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Bascom Palmer Eye Institute's Vision Van Takes Flight

4/12/2011

Standing in front of the Bascom Palmer Vision Van as it was loaded into an Anatov 124 on April 11 at Miami International Airport are Richard Lee, MD, PhD, Eduardo Alfonso, MD, and Kazushi Miyatake, MD, Medical Attaché with the Consulate-General of Japan in Miami. All expenses for transport of the Vision Van are being incurred by the Government of Japan.

On April 12, the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute Vision Van left Miami, Florida on its way to Sendai, Japan to join forces with Keio University School of Medicine, Iwate University School of Medicine, Tohoku University School of Medicine and the Japanese Ophthalmological Society in a special Japan Eye Rescue Mission to assist Japan with recovery from the devastation caused by the Tohoku-Pacific Ocean Earthquake. Launching the relief operations, our Vision Van departed on a cargo jet flight from Miami International Airport on its first international rescue mission and it is expected to stay in Japan for approximately three months. Richard Lee, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Ophthalmology and glaucoma specialist, is accompanying the Vision Van and will provide training to the Japanese ophthalmologists who will be using the Vision Van based on his extensive experience with the Institute’s relief work in Haiti and the thousands of vision screenings he has supervised on the Vision Van in many underserved communities over the years.

While in Japan, the Vision Van is allowing volunteer Japanese ophthalmologists to offer emergency vision screenings and treatments for people suffering from eye injuries incurred during or after the earthquake, infections and inflammations from contaminated water and other hazards, and to replace eyeglasses lost while fleeing the earthquake. The Vision Van is stocked with over 1,000 ready-made lenses donated by Eye Care Centers of America that treat a wide range of prescriptions for people who lost or broke their eyeglasses.

"I really appreciate Bascom Palmer’s support for the healing of Japan. I went with my team to Northeastern Japan last week to assess the damage and find ways to help the survivors with their ocular needs. I knew, just as you have seen on the news, that many towns had been destroyed. But when I was there I was so shocked that it brought me to tears. From the bottom of my heart I feel that I want to help," said Dr. Kazuo Tsubota, Chief of the Department of Ophthalmology of the Keio University School of Medicine in Tokyo and a former classmate of Dr. Alfonso’s. "I hope that by making every effort to promptly support Dr. Tsubota and the people of Japan in this time of crisis, we help to improve the medical conditions in Japan and help facilitate a rapid recovery. Knowing the success we had with the Vision Van in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, I believe the Bascom Palmer Vision Van will prove to be an invaluable resource for Dr. Tsubota’s team," said Eduardo Alfonso, M.D., Chairman of Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.

The Bascom Palmer Vision Van had its inaugural run in 2004 as a vehicle for bringing early detection of eye diseases such as amblyopia, glaucoma and macular degeneration to underserved areas from the Florida Keys through Martin County. It also provided vital emergency eye care services to the people of New Orleans and first responders following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Vision Van was donated to Bascom Palmer Eye Institute by the Josephine Leiser Foundation. The late Mrs.. Leiser was a longtime Bascom Palmer patient who dreamed of providing free eye care to the medically underserved. The fully-equipped, 40-foot converted bus contains a comprehensive examination room, three screening stations, a waiting room and state-of-the-art ophthalmic equipment. It is uniquely suited for use in environments where the health care and public works infrastructure is essentially nonexistent.

ABOUT BASCOM PALMER EYE INSTITUTE

Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, the Department of Ophthalmology for the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, is ranked #1 in ophthalmology in the United States by US News & World Report. Ophthalmology Times ranks Bascom Palmer Best Overall in Ophthalmology and #1 in both Patient Care and Residency Training. Year after year, Bascom Palmer’s specialists are selected by Best Doctors in America and America’s Top Doctors. Bascom Palmer is the largest ophthalmic care, research and educational resource in the southeastern United States, with patient care facilities in Miami, Palm Beach Gardens, Naples and Plantation. Bascom Palmer is dedicated to improving the future of ophthalmology by creating state-of-the art technology and rapidly translating it into clinical treatments.