries, including cataract removals from patients ranging in age from 3 years old to 92 years old as well as several complicated eye surgical procedures.  Here are some of our patients’ stories that will tug at your heart…..

Jose’s Story
In addition to cataract surgeries, we performed repair of eyes that had experienced trauma such is the case of Jose. As a child, he was helping his father fill a tire with air. Unbeknown to the family, the tire gage that he was using was broken and eventually, the tire was so full of air that it exploded. The explosion caused abrasions and bruising to his face. Overtime, the trauma also caused the development of traumatic cataracts in both eyes. As a young adult, Jose was now slowly losing his vision and had nowhere to turn. Jose’s wife heard about FIBUSPAM and the visit for “A Promise to Peru’s” surgical team. She eagerly made an appointment and the traveling doctors where happy to evaluate Jose. Just one day later, one of Jose’s cataracts was removed and his vision has already begun to improve. Because of this surgery Jose will have a chance to restore his vision and his outlook on life. The impacts of this treatment far transcends surgical outcomes as his restored sight will allow him to earn an income for his family, help his children In school, among so many other activates.

Fanny’s Story
Fanny is a bubbly teenager from Riobamba, Ecuador. Unfortunately, Fanny was born with a uni-lateral congenital cataract in her right eye. As a baby, her cataract quickly matured leaving her blind in her right eye. She had perfect vision in her functioning eye and lived a normal and happy life. Although she performed well in school and had a healthy social life, she was embarrassed by her cataract which left her pupil white instead of black. Some of her classmates teased her which was effecting her self-esteem.  Because Fanny was blind for over a decade, cataract surgery may not help her restore her vision.  However, it would surely help her restore her self-confidence. In the opportunity of a life time, “A Promise for Peru” in partnership with FIBUSPAM, performed cataract surgery on Fanny’s right eye. The day after surgery, the outcome couldn’t have been better.  Fanny’s cataract was removed, her eye looked completely normal, and her vision even slightly improved.

Carmen’s Story
In rural Ecuador farming is the backbone of local economy and at the center of indigenous culture.  Fibuspam recently met a women named Carmen who was still very much dedicated to her farm at the age of 78. Carmen suffered from an eye infection some years ago and was subsequently rendered blind in her left eye. She had a cataract in her right eye and began to slowly loose her vision. For the last year she could barely see and was afraid of falling when she left her home. Her husband took over the primary responsibilities in caring for the family’s livestock. Carmen said that she missed her daily routine of tending her animals and desperately wanted to regain her independence.

 A Promise to Peru, Inc. would like to thank the efforts of each of the participants for the donation of their time, their talents and their passion for helping others that are in need.  We were able to accomplish what we did because of each and every team member from A Promise to Peru and FIBUSPAM.  

Below is a daily blog written by one of our participants, Shuhan Wang.  Shuhan is a forth year medical student from StonyBrook Medical School in New York.  Please take a few moments to read her lovely description of our mission….


Day 1, 9/23/18 – Buenos Dias from the Andean highlands of Ecuador!

Buenos dias from the Andean highlands of Ecuador! After more than 24 hours of traveling, our 2018 cataract surgical mission team has finally arrived in Riobamba, a city known locally as the “Sultan of the Andes”. Situated at 2758m above sea level, Riobamba rests in a valley surrounded by five snowcapped volcanos, the nearest one being Chimborazo, which is the highest mountain (6268m peak elevation) in Ecuador.

While enjoying a traditional Ecuadorian lunch complete with chugchucaras, our team learned about the healthcare system in Ecuador, the history and treatment of indigenous peoples, Liberal Revolution and the making of modern Ecuador, the founder and mission of our host organization Fibuspam, a wonderful humanitarian Marjorie Sablow who made possible this mission, and the inception and growth of A Promise to Peru. Perhaps the most memorable meeting for me today was with David Guacho, the executive director of the Fibuspam health clinic in Riobamba.

After David lost his infant son in an understaffed public rural hospital which rendered unsatisfactory care, as a result of an enormous backlog and a pervasive neglect of the indigenous populations, he is convinced that the people of his heritage deserve equal access to quality care so tragedies like his own could be avoided. Since then he has dedicated his life to bringing better healthcare services to his village and the mountain regions by recruiting help from well-trained and highly competent physicians across the country and the world. This is how today our surgical team ended up here in Riobamba to serve 100 carefully pre-screened patients who are in dire need of sight-saving surgeries. In Ecuador, the average price of a cataract surgery is $3000 per eye, but the typical earning of this population is merely $350 a month (and that is if they are healthy and hold a formal job). For many people, this truly is an opportunity of a lifetime! We learned that our patients will be coming from different provinces all over the country to receive care, some as far as requiring a 14-hour bus ride each way.

For the whole afternoon extending into the evening, our team unpacked 1000-lb of surgical supplies, set up our operating rooms for this week, made sure all equipments are up and running, and sterilized all instruments. Although clinic day does not officially start until tomorrow, some patients have already heard the news and showed up today for eye exams.

I met Andrés tonight after he patiently waited for us to set up our clinic. He is a very pleasant 60-year-old dressed in a neat wool poncho and straw hat who suffers from complete blindness in his left eye due to either herpes zoster ophthalmicus leading to corneal ulcer and perforation (with complete lack of light perception) or corneal melting secondary to long-standing rheumatoid arthritis. Andrés also suffers from severe cataract in his right eye, making him practically unable to see. Dr. Krebs, Dr. Sable’s great friend hailing from Michigan who joined our team in Fort Lauderdale, took a careful look under the slit lamp and to my delight concluded that cataract surgery of his right eye would be of great benefit to Andrés! We scheduled him right away for surgery on Friday. Andrés was elated to hear that something indeed can be done to help him see again! He jumped out of the chair and held each of our hands in tremendous gratitude. As much as I would love to savor our experience here in Riobamba, for a moment, Friday could not come soon enough…


Day 2, 9/24/18 – In the Mountain town of Riobamba, Ecuador

My eyes popped open with an inexpressible excitement before my alarm could go off this morning. My phone read 6:10am. Outside our window, the mountain town of Riobamba was just slowly waking up.

