See your way clear to better eyesight
By Robin Loving Rowland
The Rotary Club of San Miguel de Allende, Midday, has spearheaded a program to prevent blindness from diabetes in our city, state and country. The international expert who made this possible is George Bresnick, MD, MPA, who will speak on diabetic retinopathy research and treatment Tuesday, March 18, at 12:30pm at Hotel Misión el Molino at Salida de Querétaro 1.Rotary Club Meeting “See Your Way Clear to Better Sight” Tue, Mar 18, 12:30pm Hotel Misión el Molino Salida de Querétaro 1 152-3709 Free
In 2003, Dr. Bresnick noted that people with diabetes in our state were receiving no preventative services to avoid vision loss, although diabetes is the major cause of irreversible blindness in the San Miguel region. This tragedy was compounded by the fact that an annual retinal examination, followed by laser treatment of retinopathy when needed, can prevent up to 95 percent of blindness from diabetes.
Because there are too few ophthalmologists in the State of Guanajuato to provide the needed preventive examinations, a telemedicine program based in the community clinics was proposed to the state secretary of health. With funds raised by Rotary, a digital retinal camera and a retinal laser were purchased in 2009 by Hospital General in San Mihurl. Within the first nine months of operation, more than 2,000 of the 3,379 diabetic patients had received digital retinal screening.
Of the patients screened, 225 patients (11 percent) had vision-threatening retinopathy and were referred to the Hospital General for in-depth eye exams and possible laser treatments. At least 142 (63 percent) of these patients were examined, and 96 received laser treatment. As the program has matured, a number of patients have returned one year later for repeat retinal screening. As of the end of February 2013 (about two years after the official start of the program), a total of 5,409 screening encounters were recorded.
As a result of this model program in San Miguel, in 2012 additional cameras were purchased for Leon, Salamanca and Irapuato, Mexico, and 1,300 more diabetic patients received retinal screening. Expansion of the program is being considered for the rest of the State of Guanajuato. Local experience has shown the feasibility and affordability of the Blindness Prevention Program, and it is hoped that other Mexican states will follow this lead.
Several aspects of the program still require attention. There are education, transportation and cost considerations. Dr. Bresnick is hoping to work with Rotary and the secretary of health to solve these problems and to assure sustainability of the program into the future.
Dr. Bresnick has combined degrees in medicine and public administration, the latter from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. His 21 years of academic tenure at the University of Wisconsin in Ophthalmology and 12 years of experience in international and domestic public health have combined with his clinical, technical and operational experience to develop and administer telemedicine-based diabetic retinopathy screening and treatment programs.
Dr. Bresnick is a clinical professor of optometry at the University of California-Berkeley School of Optometry, professor emeritus from the University of Rochester, and medical director and co-founder of Vision for All, a nonprofit eye public health organization working to reduce preventable blindness in underserved populations. He also serves as chief medical officer for EyePACS LLC, a telemedicine company based in San Jose, California.
Rotary professionally, intelligently and inspirationally unites diversely competent leaders to ethically and responsibly lead people to generate sustainable solutions to the world’s most acute humanitarian challenges through the strong connections of friendship and peaceful service. For more information, contact President Lee Carter at email@example.com, and see http://rotarysma.clubwebsource.com.