Mobile Update: Rural Ophthalmology

How lucky am I that there is a Mercy Vision project in this area?

Basically, cataract surgeries are done here courtesy of Mercy Ships, who also train a local doctor to perform the surgery. Thousands of South Africans are blinded by treatable causes such as cataracts, and the aim is to alleviate some of that.

Because January is a crazy month and the project centre had nobody to scrub in to assist, they almost had to cancel surgeries.

BUT med students are allowed to assist! And I am the only med student here. Heh.

By “assist” I mean pass instruments and drip solution on the cornea. Eyes are waaaaay too important to allow a medical student with a sharp implement nearby, I think. I did essentially the same thing a scrub nurse would do, which gave me a much better vantage point than what I had when observing cataract surgery during my Ophthalmology rotation. That alone made it worth it a hundred times over.

I’m pretty sure the doctor would have been just fine without me, but I’m not complaining – it was an AWESOME learning opportunity.

It was interesting to see the slight variation in techniques. The technique used here was sutureless and seemed less complicated than what I had seen before.

I also respect scrub nurses a lot more now. Not that I didn’t before – they’re intense!

The surgeries were quick, fluent and amazing. I want to do that one day.


  1. Nancy Ackelson says:

    I love your enthusiasm and I love your picture – YAY!

  2. mdorantess says:

    Excelente actividad, muy humana, mis mejores deseos

  3. I used to walk by the UCLA ophthalmology school every day during college and always thought it must be incredibly difficult and intimidating to work on eyes. They’re so… important!

    1. I know right?! I get a little nervous every time a blade is near an eye, even when it is held by an experienced surgeon.

  4. bulldog says:

    You are certainly gaining more close up work where you now are…. good for us South Africans…

    1. Yeah, it’s pretty daunting, but certainly useful for my future!

  5. Angela says:

    What an amazing opportunity for you!

    1. It is! Thank you 🙂

  6. Sarah says:

    How did you get a chance to do a rotation on Mercy Ships? It sounds awesome! If you had a spouse, could they come with you?

    1. Hi! I don’t think Mercy Ships takes elective students. I’m doing a family rotation at a hospital in South Africa where Mercy Ships has established a Mercy Vision project. So it’s not on the ship at all – it is prefab offices and ORs where screening, cataract surgery and even glaucoma management are done. I just helped out for the day because of my interest in ophthalmology and their need for an extra pair of hands. You could probably find out more about Mercy Ships opportunities on their site. I’m pretty sure that doctors who work for them get to take their spouses! Nice to meet you 🙂

      1. Sarah says:

        Thanks for all the info! Nice to meet you too! My husband is a first year med student and I know he is interested in medical mission opportunities that we could go on (and possibly our kids if we are so blessed!) so I try to gather info when I have the opportunity. 🙂

  7. Lucky for you and lucky for them to have you!

    1. Aw, thank you. It was a great experience for me.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s