It was difficult to fall asleep last night, thinking about what was in store for us this coming week. With the clinic all set up, we are ready to operate today! Our goal is to complete 20 cataract surgeries each day, along with an outreach program to distribute 1000+ prescription reading glasses in the neighboring communities. Nevertheless, to David as well as our surgical team, it is not a quantity that we seek in making a difference, but truly the quality of care that we aim to provide for those in need.

By 7:15am, our bus had arrived at the clinic. Taking a deep breath as I stepped into the crisp morning air, I was greeted by the pleasant scent of the mountains that quickly saturated my lungs. Still, the moment David pushed open the gate to the clinic, I was stunned by yet another uplifting and plainly unforgettable greeting – in the small courtyard there had gathered more than fifty patients and families standing in lines for us to be seen! Fifty pairs of earnest dark eyes simultaneously cast on our faces the instance the door swung open… Everyone held their gaze with such heartfelt sincerity and profound respect. Although those eyes might suffer from poor sight, they spoke to us with so much fortitude, hope, and goodness. Not knowing for how long they had been waiting, we jumped into actions without further ado.

The first day of clinic is always a bit of a challenge before our team could develop a rhythm, settle into our roles, and get used to a workflow in a brand-new environment. Working with an unfamiliar set of tools and equipments that might be considered “obsolete” by developing country standards increased the difficulty. However, we quickly managed to function very well as a team, helping each other out wherever and whenever possible. Overall, we did an amazing job today, completing 19 surgeries non-stop. At around 7:40pm, I walked our last patient out of OR to her family after her blood pressure had normalized and sneaked an extra juice box into her pocket for her long trek home. Afterwards, we all gathered to debrief on what went well and what could be improved about today.

When we walked out of the clinic, a beautiful full moon hung low in the cloudless night sky. I was reminded that today was Mid-Autumn Festival! A traditional Chinese holiday where loved ones reunite to celebrate harmony and unity. I missed home. In particular, I thought about my grandpa, who suffered complications from an unsuccessful cataract surgery in China that left him blind in one eye many years ago. He is the reason why I came to Riobamba to help others who suffer from cataracts. He is the reason why I treat our patients the very way I would want him to have been treated. I found it comforting to know that despite being 10,000 miles apart (literally) and regardless of where we are in this world, I could always look up to admire the same moon that illuminates his sky tonight. I also found it consoling that many of our own patients would soon be able to enjoy the same beautiful view!

While being away from our own families, we had each other here in Riobamba. In the late evening, our team ventured out into town and rewarded ourselves for a full day of hard work with some delicious pizza and entertaining impromptu dancing. Indeed, between bus rides, chifas, scalpels, slit lamps, and overdoses of positive vibes all around the clock, our mission team is transforming into a small family unit that we are all growing to know and genuinely care about.

Before I close my computer and go to bed tonight, I just want to give a special shout-out to our entire nursing staff, OR techs, administrators, and sterilization personnel who barely had a chance to sit down or have lunch today in order to perform what was necessary to care for our patients. And I wish to express my respect to our surgeons whose technical expertise, patience, finesse and grace under pressure I find truly inspiring. Needless to say, I am in complete awe of each of my team member’s diligence and dedication.

Tomorrow morning, those 19 patients we operated on today will return for post-operative checks and we plan to perform 23 more cataract surgeries. I cannot wait to see our patients again soon and find out about how they are doing! Goodnight for now. Hasta mañana!


Day 3, 9/25/18 – In the Mountain town of Riobamba, Ecuador

Hey there! Another day of the mission successfully completed! I decided to share just one of the highlights of my day with you all tonight in an effort to catch up on some sleep. I hope you enjoy some photos in the meantime!

This afternoon, our team had a very special case. A nervous and quiet 16-year-old girl, Maria, came in with what appeared to be a congenital cataract in her right eye. Due to failure of early interventions in life (ideally before age 8, when maximal neuroplasticity could prompt correct visual pathway formation), it is now impossible for us to restore vision in her right eye. However, after our team had discussed the condition with Maria and her parents, we together decided that we would still operate to remove her cataract. Just so that she could live a more normal life, like any other teenage girl. That is, she would be able to smile upon waking up and looking into the mirror each morning without seeing a glaring thick yellowish plaque stuck inside her eye! Just so that she could be seen and treated like a normal young lady. Dr. Sable, our surgical director, took on the task in a heartbeat. Due to years of accumulation of tissue damage, there was significant fibrotic changes that had occurred in Maria’s eye which made the operation much more challenging. Nonetheless, with great patience and dexterous prowess, Dr. Sable was able to cosmetically restore Maria’s right eye to a near natural state. As soon as the case was finished, Dr. Sable took care to ask me to snap a photo of Maria’s new right eye before patching it up so Maria could see immediately post-op how her eye now looked like instead of waiting until tomorrow during patch removal. In the post-recovery room, when Maria was shown the picture of her new right eye, after an initial moment of disbelief, her whole face lit up. She smiled for the first time and exclaimed “Estoy tan feliz!” (“I am so happy!”). The whole team gathered around to congratulate her on how well she did and shared our own joy to see her beautiful smile. Maria’s sister and mother waiting outside came running to her upon discharge and almost bursted into tears when they saw the before and after photos. They hugged us again and again for the great outcome and future outlook for Maria. Looking around the hall, I was met with smiley faces everywhere. It was such a wonderful occasion to witness!


Day 4, 9/26/18 – In the Mountain town of Riobamba, Ecuador

When you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life. This sentiment rings true for us during this mission. While the days can be more than 12 hours long and we are running on just a few hours of sleep, we feel very much invigorated and enormously satisfied at the clinic.

My favorite part of the day is the post-operative checks early in the morning, when we examine patients the day after their surgery to check on their recovery progress and detect any complications. It is incredible to see our patients doing well and even benefiting from immediate improvements in their visions. Many patients went from being able to only perceive hand motions to actually being able to count fingers or even distinguish and read letters on a screen or paper because of the surgery! Quite a few patients, just one day after surgery, were able to see with a 20/20 or 20/25 (near perfect) vision! I’m glad to say – that’s a better vision than me even, by a margin! It truly is magnificent!

