Project 20/20: See Clearly
By Nicholas Behunin, MD
What does seeing 20/20 mean? In the eye clinic, 20/20 vision refers to normal vision while standing twenty feet from the eye chart. If someone has 20/100 vision, he or she must stand twenty feet from the chart to see what a person with normal vision can see at one hundred feet. An abnormality in any structure of the eye can result in blurred vision. Some causes of impaired vision are treatable or preventable. As we begin the year of 2020, let us reflect on what is clouding our vision.
Global Impact of Visual Impairment
The global burden of poor vision is staggering. According to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, 2.2 billion people worldwide have vision impairment or blindness.1 Of these, more than one billion live with treatable or preventable eye diseases but lack access to adequate eye care.1 The ramifications of poor vision are serious: Up to sixty percent of blind children die within one year, and blind adults have their lives cut short by one third compared to their sighted peers.1 Lost productivity—including the loss of workforce to care for visually impaired family members—reaches into the trillions annually.1
What Can We Do to Help?
Part of the problem with eradicating global visual impairment is that there are too few eye doctors and surgeons, especially in impoverished areas of the world where the need is greatest. A 2015 study showed that while the United States had 54.7 ophthalmologists per one million population, many poor countries had only one or two ophthalmologists per million.2
At the St. George Eye Center, our team of eye surgeons and specialists are committed to the highest level of care for all patients in every walk of life, both locally and globally. Our doctors take time frequently to serve in remote and under-served areas of the world. In addition to performing surgeries, they also provide education and support for physicians in order to increase their capacity and competency. Working closely with our outreach partners, we are able to provide charity care for members of our own community in Washington County. When you support the St. George Eye Center, you help provide care for global communities at home and abroad.
Of course, there is a lot more to seeing clearly than having good vision. I learned this while working as an intern at a veterans hospital in Arizona. I was tasked with caring for the meanest man in the world. My every effort was focused on helping him overcome a serious illness, and he hated me for it. He yelled at me daily, called me names, and even spat on me. I came to dread our interactions and secretly looked forward to the day I would move to a different rotation. During my final week at the veterans hospital, a new attending physician took the lead of our morning rounds. The first patient of the day was my mean patient. I presented a summary of his care plan, and we prepared to enter his room. The entire team braced for the onslaught. However, the new team leader stood at attention in his doorway, offered a polished military salute, and said, “Thank you, sir, for your service to our country!” I expected to hear incoming artillery fire from the patient, but for the first time in many weeks, his meanness softened slightly. I came to realize that I had not seen my patient for who he really was: a soldier, a defender of freedom, a man of valor. I was blinded by impatience and selfishness. This experience taught me to see more clearly the goodness and value of each individual.
In the spirit of curing global blindness and in celebration of this new year of 2020, we invite you to see more clearly. At the St. George Eye Center, we can help optimize your vision. However, it is up to you to see the world—and the people in it—for who they really are.
- World Health Organization: World Report on Vision. Accessed 12/2/2019 at: https://www.who.int/publications-detail/world-report-on -vision.
- Resnikoff S, Lansingh VC, Washburn L, et al Estimated number of ophthalmologists worldwide. British Journal of Ophthalmology Published Online First: 02 July 2019. doi: 10.1136/bjophthalmol-2019-314336