HEI Helps Children in Panama


In August, HEI faculty returned to the Republic of Panama for Niños Sanos, Niños Felices, a program of the Fundación Pro-Integración led by Virginia Alvarado, executive directors Soraya Bhikuand J. Thomas Ford, and board trustees. The program brings hundreds of children from underserved areas of Panama to El Vigia Hospital in the village of Chitré for free corrective surgeries for crossed eyes (strabismus) and drooping eyelids (ptosis).

UTHSC Ophthalmology Chair James C. Fleming, MD, FACS, and HEI Director Barrett G. Haik, MD, FACS, participated in this year’s event. 

Other surgeons volunteering from the United States included treasured longtime colleagues George S. Ellis, Jr., MD, director of Ophthalmology at the Children’s Hospital of New Orleans, La., and Kenneth W. Wright, MD,  founder of the Wright Center for Pediatric Ophthalmology & Adult Strabismus in Los Angeles, Calif.

Esteemed Panama ophthalmologists Jorge Arrue, MD, Felix Ruiz, MD, and Ernesto Calvo, MD, were among many who provided excellent leadership and interchange of knowledge and skill. Surgeons, anesthesiologists, scrub techs, nurses and many others also participated.

We are grateful to AmeriCares, Alcon, Beaver-Visitec International, Robert B. Carter at FedEx, and Ethicon Endo-surgery (facilitated by Brian T. Fowler, MD), who generously donated supplies and services for this outreach mission.

Drs. Fleming (left) and Haik (right) take a patient’s medical history as they prepare for a day of surgeries.Drs. Fleming (left) and Haik (right) take a patient’s medical history as they prepare for a day of surgeries.

Families await surgery in the pre-op room.Families await surgery in the pre-op room.

(From left) Drs. Haik and Ellis, J. Reeves Ellis, a volunteer nurse, and Dr. Fleming in the operating room.(From left) Drs. Haik and Ellis, J. Reeves Ellis, a volunteer nurse, and Dr. Fleming in the operating room.

Drs. Haik (left) and Fleming perform eye alignment surgery.Drs. Haik (left) and Fleming perform eye alignment surgery.

(From left) volunteers Susie Adzhyan and Kara LaMattina, Dr. Wright, Dr. Calvo, Dr. Haik, Tom Ford, J. Reeves Ellis, and Dr. Ellis.(From left) volunteers Susie Adzhyan and Kara LaMattina, Dr. Wright, Dr. Calvo, Dr. Haik, Tom Ford, J. Reeves Ellis, and Dr. Ellis.