Many people in Mongolia have serious eye problems for which no treatment is available locally. Untreated diabetes is common, causing diabetic retinopathy which can result in hemorrhaging inside the eye. There are also cases of eye trauma resulting in serious problems like retinal detachment, and many premature babies have a condition which causes retinal damage. Sadly, most people cannot afford to travel to other countries for treatment and consequently suffer blindness from potentially preventable conditions.
Because a large number of patients with retinal disease can only be treated with surgery, LDS Charities sponsored a young Mongolian eye surgeon, Dr. Munkhzaya, for 15 months of training in vitreo-retinal surgery at the LV Prasad Eye Institute in India. He was recommended by Jay Clark, an ophthalmologist who had served on LDS Charities Humanitarian Committee for Vision Projects.
Dr. Munkhzaya successfully completed his fellowship and became the first retinal specialist in Mongolia. After completion of his training, LDS Charities sent three retinal surgeons—Dr. James Howard, Dr. Doug Mehr, and Dr. Claron Alldredge—from Salt Lake City to Mongolia to work with Dr. Munkhzaya sequentially over three weeks.
In order to inspect the examination and operating rooms, Roger Harrie, an ophthalmologist from Salt Lake City, Utah, traveled to Mongolia the day before the first surgeon arrived. He planned to screen patients for surgery on Monday and start surgery on Tuesday.
“It was exciting to witness the first vitreo-retinal surgery performed by a fellowship-trained Mongolian surgeon,” Harrie said. “The patient was a sheepherder from 300 miles away who had lost the vision in his good eye. His family waited anxiously as the surgery was performed. It was one of the most gratifying moments of my life to be with the family when he was examined the day after surgery and was able to see out of his eye for the first time in over a year.
The team assisted Dr. Munkhzaya in performing over fifty vitreo-retinal surgeries. “It was very humbling to help bless the wonderful people of Mongolia with the gift of sight,” Harrie said.