Images Magazine

Training Physicians in Ghana

Bascom Palmer oculoplastic and reconstructive specialist THOMAS E. JOHNSON, M.D., has traveled on medical missions throughout the world, treating patients with complex cases and training local vision care physicians. Recently, he spent a week in Ghana as part of the volunteer team with ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital, a converted DC-10 aircraft that transports an operating room and training facility to developing countries.

Working side-by-side with physicians in the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, the capital of the West African nation, Johnson screened about 50 people and then treated 10 patients with complex conditions.

“One of our most memorable patients was a young girl with a huge benign tumor that was pushing her eyeball forward,” he said. “Without surgery, she would have lost her vision. But we were able to remove the whole tumor surgically, leaving her with a normal eye. Her parents were extremely happy and very grateful for her care.”

Along with demonstrating the advanced technology in the ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital, Johnson spent several days with the Accra doctors in their own hospital. “As part of the training, it’s important to show them what can be done in their own setting,” he said. “We did surgery for several orbital tumors and had several patients that needed eyelid surgery and reconstruction.”

In addition to Johnson, the ORBIS medical team included a cataract surgeon from Harvard University and a pediatric ophthalmologist from San Diego. “I have been on missions to Ethiopia and Cameroon in recent years,” Johnson said. “I enjoy meeting the people and learning the culture, as well as educating the physicians.”

Johnson added that an oculoplastics specialist in Cameroon was inspired by the ORBIS 2017 mission, and is now training in a fellowship in Canada. “It is very gratifying to change lives indirectly through education as well as directly by performing surgery,” he said. “Our team has a powerful impact on improving vision care in Africa and beyond.”