As you can imagine, what infallibly keeps our team going is the unsurpassed gratefulness those patients have for what we do for them and for this community. Their gratitude is evident in their eyes, and when they offer us big long hugs, firm hearty handshakes, countless thanks and genuine blessings; it really is deeply fulfilling.

We had the chance to perform many more interesting cases today. The most memorable patient was a 32-year-old young gentleman, Juan, who sustained an ocular trauma at age 14 from a tire explosion. So for the past 18 years, Juan has suffered from severe cataract which seriously limited his quality of life. Due to the extent of his injury (Juan also had phacodonesis with partial lens subluxation due to damaged zonules), there were very high risks associated with his operation. Our three surgeons convened to strategize and considered potentially delaying the surgery until next year (our next mission) when we could return with more advanced equipment to help restore his vision while significantly minimizing his risks of complications. Upon hearing the option that we might not operate today due to missing the optimal tools for his complex condition, Juan could not hold back his tears. This strong young man broke down in front of all of us because he had been so looking forward to this day to finally regain his vision. For a minute, the room was filled with stifling silence and sadness. We thought perhaps we could order supplies right away from the US to have them shipped hopefully by the weekend, in time to still help him during this mission. However, it was not a solution good enough for us. I handed Juan a tissue, but his tears had already melted our hearts. Drs. Sable and Appel, unwilling to give up, thought again long and hard about an alternative. Dr. Krebs also felt strongly about pushing the boundaries of challenging surgical techniques and advocated for providing Juan with a maximum chance at a better vision today. After much consideration, our team had a plan to help Juan proceed with surgery with carefully prepared risk controls and contingency management. Juan and his whole family were thrilled by the decision. They could not be more thankful. Fortunately, the operation went extremely well! The family went around the room to hug us, thanking us again and again. I cannot wait to see Juan tomorrow at post-op check tomorrow!

Today, we also helped a 3-year-old girl who had congenital cataracts which with our surgical intervention and a period of careful patching with correct lens use to prevent amblyopia can have an excellent prognosis that would benefit her for the rest of her life. There was also a wonderfully bright 12-year-old with bilateral uveitic cataracts that resulted in posterior synechia, where her iris got stuck onto the lens of her eye causing a misshaped, almost nonexistent pupil. We were able to create a pupil that allows her to see. We also had 92-year-old patient who lived on the mountaintop without shoes who was nearly blind. We helped her remove her dense cataract, which had gradually made her life more difficult and reclusive over the past years. After her recovery, she would be able to get back to being more active and independent, and enjoy seeing the faces of her children and playing with her grandchildren once again. At the PACU area (post anesthesia recovery), she kept asking me over and over… “Quién es el doctor que me operó?” (Who is the doctor that operated on me?) “Puedes escribir su nombre por favor?” (Could you please write down his name?) “De dónde son?” (Where are you from?) I answered her each time with a bigger smile.

Perhaps our patients think our team was the only group providing positive values in this community, but they may not realize the positive impressions they have left in our mind. It is so beautiful to watch the heartwarming interactions between our patients and their families as they were there fully present for each other, holding each other close, and helping facilitate every step with great acts of love. It deeply moves us in a way that helps us render the best care for them in return.

By Wednesday night, we had completed 53 cataract surgeries. It is so rewarding to think that these are not just 53 lives that we have touched, but also their family members’ lives in which we have made a real impact.

And it’s always important to remember that these impacts we made would not have been possible without the help of so many countless other individuals…

May they all be blessed.


Day 5, 9/27/18 – In the Mountain town of Riobamba, Ecuador

Hey everyone! Today, we helped remove cataracts for 21 more patients and distribute 150 eye glasses in an abandoned school thirty minutes outside of Riobamba! I met two interesting young cousins in their early 40s, Jose and Carlos, who have retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a genetic condition that results in progressive loss of peripheral vision and night vision. Jose and Carlos presented with cataracts which affected their central visions. Sadly, cataract combined with RP means that their sight was steadily disappearing! Carlos suffered from sharp pain in his eye for 15 years with worsening blurry vision before he could finally find help and learn about his conditions. Our operations today would allow both cousins to regain some of their central visions and hopefully improve their daily life, independence, and functionality to be able to provide for their families again! Just in case you were wondering, our post-operative patients have been doing very very well! I am so happy for the progress they are making.

By the way, I have learned a new favorite term of endearment. It’s “doctorita”! Some of our patients refer to me as such, and I really like it because it makes me feel very familiar and personable to them! I have also been told that people are actually following these blog posts and like what they are seeing! Thank you so much for your continued interest and attention. It is really my honor to bring some of our stories from Ecuador to everyone. If you have any feedback, comments, or questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch! I gladly welcome all of them and would love to share more. Thank you again!

On a side note, due to the many time-consuming patient records problems that we encounter during the days, I have come to realize the usefulness of electronic medical record (EMR) systems in developing country settings and non-profit service platforms. Back in the United States, many medical professionals constantly complain about minor details or glitches regarding the EMRs, but we take for granted the many powerful tools of data capture, analysis, and even crucial safety measures they provide clinicians and neglect the importance of consolidating complex healthcare records methodically. Our Promise to Peru missions have created opportunities for a vast amount of clinical data that could be studied and analyzed to extract helpful clinical information. Looking forward, I would really love to help develop an easy-to-implement, mobile EMR system for medical/surgical missions in less resourceful places around the world. Just something I thought about before heading to sleep and begin dreaming about papa fritas in Spanish! Enjoy mas fotos por el momento, por favor (please enjoy more photos for now)!


