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Dr. Dunn with patients on a mission trip
Incredible memories of Doctor William Dunn's mission trips with the Diocese of Orlando, San Juan de la Maguana Hospital, San Juan, Dominican Republic and with the Maheshwar Foundation to India, proudly shared with you.
February 2009 — Team Physician and Surgeon, Ophthalmology Mission, Diocese of Orlando, San Juan de la Maguana Hospital, San Juan, Dominican Republic
March 2006 — Team Physician and Surgeon, Grenada Mission, VOSH, Rotary International.
January 2006 — Team Physician, Ophthalmology Mission, Diocese of Orlando, San Juan de la Maguana Hospital, San Juan, Dominican Republic.
March 2005 — Lead Consultant, Ophthalmology Mission, Maheshwar Foundation, Rampur, Bilaspur, Uttar Pradesh, India.
February 2005 — Team Physician, Ophthalmology Mission, Diocese of Orlando, San Juan de la Maguana Hospital, San Juan, Dominican Republic.
March 2001 — Lead Physician, Ophthalmology Mission, Maheshwar Foundation, Tanda, Punjab, India. Guest Surgeon and Consultant, Ludhiana Public Hospital, Ludhiana, Punjab, India.
March 2000 — Lead Physician, Ophthalmology Mission, Maheshwar Foundation, Tanda, Punjab, India.
The Maheshwar Foundation in India is dedicated to the cause of improving the life of fellow brothers and sisters in whatever way possible.
All doctors and other volunteers travel to India and other locations at their own expenses, treat the patients free of charge and donate money from their own pockets to buy medical equipment for the hospitals, medicines, and blankets for the patients.
The Maheshwar Charitable Foundation engages this ideal in many different areas. To name just a few of the organizations projects, they have started and helped build and maintain hospitals in India; provided scholarships to young men and women seeking higher education; and assisted in running a school for the orphans.
But, the Maheshwar Foundation's primary focus has been in providing high quality medical care to the poor and the needy free of any cost.
"I feel enriched when I return from a mission," he explains of the trips he began in 2000. "Physical exhaustion but total — and I don't mean to sound trite — spiritual fulfillment."
Dr. Dunn has participated in 7 international missions, 3 to India, 1 to Grenada, and 3 to the Dominican Republic.
In addition to the spiritual satisfaction, there's also plenty of adventure to be enjoyed. "Probably the most dangerous thing I've done — and I'm a sky-diver — was a 12-hour drive in the front seat of a car to the mission site in India.
"It's like their I-95 going north out of Delhi. But it's only 2 lanes, sometimes one and a half lanes. There are semi-tractor trailer trucks, camels, elephants, rickshaws, you name it. It's unbelievable. Cars coming right at you, and at the last minute, they would switch lanes and we would avoid an accident by a fraction of an inch. They pull their mirrors in, they come so close. They don't have seat belts or shatterproof glass, so if you go through the windshield, you're done."
Once safely at the mission site, whether in India or the Dominican Republic or Grenada, this Air Force colonel, former flight surgeon, and father of 4 is faced with the problem of a limited ability to treat retinal patients. The more remote areas the missions target lack the facilities needed to surgically treat retinal disorders and the equipment required is difficult and expensive to transport. Mainly, Dr. Dunn says, he functions primarily as a comprehensive ophthalmologist, performing cataract surgery, strabismus, oculoplastics, and when needed as a retinal consultant.
"I would see retinal consults that local doctors would save up, as they don't have many retinal specialists in India, except in the major cities. I would help them make the decision, is it worthwhile to send this patient to the capital for treatment, or can we make the diagnosis of an untreatable condition and save the family the trouble of a long trip."
The last is an important consideration in countries where patients have few resources and the transportation system is very different from that in more prosperous countries.
"It might be a 200-mile ride. In the United States, it would take us 3 or 4 hours in a car, but 200 miles in India, at about 10 miles an hour average, would take you a long day, maybe 2 days."
On missions to the Dominican Republic through the Diocese of Orlando, FL., Dr. Dunn's insights help mission leaders decide if treatment is viable and worth the allocation of Church funds.
For a time, Dr. Dunn was able to bring a diode laser on eye care missions. "I could treat diabetics and vascular occlusive disease, similar conditions that I would treat in my own office," he says. "That laser broke down in Grenada and I'm trying to get a donated or trade-in laser that we could bring. Unfortunately, I did not have a laser for this last mission, and I had a number of diabetic patients that I could have treated." Dr. Dunn was able to bring along several vials of Avastin, which enabled him to treat patients with vascular occlusive disease.
The role he fills most often on these missions, Dr. Dunn says, is that of cataract surgeon. "I was a general ophthalmologist for 7 years before I became a retinal surgeon, so I feel comfortable with my general ophthalmology skills doing manual I/A cataract extraction — large incision." He calls it "‘80s-style surgery," performed with simple equipment that the surgeons bring along themselves.
"It is exciting to be able to contribute and make a difference in their lives! It's very common to see to patients who've basically been ignored medically for most of their lives," Dr. Dunn says. "The gratitude on their faces the next day when they can see again is reward enough for our efforts."
Dr. Thomas with patients on a mission trip
Doctor Thomas has participated in several mission trips as an international ophthalmology fellow for the University of Utah and the Himalayan Cataract Project (led by Dr. Geoffrey Tabin).
The work that this group does is absolutely amazing and focuses largely (though not exclusively) on providing free, high-quality cataract surgery to people in remote areas of developing countries.
The Himalayan Cataract Project and camp in Mekelle, Ethiopia (which was featured on Nightline and 20/20), and the cataract camp in Dhading, Nepal.