Doctors at Southwestern Eye Center traveled to Mexico to provide residents with eye care services. Their mission is to help give hundreds of people better vision.
José Cardenas: This month, doctors and staff at Southwestern Eye Center traveled to Mexico to provide residents in Mexico with free eye services. The center has been making this medical mission trip south of the border for almost 20 years. Joining me is Dr. Bradley Walker with Southwestern Eye Center. Dr. Walker thanks for joining us. As we mentioned in the intro, you've been doing this or the Southwestern Eye Center has been doing this for 20 years, but there was a brief gap. In fact this has been the first time you've been back in a few years. Tell us about that.
Dr. Bradley Walker: There was a gap of about three years. We work with the Rotarians down there in one of the cities, and we keep in communication with them, and there was concern about the cartels and the things that were going on at the border, so we elected not to go for a few years.
José Cardenas: And where in Mexico do you go?
Dr. Bradley Walker: We go to Nuevo Casas Grandes. And we also go to Dubulan. There's a hospital there, and we work in the hospital.
José Cardenas: And what state?
Dr. Bradley Walker: Chihuahua.
José Cardenas: Kind of in the center of the north. It's a border state but in the northern part.
Dr. Bradley Walker: Yes. We usually cross over at Columbus into Mexico, cross the border there, and the Rotarians actually met us at the border this time and helped us so that we could get down there with our equipment and everything to do the surgeries and take glasses down.
José Cardenas: How did this all start?
Dr. Bradley Walker: Dr. Bloof was actually born in that area and grew up there, and so, in giving back to the community, he has worked with the Rotarians down there over the years and has gone down to give back to them.
It's been a great mission. We've really enjoyed it.
José Cardenas: We got some pictures of the surgeries that you all do, but you also do eye exams, four, five days of work that you do while you're there.
Dr. Bradley Walker: We actually in all of our clinics keep boxes there, and patients donate their glasses. We actually take all those glasses and take them down with us. We put that information in the computer so we can go in and figure out which glasses to give to the patients that we see down there.
José Cardenas: And how were the patients chosen? How do they get into the program?
Dr. Bradley Walker: There are some doctors down there who look at the patients first. And then, when we go, I actually have that opportunity to visit with each of those patients and examine them, and that is the hardest part is trying to decide which of the patients will actually get surgery, for example, to get cataract surgery or have a pterygium removed from their eye.
José Cardenas: And what's a pterygium?
Dr. Bradley Walker: It's a growth that grows onto the surface of the cornea and can block the vision if it grows far enough.
José Cardenas: Are there more conditions that seem to be more typical of the population you're working with in Chihuahua than in Arizona?
Dr. Bradley Walker: There's probably more exposure to ultraviolet light in the sun there, the people that work outside a lot, and so the pterygium and the cataracts are more prevalent.
José Cardenas: You say you take your own equipment. We're talking about surgical equipment?
Dr. Bradley Walker: Yes. Uh-huh.
José Cardenas: And how do you arrange the surgeries? It's not the first thing you do when you get down there, I take it there's prep time.
Dr. Bradley Walker: Right. We had about 18 of us that went this time, and there are three others down there. So we work in the hospital, and there's actually some nurses there that help us while we're there. But we have all the supplies, the lenses that we'll need to implant once we remove the cataracts. We take all those with us. We take microscopes and lighting and everything so that we can just use one of the rooms there in the hospital, one of the surgery rooms.
José Cardenas: And the follow-up care is provided by?
Dr. Bradley Walker: Yes, there are other doctors in the area, and they do the follow-up care after we do that initial post-op visit the day after surgery.
José Cardenas: You had stopped going for a few years because of security concerns. Was there anything about this trip that made you think that's no longer an issue that you'll be going back next year?
Dr. Bradley Walker: Just talking with the Rotarians, I think they helped convince us that things maybe had calmed down a little bit and that we could go this year and be safe.
José Cardenas: And you felt comfortable being there?
Dr. Bradley Walker: We did. We felt very comfortable. Very comfortable.
José Cardenas: Dr. Walker, thanks for joining us on "Horizonte" to talk about this very, very noble and worthy cause. That's our show for this Thursday night. For all of us at "Horizonte" I'm José Cardenas. Have a good evening.