Day 6, 9/28/18 – Our last day at the clinic in Riobamba, Ecuador

This is a hard post to write because today is our last day at the clinic in Riobamba. Over the span of this week, our team completed over 600 appointments at the ophthalmologic office, performed cataract surgeries for 92 patients in the OR, initiated regular post-operative follow-ups, distributed hundreds of glasses in the nearby communities, and shared many beautiful moments. Tonight the staff at Fibuspam and the board members of A Promise to Peru, Inc. organized a thank you dinner for us at an enchanting 300-year-old hacienda where El Libertador, Simon Bolivar once stayed! David, the director of Fibuspam Riobamba, gave us his most heartfelt thank you on behalf of his people. The organization presented each one of us with a handmade Fibuspam poncho in pure white, symbolizing the virtuous morals and the luminosity of medicine. “With this poncho, I salute you as a member of this community.” David proclaimed as he donned us with this precious gift of bond.

As David correctly pointed out, this mission on many levels signifies the unity of two countries, where total strangers from two different worlds come together to work towards a common goal to improve the lives of other people. Within hours of meeting, we were able to be of service to one another and now just look at what we have been able to accomplish this week! Our mission has touched lives in more ways than we could have imagined!

Dr. Sable, an ingenious surgeon, who has been dubbed “el artista” (the Artist) by everyone in town also expressed his gratitude towards this community who had welcomed us as their own. Dr. Sable believes that as a result of this mission, he is able to become a much better doctor, teacher, and friend. Dr. Messina, the mastermind behind A Promise to Peru, an altruistic leader and physician who envisioned many missions like this, said she was swept away by the needs present in this region and the hospitality we had received here. She is wholeheartedly committed to continuing her vision on health to come back in the future. Our amazing tour guide Wilson and wonderful host coordinator Sarah also shared their thoughts. “The mountains are our passions.”, they said with deep conviction. And the light in their eyes that flickered as they talked about the poverty that still exists and what remains to be done in these mountain towns convey their first-hand understanding and determination for what they will always aim to accomplish here. Dr. Gonzales, the kind-hearted, high-spirited ophthalmologist from Nicaragua who has been dedicating his service to this community also added that although he was not from this region, this is now his home, his heart. Drs. Appel, Krebs, Ng, Gang, Cathy, Ken, Ana, Frank, Sandra, Shashi, Pat, and Robin were all valued and recognized for their individual service and contribution to this community. Personally, I was deeply touched to hear that everyone appreciated the way I was treating and caring for our patients and their families and cannot wait for the day when I officially become a doctor! “We are coming to your graduation!”, they shouted. I could not have felt more love from this amazing family that we have come to build over this trip. ”Thank you from my heart to you”, we all bowed and said to each other in unison.

It is with a heavy heart we bid goodbye to these mountains and the perseverant indigenous people. By the time our bus departed, the valley was quiet asleep with resonant murmurs of our hearts. Until we meet again, Riobamba!

Until we can all see clearly the sun shine its radiant rays through the clouds covering your beautiful great plain.  With our eyes, and with your very own.




June 9-18, 2017 – Calca in the Sacred Valley of Peru

Our June 2017 Cataract Surgical and Medical Mission to Calca in the Sacred Valley of Peru was another great success!!  Over 500 medical patients and 1,384 eye clinic patients were examined, close to 1,600 pairs of distance, reading and non prescription sunglasses were dispensed, 63 eye surgeries and over 60 ultrasound procedures were performed.  This was accomplished by our 55 participants which included 11 physicians, 2 optometrists, 2 Physician Assistants, 2 Nurse Practitioners, 5 R.N.’s, 1 certified ultrasound technician, 1 Nurse Assistant, 15 medical students from Stony Brook, Columbia, St George’s University, Upstate,University of Texas and NY Osteopathic medical schools, 3 optometry students from SUNY Optometry, nurse practitioner student from Stony Brook, 5 Spanish translators, an engineer, a school teacher who provided patient education, a pharmacist, and 2 undergraduate students from Cornell University and University of Rhode Island.  We were fortunate to have our Peruvian team working with us in Calca along with the Peruvian Ministry of Health, Dr Francisco Morales, Dr Victor Rozas, Dr Frilo Silva, Dr J. Fuentes, 3 RNs, 4 Quechua translators and our on the ground logistical coordinator, Luis Loayza. We had patients come from very remote towns, some traveling 10 – 12 hours to reach us. The appreciation of the Peruvian patients that were treated was very heartwarming to our entire team.  As part of our organization’s educational component, one of our board members, George Coritsidis, M.D. was invited to be the keynote speaker at the ES-SALUD Hospital in Cuzco. Dr Victor Rozas, the Medical Director of Peruvian American Medical Society served as the interpreter.  The lecture series was well attended and well received.

Since the inception of our organization in 2011, our portable eye clinic and operating room has examined over 5,400 patients, distributed 8,300 pairs of prescription glasses/sunglasses and performed over 460 site restoring surgical procedures.  The portable medical clinic has administered health care to approximately 8,350 patients to people and performed approximately 310 portable ultrasound examinations.  We could not have done all of this work without the support of so many individuals, who have donated their time, energy, and funds to our cause.  A Promise to Peru, Inc. thanks each and everyone of you!

Teaching children the importance of brushing your teeth

Our students with some of our patients

Our medical team

Ken Roberts, head of sterilization with OR nurse Caroline Rienzo

Happy patients

Drs. Rozas and Morales at the clinic

CATARACT SURGICAL AND MEDICAL MISSION - Calca in the Sacred Valley of Peru 

Our June 2016 Cataract Surgical and Medical Mission to Calca in the Sacred Valley of Peru was a great success!!  Over 400 medical patients and 924 eye clinic patients were examined, close to 1,600 pairs of distance, reading and non prescription sunglasses were dispensed, 51 eye surgeries and over 100 ultrasound procedures were performed.  This was accomplished by our 51 participants which included 11 physicians, 3 optometrists, 4 R.N.’s, 1 certified ultrasound technician, 1 certified surgical technician, medical students from Stony Brook, Columbia and NY Osteopathic medical school, nurse practitioner and physician assistant students from Stony Brook.

