Guthrie eye doctor is on a mission to help those in Africa
SAYRE, PA (WENY) -- A Guthrie ophthalmologist is continuing to help people in Africa who need modern eye care services. Dr. Cathy Schanzer went on her first mission trip in 1988 and knew from there, she had to open her own clinic.
"We opened it in 2006, and we go every January and June now. (I wanted to) open an eye clinic because the people there didn't have access to healthcare," said Dr. Schanzer.
Dr. Schanzer opened The Southern Eye Clinic of Serabu in Sierra Leone, Africa over 15 years ago -- and hundreds of people are still showing up to her clinics.
"We had three operating stations going all at the same time. We were able to complete 476 procedures while we were there," said Dr. Schanzer.
Dr. Schanzer and her team take care of patients from seven West African countries by offering free eye exams, medicines, glasses, and surgeries. While people come from all over for free eye exams and necessary eye surgeries, they also come for food and housing -- even if it's for a short period of time.
"It’s not just about eyes anymore. That's what we started with, but you can’t have somebody who is 80 years old, come up to you and say 'I haven’t eaten in a week.' You can't have heartbreak over that and not fix something," said Dr. Schanzer.
Dr. Schanzer said when people come, they've oftentimes been traveling for days (on foot), so they're hungry, tired, don't have any money, and they don't have a place to stay. She said there's a group of volunteers who cook and find housing for all of the extra people.
"They may be sleeping on the floor of the church, or the schools, or other huts with other people," said Dr. Schanzer.
Dr. Schanzer felt the need to start a food program not just because so many people started coming to her clinic, but because of the African way of life.
"With their hierarchy, the men eat first, and then the young men, then the women, and then the children. So oftentimes, little toddlers are not getting food. We also learned that many of the elderly were not getting fed. So, we started a program for kids and the elderly who weren’t getting enough food, they weren’t getting that nutrition," said Dr. Schanzer.
Dr. Schanzer said she is always accepting donations of medical items such as gloves, medicines, and gauze pads. If you or someone you know would like to donate to the cause, you can click here.