Maimonides physician on a mission to bring cutting edge eye-care to the Caribbean

One local hospital’s director of ophthalmology is helping to bring cutting edge eye care to residents of the Caribbean.

Maimonides Medical Center’s Dr. Norman Saffra 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 came across Caron Chung, executive director of the American Friends of Jamaica, and the two began to collaborate on how best to bring Saffra’s ophthalmic expertise to the island.   

The answer was 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. 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 Saffra. “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.”

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, 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 in Kingston, and assisting the school with its 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,” Saffra added.

Area physicians hone their techniques within the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital’s state-of-the-art simulation center.


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