Since the inception of our organization in 2011, our portable eye clinic and operating room has examined over 4,000 patients, distributed 6,700 pairs of prescription glasses/sunglasses and performed close to 400 site restoring surgical procedures.  The portable medical clinic has administered health care to approximately 7,850 patients to people and performed approximately 250 portable ultrasound examinations.  We could not have done all of this work without the support of so many individuals, who have donated their time, energy, and funds to our cause.  A Promise to Peru, Inc. thanks each and everyone of you!


On behalf of the Board of Directors of A Promise to Peru, Inc. we wanted to thank each and every one of our participants for your generous donation of time, expertise, personal expense and for your passion of assisting those less fortunate in receiving quality medical and surgical care in Guayaquil, Ecuador. This year, for the first time, we expanded our presence to another country & worked with another nonprofit organization that has years more experience than us.  Blanca’s House enjoys an excellent reputation within our community on Long Island and for good reason, they were a pleasure to work with and we learned so much from this joint venture. Our intentions are always the best…to provide quality medical and eye care to our patients and we believe we were successful, thanks to all of our participants and our many devoted and generous donors!

Mission 2015 Results:

  1. Number of medical patients examined and treated were a staggering….400 patients
  2. 90 ultrasound procedures were performed
  3. Over 1,000 pairs of prescription glasses & 400 sunglasses dispensed
  4. 240 patients were examined by ophthalmologists and 128 cataract surgeries were performed.  The most ever! The majority (75%) of the patients operated on were legally blind (Visual acuity of 20/200 or less) in their operated eye prior to surgery; the potential to truly change a person’s life was indeed very real.


The total sum of services donated equaled $434,100.00, not including the medications & supplies that were purchased by A Promise to Peru or donated to our organization by so many generous supporters of ours. A Promise to Peru’s operating expenses for this mission was approximately $10,000.

Finally, we again thank all 52 of you -physicians, students, nurses, PAs, nurse practitioners, pharmacist, surgical technicians, ultrasound technician, instrument sterilization team, translator, videographer, photographer and your families, businesses and spouses that supported your trip with us!

Patiently waiting to be seen in the medical clinic

Each patient is given the attention they need after waiting many hours on line.

Nurse Assistant, Julia Colmenares preparing to bring our young patient to the operating room

Dr. Sable examining a patient

Dr. Appel, Ophthalmologist

Eye Exam

128 cataract surgeries, free of charge were performed here at the Military Hospital of Guayaquil

Dr. Fred Davis, Emergency Medicine Physician and repeat participant

Medical Clinic

Dr Turrin, Emergency Medicine Resident, this is her second mission with A Promise to Peru, Inc.

Our photographer takes a moment to spend some time with a patient

Guayaquil, Equador

Third year medical student preparing patient for eye surgery

Preoperative Area for patients and staff

Dr. Coritsidis examining a patient prior to her cataract surgery

Caroline Rienzo, RN assisting in an extracapsular cataract extraction

Dr. Sable with his very happy patient and her mom

Monitoring of the patient’s vital signs during surgery

Administering drops prior to surgery

Damaris Raymondi, optometrist

Our sterilization team, waiting for the next round of instruments

Operating Room Team 2015


———————————————————————————————————————-Cataract Surgical and Medical Mission 2014 to Urubamba, Sacred Valley, Peru

Summary: The board members of A Promise to Peru, Inc. express their gratitude to each and everyone of the 55 mission participants for their involvement with the mission.  The successes listed below could not have been accomplished without the team’s countless hours spent in the preparation leading up to the mission and for their hard work during the long days of the mission.

Mission 2014 Results:

I. Statistics:
Over 1,650 patients were evaluated in the medical and eye clinics, more than 1,000 pairs of prescription glasses and sunglasses were dispensed, over 50 ultrasound exams were performed and 84 eye surgeries were performed.  Many patients with very poor vision were once again able to see their world and be part of a community once again.   An increase of 68% more surgeries were performed this year compared to last year’s mission.  This significant increase was the result of many people and organizations in the U.S. and in Peru working together to identfy and treat the neediest patients. Special thanks to: Dr Victor Rozas of Peruvian American Medical Society, Dr Francisco Morales of Wiñaypaq Association Pro Human Development, Helena Van Engelen & Foundacion Ninos del Arco Iris, Dr Frilo Silva & Caprese Eye Clinic, Cuzco and Surgical Eye Expeditions of Santa Barbara, California.

II. Commitment to Education of Local Physicians and Patients:
Physicians from A Promise to Peru, Inc were invited to participate in the ” 3rd International Health Symposium in the Sacred Valley, Peru” at the Urubamba Hospital on July 3, 2014. Peruvian physician Dr. Francisco Morales organized the lecture symposium. It was a three-day lecture symposium working with the Peru Health Outreach Project, Cleveland Clinic, Wiñaypaq Association Pro Human Development workers and A Promise to Peru INC. in order to have an exchange of knowledge.  Dr. George Coritsidis of Elmhurst/Mount Sinai Medical Center, NY lectured to a group of Peruvian physicians and health care workers about Diabetes and Renal Complications, Dr. Rita Rossi Foulkes of the University of Chicago, Illinois gave a lecture on Asthma and Dr. Sid Dante of the University of Chicago gave a lecture on eczema, dry skin care and sun protection.  The afternoon lecture series was well attended.

Member of the surgical team, Dr Jack Oats, Dr Mike Sable and Dr Angie Vaccaro
A Promise to Peru
This patient had cataract surgery on the only eye he could barely see with.  The patch that he needed to wear for 24 hours, left him completely blind.  Members of our team not only brought him to his taxi, but rode home with him to make sure he reached his family and home safely
Mike Cipoletti, Director of the non profit organization Friends NE, spending time with some of our patients

Surgical technician Lorena Chinchilla with Bindu Rai, RN

Patients waiting to be seen in the ophthalmology clinic

B. Patient Education: Medical students held workshops for patients on topics such as dental hygiene, back exercises to prevent lower back pain, hand washing.

III. Mentoring Undergraduate and Graduate Students and Physicians in Residency Training:
This experience assists in shaping these students career paths and in formulating empathetic and compassionate health care providers.

