Bascom Palmer Presentation Highlights Successful Vision Van Rescue Mission in Japan

On May 5, faculty and staff from Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and the Miller School attended a presentation featuring exclusive photos and videos illustrating the impact of Bascom Palmer’s Vision Van Eye-Rescue Mission in Japan. Special guest speaker Kazuo Tsubota, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of ophthalmology at Keio University School of Medicine, traveled from Tokyo to express his sincere gratitude for Bascom Palmer and the Miller School’s efforts in sending the Vision Van following the tsunami and earthquakes that ravaged northeastern Japan.

The presentation in Retter Auditorium focused on how ophthalmologists are using the ophthalmic-equipped vehicle to aid thousands of survivors who suffered eye injuries or lost their eyeglasses.

Eduardo Alfonso, M.D., professor and chair of ophthalmology, has remained in constant communication with Dr. Tsubota since the disaster. “I was overjoyed when I heard kind words from my good friend Eddie and his instant readiness to help the people of Japan,” said Tsubota. “Even more so, I was thrilled when he offered to send us the Bascom Palmer Vision Van, which I knew was very successful in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.”

Adding to the presentation were the experiences of Richard K. Lee, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of ophthalmology, who accompanied the Vision Van to Sendai aboard the world’s largest cargo jet. He spent several days in Japan training ophthalmologists on the Vision Van’s equipment and how to aid victims.

“On the very first day we treated more than 80 patients, and every day the numbers increased,” said Lee. “It was really inspiring to see how organized the people were and how they handled the situation with amazing dignity and perseverance.”

In closing, Dr. Tsubota and Dr. Lee highlighted the value of friendship and teamwork in a time of need. Their optimistic outlook and captivating stories touched the hearts of everyone in the audience, including Kazushi Miyatake, M.D., medical attaché with the Consulate-General of Japan.

“This started as an out-of-the-box idea,” Lee said. “But it turned out to be very positive.”

The Vision Van will remain in Japan for several months to continue providing free eye care to victims of the disasters.

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