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EyeCorps nonprofit seeks to end preventable blindness in Africa

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EyeCorps, Inc. has spent the last 6 years developing a sustainable healthcare delivery infrastructure to provide eyecare in the rural sub-Saharan African region of Tanzania.

Co-founder and president Susan MacDonald, MD, spoke with Glance President Jackie Garlich, OD, FAAO, on the organization’s purpose, mission, and vision for the future—including an upcoming training trip.

Let’s start with the basics.

Founded in 2017, EyeCorps is a 501(c)(3) non-profit operating in four regions of Tanzania with in-country NGO status and an agreement with the country’s Ministry of Health.

Before launching the organization, Dr. MacDonald said, “We identified some glaring gaps that were really blocking the progress of eyecare systems within the country: equipment, education, and mentorship.”

Below, Dr. MacDonald shares more about what led to EyeCorps’ founding and operations.

What kind of resources does EyeCorps provide?

With these gaps in mind, the organization has partnered with local frontline eyecare providers and academic ophthalmic training institutions to educate and provide ophthalmology professionals across the country with the following:

  • Equipment via long-term loans
  • Continuing medical education
  • Postgrad mentorship
  • Stipends for practices

“We’ve sent about 20 nurses to ophthalmology educational programs for 3 months, trained a number of ophthalmologists, and we’ve equipped these regions and are doing about 1,000 surgeries a year now,” Dr. MacDonald said.

Go on …

The EyeCorps team of ophthalmologists and nurses work alongside the Tanzanian nurses and doctors on a variety of skills, including surgical techniques and good practices—all while utilizing the local physicians’ “skills to source materials and other areas of expertise,” according to EyeCorps.

Click here for a look at the organization's current locations.

And what has the impact been?

According to EyeCorps, these efforts have resolved three major barriers to sustainable eyecare in the region:

  1. Inadequate quality training
  2. Lack of support for graduates in transition to surgeon
  3. Lack of surgical equipment

How can I support these efforts?

Per Dr. MacDonald, donations (click here) and equipment are key. And for those interested, boot-on-the-ground work is always welcome (she recommends reaching out to her directly).

What should I know about EyeCorps?

The key, Dr. MacDonald said, is not so much about providing eye care in the Tanzanian communities but more about having seasoned physicians and surgeons who can teach residents in training on the decision-making process that comes with eye care.

“Our goal is not to see how many surgeries we can do—quality surgery and transfer of skill,” to these residents, Dr. MacDonald said.

To note, she reported that EyeCorps is averaging an estimated 1,000 surgeries a year in the communities of its current locations.

So what’s next for the organization?

In November 2023, Dr. MacDonald and the EyeCorps team are planning a month-long training trip as part of their work with the university in Dar es Salaam, a city in Tanzania.

Working with 32 residents and only four faculty members, “you can imagine how hard it is to teach,” she said.

The organization is holding training sessions for the residents, spending a week in a wet lab for one-on-one teaching, followed by a 2-week visit to one of the community’s rural regions for one-on-one training.

”(We’re) really pushing the Tanzanian doctors and nurses to get the best training that they can so they can succeed at their careers,” she said.

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