GC Doctor, Daughter Bring Sight Restoring Surgery To Ghana
On New Year’s Eve, Dr. Gerard D’Aversa of Ophthalmic Consultants of Long Island (OCLI), along with his daughter Jaclyn, a junior at Barnard College of Columbia University, kicked off 2011 with a resolution to embark on a very special journey. They traveled to Accra, Ghana to work in the North Western Eye Clinic where they provided clinical care and conducted screenings for eye disease on children and adults and implemented education programs. Dr. D’Aversa performed sight-restoring surgery on a large number of adult patients. Dr. D’Aversa brought medical supplies and equipment and trained clinic Director Dr. Michael Gyasi how to perform modern cataract surgery using a Phacoemulsification (Phaco) machine.
“Prior to our trip, Dr. Gyasi was performing large incision surgery on his patients which usually requires longer healing times,” said Dr. D’Aversa. “When performing surgery with a Phaco machine, the incisions are much smaller and no stitches are needed, which lead to a much faster visual recovery. By Dr. Gyasi acquiring the Phaco machine and training needed, he becomes only the second doctor in the entire country performing modern cataract surgery, essentially changing the way medicine and cataract surgery is being performed in Ghana.”
Dr. D’Aversa and daughter Jaclyn spent 10 days in Ghana. Jaclyn performed the vision screenings for the patients, assisted the scrub nurses and was a circulator in the OR. In fact, it was Jaclyn’s idea to go to Ghana in the first place. “I’ve always been actively involved in volunteer work so I knew I wanted to pursue volunteer work in a developing country that could really gain from a pair of helping hands,” said Jaclyn. “Growing up I worked in my dad’s office every summer so I knew he had a specific skill set that is so incredibly valuable. Unite for Sight was a perfect program because my dad and I were able to make a difference in the lives of many people while also sharing an unforgettable experience that we will never forget.”
Dr. D’Aversa’s trip was part of Unite for Sight, a nonprofit organization providing eye care worldwide and offering high impact hands-on public health opportunities for volunteers. Dr. D’Aversa and Dr. Gyasi performed approximately 100 procedures, working side by side operating from 10 am to 1 am most days. Unite for Sight only pays for the surgeries. The Phaco machine used by Drs. D’Aversa and Gyasi was donated by Island Eye Surgicenter (IES) in Carle Place. “Without the support of companies like IES, Alcon, Allergan, ISTA Pharmaceuticals, and Abbott Medical Optics who donated large amounts of lenses and medical supplies, we never would have been able to carry out our mission,” said Dr. D’Aversa. “We are so grateful for their generosity. Not only were we able to bring enough supplies to get the clinic up and running as far as Phaco, they now have enough supplies to last about a year or so. IES’s Director, Bob Nelson, was a tremendous resource in making all this possible.”
Aside from the equipment and medical supplies that were donated, materials, travel and accommodation were also either donated or purchased from monies raised by Dr. D’Aversa and Jaclyn. They raised money by emailing their friends and family members, conducted bake sales and received donations from OCLI patients at the Valley Stream office where Dr. D’Aversa serves his patients. OCLI also collected eyeglasses that Dr. D’Aversa and Jaclyn brought with them and distributed to patients in Ghana. A remarkable example of donations came from Joseph Cavataio of Hewlett, a 5th grader at Ogden Elementary School at the time. He collected hundreds of eye glasses for this effort by placing boxes in local shops and even going door to door for eyeglass donations. Both Dr. D’Aversa and daughter Jaclyn expressed their gratitude: “We are so grateful to everyone who supported us with this amazing endeavor and how their donations made a large impact on the lives of the Unite for Sight patients. We would not have been able to do this without the amazing contributions from our family, friends and OCLI patients.”