This mission’s participants included:

  • 4 Resident physicians in Internal Medicine, Family Practice, Emergency Medicine and Internal Medicine and Pediatric from Residency programs in New York and Chicago.
  • 18 Graduate students from multiple disciplines (12 medical students, 3 optometry students,  2 masters in public health program students and  1 doctorate of pharmacology student).
  • 4 undergraduate students

IV. Our Commitment to Research:
A. “Childhood Malnutrition in the Region of Cusco, Peru: Urban vs. Rural-“ IRB approved research study with University of Connecticut Masters in Public Health Program and Wiñaypaq Association Pro Human Development Institution in Pisac, Peru. Two graduate students from University of Connecticut’s masters in Public Health Program initiated this study this July.

B. “A Retrospective Chart Review to Determine the Effect of Portable Ultrasonography on Diagnostic Capability in the Peruvian Andes” is a Stony Brook School of Medicine IRB approved study.  ‘Portable ultrasonography enhances diagnostic capability in the Peruvian Andes’ was accepted as a poster presentation at the 5th Annual Consortium of Universities for Global Health Conference in Washington, D.C. May 2014 and the abstract was recently accepted for publication in the Annals of Global Health journal.

Now that you have experienced first hand what our organization accomplishes, please continue to support us in our fund raising efforts. If you are interested in making a donation or you have a fund raising idea, please feel free to contact us. We plan to raise money to purchase ophthalmic and surgical equipment so that we will not have to borrow from other sources and therefore will need many tens of thousands of dollars to reach our goal.

JetBlue has generously provided the air transportation for 45 out of the 55 participants from Boston, New York and Chicago to Lima, Peru. As a result of JetBlue’s commitment to this project, the transport of the medical and surgical equipment, instruments, medications and supplies has also been included. “This mission is another great example of our longstanding partnership with Airlink, a non-profit organization that connects NGOs (non-profit organizations) with airlines,” said Icema Gibbs, JetBlue Airways, Director, Corporate Social Responsibility. “This effort will help a medical team provide much-needed care in a previously underserved area. We felt it was important to contribute to these efforts.

Read more here.

3rd International Health Symposium

Physicians from A Promise to Peru, Inc were invited to participate in the ” 3rd International Health Symposium in the Sacred Valley, Peru” at the Urubamba Hospital on July 3, 2014. The Lecture symposium was organized by Peruvian physician Dr Francisco Morales. It was a  three day lecture symposium working with the Peru Health Outreach Project, Cleveland Clinic and Wiñaypaq Association Pro Human Development.   Dr George Coritsidis of Elmhurst/Mount Sinai Medical Center, NY lectured to a group of Peruvian physicians and health care workers about Diabetes and Renal Complications, Dr Rita Rossi Foulkes of University of Chicago gave a lecture on Asthma and Dr Sid Dante of University of Chicago gave a lecture on Eczema, Dry skin care and sun protection.The lecture series was well attended.

Many thanks to our mission photographer, Karyn Sable





2013 Team

Cataract Surgical and Medical Mission June 30-July 12, 2013 Summary

A Promise to Peru’s first week consisted of the cataract surgical mission and a sub specialty medical clinic. Our organization was invited to operate at the new municipal hospital in Urubamba, by the Peruvian Minister of Health. Our group transported a full service eye clinic and 2 portable OR’s (via 50 suitcases). We provided over 600 eye exams, 50 surgical procedures and by the end of the 2 weeks 1,700 pairs of glasses were distributed. During the same week we had 3 days of specialty clinics (Infectious disease, nephrology, dermatology) and introduced portable ultrasonography to our program for the first year. Our physicians also gave lectures to the local physicians on requested topics. Finally that week, we opened dialogue with the CEO of the largest hospital in Cuzco to possibly have an exchange of students/residents in the future. The second week was composed of a traveling medical and eye clinic. Approximately 125 patients were evaluated per day either in remote towns or in clinics. Welcomed new additions this year were the women’s health clinic, ultrasonography and 2 optometry students that were able to refract the patients for complicated distance corrections. All of the students did a great job assuming their daily responsibilities and provided the perfect example of the ability to have a program where students from various institutions and programs can work harmoniously and effectively together. There are numerous missions, but few that can boast about this fact. Finally, this year we introduced the idea of taking these experiences and examining them as research projects. We were able to coordinate a joint research study with several of our med students along with several MPH students and Tia Palermo, PhD from SB MPH program. IRB approval was obtained from both Stony Brook and the Peruvian Minister of Health to examine the impact of cataract surgery on the health related quality of life of this patient population. We believe that our experiences here may generate up to 4 abstracts this year at various conferences and will include our students. The results of these endeavors remain to be seen.

The teamwork started 10 months prior, initially with the core team of physicians Shanley, Di Gioia, Coritsidis, Sable, Rozas and myself. We worked with the director of the NGO, Friends NE, Mike Cipoletti and Travis Kumph to coordinate the surgical and medical weeks with the Peruvian Drs Silva and Morales and with Helena Van Engelen from Foundacion Ninos del Arco Iris and Edwin Gonzales from La Quinta Hotel. Together with our motivated and energetic medical students countless hours of preparation went into planning the 2 week mission. Despite obtaining the vast majority of the medications, surgical supplies and intraocular implants as donations the mission still spent close to $10,000 on operating expenses. One of our goals this year will be to fundraise not only to cover operating expenses but also to purchase diagnostic ophthalmic equipment. We have many plans for our non profit organization and whether you physically join us on our next mission or not, it is my hope that you will spread the word about A Promise to Peru, Inc. and help us grow.
We were fortunate to have each and every one of our participants volunteer their time to spend with us in Peru. I believe that many of you have created new friendships that will last a lifetime (I know that my family and I have) and the feeling of offering your knowledge and your time to people that have so much less that we do, is really indescribable. Again,on behalf of the board members… John Shanley, Natalie Di Gioia, George Coritsidis, Mike Sable and I, we sincerely thank you for all of your hard work and participation in A Promise to Peru, Inc.’s Cataract Surgical and Medical Mission 2013.
All the Best,
Debra Messina, M.D.
2014 Mission Accomplishments
The Minister of Health invited A Promise to Peru to evaluate patients and perform cataract surgery at the Urubamba Hospital
Physicians and Stony Brook medical students unpacking the 50 suitcases of equipment and surgical supplies
SUNY Optometry Students unpacking their equipment and 2,000 pairs of glasses
Dr. Patel diagnoses a cataract that is significantly impairing this patents vision. He was scheduled for surgery later that same day.
Dr. Bill Epstein from Oregon with one patient from a remote village in the Andes Mountains. Dr. Bill Epstein has participated in multiple surgical missions, including missions to Nepal and Vietnam.
Mr. Ken Roberts obtaining a visual acuity from a patient. Mr Roberts is the president of a Long Island Hospital in New York.
A Promise To Peru
In addition to the eye clinic, Medical clinics were held for various sub specialties. Dr. Shanley held an Infectious Disease Clinic. Pictured here with a patient and medical students.
A Promise To Peru
A portable ultrasound was loaned to A Promise to Peru by SonoSite. This is Dr. Coritsidis with medical students discussing with a patient the results the ultrasound test.
A Promise To Peru
Patients traveled for hours often by foot to reach our clinic. The line to be evaluated went out the door of the hospital.
Two cataract surgeries were able to be performed at the same time.
A Promise To Peru
Dr. Ng, who monitored the patients before, during and after the surgery shown here with Dr. Sable, an ophthalmologist from New York.
Cataract Surgical Mission Team 2013: A Promise to Peru and Foundacion Ninos del Arco Iris members

