The Vision Project occupied most of our time the last two weeks. The week of August 22nd was spent preparing for the project and the week of August 29th was spent carrying out the project. We have been planning this project for months with Dr. Roger Harrie and his wife Bev from Utah, USA. Dr. Harrie is a widely-renown author and ophthalmologist with the Moran Eye Institute in Salt Lake City. He and his wife donated their time to prepare for, travel to, and present this training to about 45 ophthalmologists here in Mongolia.
To prepare for this training here in Mongolia, we held planning meetings with Dr. Enkhtul from the First Government Hospital and Dr. Chimgee from the Migaxi Sight Clinic. We also ordered lunch and fruit for the training, purchased other food and supplies to make the training go well, arranged for and had a large banner made which was used as a backdrop for the training, ceremonies, photos, etc.
As part of the preparation, we arranged for several church members and non-members with eye problems to come to the training as patients. Members included: Elder Bashka, President Altanzukh’s wife, Batchimeg, Batchimeg’s father, another missionary and a member from Murun, who has severe sight limitations. This was beneficial to the training as well as to the patients. Dr. Harrie needed actual patients to work on in order to demonstrate using the donated equipment to diagnose and treat diabetic retinopathy.
A miracle happened the Saturday before the training started. We received a call from Brother Boston, who lives in Alaska, but was in Mongolia on business and was staying nearby at the Chinggis Khaan Hotel. He said the Lion’s Club in Alaska had sent him with about 2,000 pairs of used prescription and reading eyeglasses to donate to people in Mongolia. The prescriptions were verified and the eyeglasses were labeled and sorted into boxes according to their prescriptions. He asked if we could find people who could use them. We excitedly told him that we just happened to be training 45 ophthalmologists from all over Mongolia starting on Monday, and it would be a perfect opportunity to offer these glasses to them to give to poor patients who could not afford glasses. The timing of his donation was perfect. The Lord certainly has his hand in this work.
Brother Boston (in navy blue shirt) with duffle bags and boxes full of eyeglasses donated by the Lions' Club in Alaska
The actual Vision Project included the donation of about $67,000 of Argon lasers, surgical equipment, microscopes, lenses, and ophthalmoloscopes. They will be of great benefit to the First Hospital and the Migaxi Eye Clinic. Their ophthalmologists were thrilled.
The training went really well. We had 45 ophthalmologists from all over Mongolia and from Ulaanbaatar. The Vision Project paid the transportation cost for eleven doctors from aimag hospitals to attend the training. The doctors were hungry for the training and the group kept getting bigger as the week went on and others wanted to join.
Ophthalmologists attending training in the Bayanzurkh building
On Monday, the training was held for the whole day in the Bayanzurkh church building in room 301. The doctors loved the facility with its clean, modern restrooms, elevator, etc. and enjoyed the spirit in the building. Dr. Chimgee gave the doctors a pre-test to assess their current knowledge. Dr. Harrie gave a lecture on how to recognize diabetic retinopathy and to refer patients with diabetic retinopathy.
Dr. Chimgee translating while Dr. Roger Harrie gives his lecture
Then, Dr. Chimgee presented her master’s thesis, which she had very recently finished, on findings regarding eye care needs in Mongolia. Dr. and Bev Harrie said that one of their goals in partnering with Dr. Chimgee in the past has been to support her in making this important study of eye care in Mongolia. Now that there is a baseline, it will be easier to determine action for eye care aid in the future.
During breaks, ophthalmologists were given plastic bags and told they could pick out any eyeglasses they wanted to take home to their home hospitals. They just had to give them to the poor.
Azzaya, DIC's darling and very capable translator and assistant
DIC provided fruit, hot herbal drinks (using an electric teapot and a thermos), hot seabuck-thorn juice in a crockpot, rolls, bottled juice, bottled water and candy on the participants’ tables, box lunches, and an afternoon snack of hot apple turnovers. The ophthalmologists felt like they were treated royally. They especially loved the lectures. They kept saying, “This is really needed in Mongolia.”
Tuesday was spent at First Hospital. First, Dr. Harrie and doctors from First Hospital examined patients including several members of the Church and a couple of DIC’s friends who needed care. Dr. Harrie and Dr. Chimgee taught opthalmologists how to use the 90-diopter lenses that DIC donated and how to use ultrasound for diagnosis.
Dr. Harrie examining Elder Bashka
Dr. Harrie giving instruction at First Hospital
Wednesday the training moved to the Migaxi Eye Sight Clinic where doctors were trained, by using the fundus camera, on how to detect diabetic retinopathy and other eye conditions.
On Thursday, the First Hospital hosted a donation ceremony honoring DIC for donating the Argon lasers and other equipment to them and the Migaxi Eye Clinic. The other equipment donated to the First Hospital included: several 90-diaptor lenses, 24 slit-lamp bulbs, and blades for cataract surgery, etc. First Hospital put up a banner and balloons and presented DIC with a plaque of gratitude.
At the ceremony there were reporters from three TV stations and three newspapers. They covered the ceremony and did interviews with hospital directors, doctors, Dr. Harrie, and Elder Lasson.
We were too busy to watch the news that night, but we think the coverage was good because many people told us they saw it on the news on several different TV channels.
Following the ceremony, Bev Harrie set up one of the Argon lasers in First Hospital and Dr. Harrie gave instructions on its use. Later, they went to the Migaxi Eye Sight Clinic and set up the second Argon laser there.
Dr. and Bev Harrie setting up the Argon laser in First Hospital
On Friday, we held a closing session for the participants in the Bayanzurkh building. Dr. Chimgee gave the participants a post test, and she and Dr. Harrie gave a follow-up discussion and answered questions.
That morning, DIC provided fruit, herbal drinks, hot sea-buck-thorn juice, rolls, bottled juice, bottled water and candy. Following the discussion and questions, we took down the tables and arranged the chairs to face the banner. Then we presented a certificate to each participant. The First Hospital arranged for each participant to receive training credit from the Ministry of Health.
"Graduation Ceremonies" of training participants in the Bayanzurkh building
We were pleased with how well the training went. Doctor and Bev Harrie were also pleased with the project and said it was one of the best they had been involved with and that it provided a new model for training. They liked having one day of lectures with all of the ophthalmologists, followed by hands-on training sessions in the hospital/clinic and a public donation ceremony, and concluding with a wrap-up session and presentation of certificates.
Through this training and follow-up discussions with the ophthalmologists from First Hospital, Doctor and Bev Harrie and Dr. Chimgee, we gained some great insight on what might be included in a future Vision Project.