World Sight Day, Celebrating the Importance of Vision

Dr. Farris, a professor of ophthalmology at Dean McGee Eye Institute, seeing patients in China

World Sight Day, Celebrating the Importance of Vision

There are many things in life we take for granted — a place to sleep at night, food on the table, and good health, just to name a few. We usually think of health as maintaining a proper weight, keeping our blood pressure and cholesterol levels normal, or receiving vaccinations, but another key component to good health is our eyesight. For many of us, visiting an optometrist or ophthalmologist is part of our regular health routines, but for many people around the world it’s a luxury they can’t afford.

There are about 285 million people worldwide who suffer from low vision or blindness. To combat those staggering numbers, the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness created World Sight Day. World Sight Day is an annual awareness event on the second Thursday of October to help shed light on blindness and vision impairment across the globe.

World Sight Day

This year, World Sight Day will be held on Thursday, October 13, 2016. The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, or IAPB, has chosen this year’s theme as Stronger Together because it encourages participants to come together to bring awareness to this important cause. Be sure to join in the World Sight Day conversation on social media by using the hashtag #WSD2016.

Dean McGee’s participants

Along with spreading awareness to our patients about World Sight Day, our physicians take part as well. Inspired by the World Health Organization’s VISION 2020 program, the DMEI team created the Global Eye Care Program in 2010 as a way to eliminate preventable blindness.

Dr. Farris, a professor of ophthalmology at Dean McGee Eye Institute, helps patients in China

“In the year 2000 I traveled to China with Heart to Heart International to see how Dean McGee Eye Institute could help,” said Bradley K. Farris, M.D., an ophthalmology professor at Dean McGee Eye Institute. “Eventually that led us to Swaziland, Africa and these efforts evolved into the Global Eye Care Program. We formalized our efforts even more with the creation of a Global Eye Fellowship and routinely take two to four residents annually to China or Africa.”

Patients in Swaziland during a Dean McGee Eye Institute Global Eye Care Program trip

Each year the team travels to underserved populations and partners with local eye care providers to strengthen the care they can give. This program has three main activities: to serve medical and surgical missions; to teach local personnel, residents, and DMEI fellows; and to discover needs and research the best ways to meet them.

“There are many memories I have from the annual visits,” Dr. Farris said. “I think the most impactful ones were my early visits to Swaziland and seeing the human toll that HIV and tuberculosis have taken on the country and its beautiful people. Fortunately, concerted efforts by many, including our team, have seen a slow and steady decrease in loss of life and blindness from these diseases. However, much more needs to be done.”

Dr. Farris, a professor of ophthalmology at Dean McGee Eye Institute, helps a patient in Swaziland

How you can help

The Dean McGee Eye Institute has created a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign to support its Global Eye Care Program. During the campaign which kicks off on World Sight Day (October 13) and runs through October 31 you can donate to support the efforts of Dr. Farris and his team to treat preventable blindness in Swaziland.

With your help, we can continue the Global Eye Care Programs efforts and strengthen eye care services provided in local communities. To donate directly to the campaign or start a peer-to-peer campaign with your family, friends, or coworkers to help us reach our goal of $20,000, go to

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