Journal by Eric Rios-Doria

Having parents of Peruvian descent gave me a special connection to the mission trip. As a child, I would travel frequently to Lima, the capital, where I have many relatives. Here I was exposed to the poverty and poor health conditions of the people, which fostered my interest in global health. The mission took us to the Sacred Valley region, an area of Peru I had never visited. Working with my father, an ob-gyn, was special. Having completed his medical degree in Peru, he was excited to travel back and be involved in international medicine. I was excited to travel back and work with him to help to the people of Peru in a meaningful way.

Cataract Surgical patient expresses his gratitude to Dr Sable and the surgical team, Urubamba Hospital, July 2013
Dr Sable operated on his first eye last year and he had his second one done this past summer. Take a look!

A Promise to Peru – Patient Account – Continued from A Promise to Peru on Vimeo.

A Promise to Peru – Patient Acount from A Promise to Peru on Vimeo.


Eric Rios-Doria’s Peru Mission Video


2013 mission moments – Julia caring for her patient
This picture was taken of Julia Colmenares, Certified Nurse Assistant and a patient who was brought to the clinic by her daughter, an ophthalmologist in Peru. This was a heartwarming bond that was captured, showing Julia hugging the patient. Julia caring for her patient

Cataract Surgical and Medical Mission 2012 Urubamba, Sacred Valley, Peru

A Promise to Peru was founded by John Shanley, MD, Debra Messina, MD (StonyBrook School of Medicine ‘88) and Natalie DiGioia, MD (StonyBrook School of Medicine ‘01) in October 2011.  The organization works with local New York physicians and Stony Brook University’s medical students who are interested in providing medical care to remote areas of the Sacred Valley in Peru.  There are two successful missions that A Promise to Peru offers: The medical mission (June 25- July 20, 2012) and a newly founded cataract surgical mission (July 2-6, 2012) by Dr. Messina. The three physicians who established A Promise to Peru worked diligently towards a common goal of offering needed medical and surgical cataract eye care during the past year. Through several fund raising efforts, money was raised to support purchasing medications and supplies to fund last year’s mission thanks to our generous donors.

The mission in 2012 had an unprecedented response from volunteer faculty.  Some of the physicians that joined the mission this year were Stony Brook alumni, faculty and staff at Stony Brook Hospital and physicians from the metropolitan area.  The medical mission that traveled for four weeks to remote towns in the Sacred Valley included attending physicians, nurses, medical students, other health professionals and family members. The participants were John Shanley, MD, Robert Bobrow, MD and his wife,  Evelyn Marienberg, MD (’88) with her daughter, Traci Downs, MD( ’94), Miriam Maher, MD (’94), Tiffany Moadel, MD (’11), Glenn Sterling, MD (’88) with his son,  Paul Galstian, OD and his son, Joyce Quick, PA, Dorcas Casuala, RN, Candice Miller, RN, 18 medical students: Amanda Chu, Brendan Carr,  Neva Castro, James Connolly, Danielle Duhame, Justin Dredge, Jonathan Kristan, Saira Mehmood, Kaveh Moghbeli, Galaxy Mudda, Ruksana Rangwala, Amy Rumack, Elliot Schottland, Brianne Sullivan, Mari Yasunaga, Elizabeth Young, Jonathan Young, Ava Satnick, a Stony Brook Masters in Public Health student, Michael Yen and a college student Sean Kim from Emory University. They saw over 300 patients each week evaluating rashes, dyspepsia, musculoskeletal complaints, and other primary care related problems. Children received vitamins, worm treatment and had arts and crafts while waiting. As part of the medical mission for the 4 weeks, a traveling eye clinic examined hundreds of patients in remote Andes mountain towns with the aid of an optometrist from Long Island. The medical students were trained in basic refraction techniques and the clinic was able to dispense hundreds of pairs of donated eyeglasses.

