Saving and Restoring Vision in Africa
A Promising Solution to an Urgent Medical Need
Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest burden of blindness per capita in the world, and has but ~1 ophthalmologist per million people. Additional services, human resources and training opportunities, outreach to the poor, and research on approaches to the problems in Africa are needed to alleviate blindness in this poor region.
The Discovery Eye Institute (DEI) is a joint initiative of US and Ethiopian ophthalmol- ogists/professors. We seek to pioneer a robust, academically-oriented Center of Excellence in eye care in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Ethiopia, despite a young demographic, has about 4.8 million blind or visually handicapped people out of a population of 90 million. DEI aims to provide self-sustaining clinical care and outreach for all Ethiopians
while serving the region as a leader in advanced training for doctors and eye care personnel and in research.
The analogy between spiritual and physical blindness is a potent one. The picture of healing in Jesus’ name provides a platform to make the saving work of Christ better known. DEI employs a holistic approach to missions, bringing a message of hope and redemption in Jesus Christ to restore spiritual vision to the lost above and beyond the benefits of restoring or preserving physical sight. The DEI staff intends to use this initiative to be the hands and feet of Jesus as He blesses Ethiopia, to bring honor to the Lord and blessing to all involved.
A Scalable Model and Focus on Patient Care
A simple, low-cost cataract surgery can provide transformational change both to a cataract patient and his/her family. Many South Asian Centers of Excellence provide eye care services in a self-sustaining manner by cross-subsidizing high quality services for poor and wealthy patients. This is accomplished by creating subtle differentiations between service options which motivate those able to afford it to choose to pay more, like a train that has several classes, all of which safely arrive at their destination. DEI seeks to provide
1. Providing sustainable world-class eye care services and critical eye care research.
proof of concept that such a replicable model can succeed in sub-Saharan Africa, starting in Ethiopia.
DEI is committed to sustainable eye health development in sub-Saharan Africa through:
With our cross-subsidy approach, we estimate that 65% of patient care will be subsidized or free. Our model allows for rapid scaling up of capacity to 10,000 cataract surgeries per year within 3-5 years. We also will provide ophthalmology subspecialty services such as glaucoma, uveitis, and retina programs. DEI ophthalmologists, with our local and global partners, will refine best practices for eye health development, conduct research on overcoming eye diseases such as trachoma in the African context, and increase such eye research capacity in sub-Saharan Africa.
2. Expanding services to reach the physical and spiritual needs beyond city limits.
In partnership with local churches and ministries, outreach teams from DEI will screen patients in the rural areas outside of Addis Ababa for cataracts, trachoma, other diseases, and need for glasses. Patients will either be treated on site or transported to the base hospital for treatment – all at minimal or no cost. We aim to make known the gospel of Christ to patients who express interest, both through our outreach camp partners—whose work we
will leverage—and by providing chaplaincy services at the hospital.
3. Training and discipling future generations of ophthalmologists and eye health professionals in sub-Saharan Africa.
DEI will develop a regional ophthalmology residency and fellowship training program to produce ICO-accredited ophthalmologists and subspecialists and network with other centers worldwide in joint training programs, research, and outreach. In addition to technical training, DEI will provide a forum for>
spiritual counseling and mentoring to clinical personnel. It is our priority to raise up godly leaders who seek to
minister to the spiritual needs of people in addition to the physical.
Discovery Eye Institute, PLC (Ethiopia) Sight for Souls, a US 501(c)3 Corporation
A Dedicated Leadership Team
The core team in Ethiopia—led by Dr. Demissie Tadesse (pictured left), Prof. Scott Lawrence (center), and Prof. John Kempen (right)—will provide leadership on the ground in the clinical, educational, public health, and research sectors.
Dr. Demissie Tadesse , a leading Ethiopian ophthalmologist with 18 years of clinical experience, is well known as an exceptional anterior segment surgeon. He is an established leader of blindness alleviation programs in Eastern Africa, including providing transformational leadership as Director of Sabatia Eye Hospital in Kenya for seven years. A former President of the Ophthalmological Society of Ethiopia, he serves as Regional Consultant for Christian Blind Mission International.
Dr. Scott Lawrence is an academic ophthalmologist specializing in glaucoma and cataract surgery, and an Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is heavily engaged in resident education and leads a state-of-the-art surgical training lab for cataract surgery and glaucoma instruction. Dr. Lawrence co- directs a certified glaucoma clinical fellowship and has supervised visiting international fellows. His research interests include treatment adherence, glaucoma surgical outcomes, and gene-based therapy for glaucoma.
Dr. John Kempen is an internationally renowned academic ophthalmologist-researcher. He specializes in ocular inflammation (a specialty completely unrepresented in sub-Saharan Africa), and is Principal Investigator for multiple large-scale research projects. He formerly directed the Public Health Ophthalmology Program at Johns Hopkins, serves on four editorial boards, and is a full professor with tenure at the University of Pennsylvania.
Drs. Kempen and Lawrence anticipate maintaining their relationships as faculty with U.S. academic institutions in order to enhance the academic status of the Discovery Eye Institute and its educational and research programs. Drs. Andrew Doan and Michael Tibbetts also are involved as Directors of Sight for Souls, a US non-profit which will serve as 99+% owner of the Discovery Eye Institute (less one share each so the founders can get work visas).
The DEI Capital Campaign
Upcoming DEI milestones
- The incorporation process is expected to be complete by March, 2014, and DEI may launch services as early as January, 2015
- DEI plans to rent a 20,000 square foot facility for the eye hospital, providing enough space to accommodate rapid expansion to 10,000 or more surgeries/year. In the long-term, we aim to move to a large facility owned by the DEI with room for expansion as the organization continues to grow.
Capital requirements: After an initial investment of start-up capital, operations will be increasingly self-sustaining with scale, as has been demonstrated in South Asian Centers of Excellence. Research should be self-funded via grants/contracts. Foreign ophthalmologists will raise separate support to cover their marginal expenses, beyond what Ethiopia requires to be paid to holders of work permits
Start Up Schedule:
- $250k is needed by February 2014 to secure an investment license to incorporate the DEI in Ethiopia
- • Approximately $1 million is needed later in 2014 to start operations in 2015.
- $2-4 million is needed to develop a permanent DEI-owned facility within the first five years, and to compensate for an operating deficit during the first few years of operation; all or nearly all expenses for clinical and training operations should be self-supported within five years
DEI is being set up as a private limited company in Ethiopia owned by a US Christian not-for-profit “Sight for Souls.” Until Sight for Souls is approved to provide tax-deductible receipts, Donations for DEI can be given through our partner Global Eye Mission at http://www.globaleyemission.org/YouCanHelp#donate (select Ethiopia) Other key partners include The Global Vision Project. If you would like to partner with us through prayer, donations of money or equipment, volunteering, or in other ways, please contact Prof. Kempen at email@example.com. Both ongoing and one-time partners are needed to bring this vision to fruition.
Discovery Eye Institute, PLC (Ethiopia) Sight for Souls, a US 501(c)3 Corporation