The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) has recognised Thailand-trained ophthalmologist Dr Phetsamone Indara as an Eye Health Hero.
Dr Indara, who performs eye surgery and treatments in partnership with international development organisation The Fred Hollows Foundation, is the first ophthalmologist from Lao PDR to receive the honour.
The Fred Hollows Foundation CEO Ian Wishart received the award on behalf of Dr Indara at an IAPB conference in India last month.
Mr Wishart said Dr Indara was one of only 22 global Eye Health Heroes for 2018.
Since 2005, Dr Indara has headed the Eye Unit of Oudomxay Provincial Hospital in northern Lao PDR and in 2008, he was appointed as the secretary of Lao Ophthalmology Society.
“Over the past 10 years, The Fred Hollows Foundation has been proud to partner with Dr Indara and the Oudomxay Provincial Hospital as we work together to end avoidable blindness in Lao PDR,” Mr Wishart said.
Dr Indara has 16 years of experience as an eye doctor. In his first five years of practice, he has already screened 35,325 patients and conducted 3,069 cataract surgeries.
Dr Indara has strong links to Thailand from his early years as an eye doctor to the present day.
Between 2002 and 2005, Dr Indara underwent training in the Ophthalmology Department of Khon Kaen University’s Faculty of Medicine. “My training in Khon Kaen University helped me develop the necessary skills and techniques in my profession. The knowledge and experience I gained in Thailand allowed me to help more people in my home country,” Dr Indara said.
Dr Indara’s connection with Thailand is ongoing through a partnership between Thai doctors and the Lao Rehabilitation Foundation (LRF).
“Last year, we met a man whose face had been burned and both of his eyelids were completely gone. The main cause of blindness in Lao PDR is cataract, but eyelid damages caused by trauma, infection, and other accidents can also lead to blindness. There are a lot of unattended cases in remote areas where poor families cannot afford to travel to Vientiane or abroad for treatment.” “Eye specialists are few in Laos, and oculoplastic surgeons are also limited, so we are grateful for the Thai surgeons who travel all the way to Lao PDR help us in these special cases.”
These missions started in 2008. Last year, 68 successful operations were performed, with a total value of almost USD $30,000.
“I’m grateful of the time and expertise that Thai doctors willingly share to help the poorest people of my country. I’m happy that the strong bond between Thai and Lao people still continues to this day.” Dr Indara said.
Dr Indara said he was humbled to be named Lao PDR’s first Eye Health Hero.
“I love to see people empowered to lead independent lives. I am very happy to be a partner in helping the poor, and treating those who are blind to improve their vision and their quality of life,” he said.
“I also hope that future generations of eye health doctors, nurses and workers in Lao PDR can one day be eye health heroes and help end avoidable blindness in our country.”
The Fred Hollows Foundation is an international development organisation working to eliminate avoidable blindness worldwide in more than 25 countries around the world. In Lao PDR, The Foundation is active in 10 provinces, including Oudomxay.
For the past 10 years, The Fred Hollows Foundation has helped more than 106,000 people in Lao PDR see again, thanks to the commitment and tireless work of eye health heroes such as Dr Indara.
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