Foundation News 2021 Operation Sight Program Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic | ASCRS
Foundation News

Letter to our Supporters from Executive Director, Don Bell


Your Commitment Has Made the Difference

The past year has been a time of unprecedented challenge for the ASCRS Foundation and the thousands of needy patients it serves. We’ve struggled, adapted and found new ways to move forward. We are incredibly proud of our resilient team and the hundreds of volunteers who’ve continued to deliver on our mission.

I’m hoping that you see yourself in our story. Your steadfast commitment in a time of great uncertainty illustrates ophthalmology’s generosity and willingness to share its incredible benefits with those less fortunate.

When the pandemic first began, the ASCRS Foundation reached out to its US and international partners to explore how we might best mobilize the power of the ophthalmic community. We used the time to launch a new ASCRS Foundation website, providing a dynamic platform with more detailed information on Foundation programs and volunteer opportunities. We highlighted the work of those who donate their time and talent in hopes of motivating others.

Operation Sight, the ASCRS Foundation’s domestic charitable cataract surgery program has been crucial for patients during the COVID-19 crisis. Between March and December, we saw a 78% increase in applications resulting from the employment, insurance and economic impacts of the pandemic. The program serves financially vulnerable, uninsured American patients, who risk job loss due to decreased vision. Through a network of more than 500 volunteers across the nation, nearly 1,000 charitable surgeries were delivered during that period. In October we celebrated National Sight Week, and volunteers "Stepped Up for Sight" referring colleagues to help eligible patients on our waitlist and helping to deliver the program’s 5,000th charitable surgery.

Overseas, a lack of PPE at our Robert Sinskey Eye Institute in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia created severe restrictions on its ability to continue serving patients. Working with the Himalayan Cataract Project and an international supplier, we were able to procure the supplies needed to keep the hospital open and function with full staff.

With a focus on international physician training and infrastructure building, we are proud to work with multiple partners to create lasting change in the fight against global cataract blindness. This summer, the ASCRS Foundation’s International Division convened a series of virtual update meetings on Covid-19’s impact on humanitarian eyecare efforts. Discussions centered on the Foundation’s Ethiopian Master Trainer Initiative, and how best to conduct the annual ICO Board Review Course held each year in Addis Ababa. All six of Ethiopia’s residency directors participated, sharing advice on how they’ve adapted education and training within their programs during the pandemic period.

The Foundation continues to recognize those leaders whose work advances global ophthalmology. We were proud to celebrate 99-year old Lowell A. Gess, MD, as the 2020 Chang Humanitarian Award Recipient. Dr. Gess earmarked the $50,000 award for the Lowell and Ruth Gess Eye Hospital in Sierra Leone where the funds will be used to expand facilities and provide a more complete eyecare program. In October the Foundation announced that it will rename the award, The Chang-Crandall Humanitarian Award, in recognition of Alan Crandall, MD’s exemplary life and commitment to charitable service.

The Foundation remains steadfast in its commitment to delivering educational and innovative experiences to promising young ophthalmologists. In 2020, ten Resident Excellence Awards and five Young Eye Surgeon International Service Grants were made in hopes of improving access to education and inspiring a life-long commitment to humanitarian service.

All of this has been possible through your support. You’ve enabled our many patients to experience joy, independence and stability at a time when these are in short supply. Thank you for your belief in our mission and for standing with us as we look with optimism to better days ahead.


Don Bell
Executive Director
ASCRS Foundation

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