The recent addition to A Promise to Peru is the cataract surgical mission.  What prompted Debra Messina, MD to initiate a cataract surgical mission was because of the prior medical mission to the Sacred Valley in Peru in June 2011.  The portable medical clinic had traveled to many remote towns and villages, sometimes a two hour bus ride each way. It was then that she realized a large percentage of patients had advanced cataracts that no pair of glasses could help to rehabilitate their poor vision.  Upon her return she was able to establish contacts with the former president of the Pan American Ophthalmological Society, Dr Francesco Morales who is Peruvian and Dr Shanley contacted the past president of the Peruvian America Medical Society, Dr Victor Rozas.  Through them she was able to obtain the letter of invitation from the Peruvian Minster of Health and the necessary temporary medical licenses for the physicians, technicians, nurses and medical students.  Dr Messina discovered a nonprofit organization, Surgical Eye Expeditions (SEE) from Santa Barbara, California and worked with them to lend the necessary surgical equipment and donate enough medical and surgical supplies for 50 cataract surgeries.  Close to $100,000 worth of donations were raised in the form of medications, intraocular implants, disposable surgical instruments and other necessary supplies to create an efficient operating room that was able to deliver quality eye surgery.  Some of the patients traveled up to eleven hours from the Amazon Jungle, traveling four of those hours on foot to come to the newly formed surgical center. Some of the patients who could hardly make out hand motion a foot in front of them had post-op vision so improved that they could pass their drivers license test here in the United States.  During the week of July 2, 2012 the surgical clinic evaluated close to 500 patients for ophthalmic complaints and 36 surgical procedures were performed. The surgical team consisted of five physicians (Debra Messina, MD (‘88) with her two children and husband George Coritsidis, MD, Michael Sable, MD (‘92) with his son, Farshad Lalehzarian, MD(‘88) with his son, and Amanda Lehman, MD), seven Stony Brook medical students, one operating room technician, Lorena Chinchilla, one college student and three high school students and from Peru we had an ophthalmologist, an internist, two nurses and four translators.  The two ophthalmologists Dr Sable and Dr Lehman examined the patients with the assistance of the medical students and performed the eye surgeries.  Dr Messina continued her role of administrator and supervisor to ensure that the highest quality of care was administered to the patients.  An eye clinic and an operating room were created in the midst of a school, Fundacion Ninos Del Arco Iris in the small town of Urubamba. The founder and director of the Arco Iris Helena Van Engelen provided the surgical team with the necessary support staff, such as translators, provided advertisement on the radio and housed patients overnight if it was necessary. Their assistance was really invaluable to our success. The following week our optometrist Dr. Paul Galstian worked with the medical students examining the 1 week post op patients.  Proper long term follow up for these surgical patients was provided by a Peruvian ophthalmologist Frilo Silva MD in Cuzco.  Having the opportunity to initiate, organize and work with such a talented and dedicated group of medical professionals and students to offer quality eye care to a group of individuals who otherwise would not have had this opportunity was extremely rewarding for all of the members of the mission.

In summary, this year’s A Promise to Peru medical and cataract surgical missions was successful on many levels. On behalf of the co coordinators we would like to express our appreciation to the 12 medical doctors, the one physician’s assistant, the two registered nurses, the one optometrist, the one surgical technician, the 18 Stony Brook medical students, 1 Masters in Public Health student, 1 college student and the 8 family members.   Our goal is to continue to improve the sustainability of this mission with each year, as evidenced by the addition f the cataract mission. We are looking forward to planning next year’s missions already!

A special thanks to the designer of the A Promise to Peru website, Paula DiGioia who volunteers her time and skills to create and up keep the website. This website reflects our mission goals, creates awareness and helps us collect needed donations


A Note from Our Friends Fundacion Niños Del Arco Iris

To the Promise to Peru Team,

To give back Light in eyes and life is a beautiful precious gift  that you gave in Perú to so many.

The vision of our Foundation is creating a better future for all the deprived children youngsters and their families.

When a beautiful team like yours, highly professional and with a beautiful open and loving heart, knocks on our door, we are more than happy and grateful to assist you in any way possible. So we like to thank YOU for the great and very important loving work you did for all the Peruvian people who needed you.

For me it was a gift of life to get to know you all and it was equally felt by all of my people.

I wish you, your husband, Michael, Amanda, Farshad, your children and all other members of your team every happiness and fulfillment in life. Please, also know that in the future you are more than welcome, it will be such an honor for us to share with you this beautiful experience and your so important work again in the future.


Lots of love and blessings


Clinic photos from outside of Pisac Peru

A Promise To Peru

A Promise To Peru

A Promise To Peru

Post Op

A Promise To Peru

Evan Sable with the kids

A Promise To Peru

Dr Leeman assessing a patient 1 day after his cataract surgery

A Promise To Peru

Waiting in the train station while heading to Machu Picchu

A Promise To Peru

Machu picchu from above

A Promise To Peru

Arrived in Peru 2 days ago, Take a look!

Urubamba from a high

Advert for eye clinic

Kids on line for shoes at a clinic close to 12000 ft near Pisac, Peru

Urubamba sign

A promise to peru

By Paul Galstian

A promise to peru

A promise to peru

by Evy Miceli

By Evy Miceli

by Evy Miceli

by Evy Miceli

Photo Journal #6 by Mari Yasunaga and Brendan Carr
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a promise to peru

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a promise to peru

a promise to peru

a promise to peru

a promise to peru

a promise to peru

a promise to peru

a promise to peru

a promise to peru

a promise to peru

a promise to peru

Images by  Brendan Carr

By Brendan Carr

Images by Brendan Carr

By Brendan Carr

Our first photo journal from Tiffany Moadel. See what’s happening right now!

Driving to Urabamba, the town where we are staying

Driving to Urubamba, the town where we are staying.

Clinica de salud in Chinchero, where we volunteered

Clinica de salud in Chinchero, where we volunteered.

Children who came to our clinic in Chinchero for a doctors visit

Children who came to our clinic in Chinchero for a doctors visit.

Members fo Team 2012 walking to clinic in the town of Chinchero

Members of Team 2012 walking to clinic in the town of Chinchero.

Peruvian woman weaving alpaca wool

Peruvian woman weaving alpaca wool.

Alpaca wool and the natural sources used to color it

Alpaca wool and the natural sources used to color it.

Children from Cataraqui Clinic

Children from Cataraqui Clinic

People being triaged in our clinic in Ccototaqui

People being triaged in our clinic in Ccototaqui.

Children from Cataraqui Clinic

Children from Cataraqui Clinic

Patient intake line at out clinic in Urubamba

Patient intake line at out clinic in urubamba

Trying on Toms shoes

Trying on Toms shoes

Trying on Toms shoes

Receiving Toms shoes

Receiving Toms shoes

Landscape of Urubamba

Landscape of Urubamba