Board Blog

Board Blog

This blog is written by various COS board members for the members of the society.  You must have an active membership to access the entire article.

For those of you contemplating either short or long term ophthalmic missions keep reading….

Late last night, my husband and I returned from a brief 2-week mission trip aboard the worlds only floating civilian hospital, Africa Mercy. Currently this ship is nearing the end of its time docked in Douala, Cameroon. Next stop this summer is Guinea. The following year is Senegal.  There are 21 million people in the country of Cameroon, just north of Gabon (shout out to Wendy and Eric Hoffman!) and part of French speaking West Africa.  To serve the ocular needs of these Cameroonian’s, there are only 120 ophthalmologists in the entire country. Their training systems vary from that of the United States, such that only 10 of those 120 actually actually perform any type of eye procedures or surgeries as of summer 2017.  This number should be significantly changed by the end of the Cameroon docked Africa Mercy tour this summer, to total 15 ophthalmic surgeons. This is extraordinary in thinking of the impact towards eradication of unnecessary blindness.


This number of 15 has come about because of dedicated missionaries, like Glenn and Kim Strauss, who painstakingly train these ophthalmologists in ophthalmic surgery, over a three-month period, five days a week.  They fine-tune their skillset and knowledge basis in the realm of MSICS and pterygium eye procedures, as well as yag capsulotomy.  Glenn and Kim have served off and on aboard this ship now since 2009, in full time capacity.  He’s developed a fantastic curriculum for training local ophthalmologists, as well as folks like me that do more short term mission work.

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There is likely no time in a Christian Ophthalmologist’s life when their prayers are more fervent, frequent, and fevered as when they are a newly-minted young attending. At least, having finished residency 5 months ago, this is sure how I find things to be. Something that was modeled for me during training, and that I continue now, is the practice of praying with patients during their preop visits. Unbeknownst to those patients, I am sometimes also furiously praying in the middle of their surgeries that their loose zonules will just keep holding on. In clinic I have had a few strange cases and find myself praying that I will have enough wisdom to diagnose and treat the patient in the exam chair. Being a fresh attending is fairly widely recognized as a worrisome and unsure time in any physician’s career so, mostly, I find myself praying for the power to make it through a situation in front of me. In the midst of this season of prayer in my life I recently stumbled across a sermon series by Dr. Albert Mohler on the Lord’s prayer, and it made me think that I should examine my prayers more closely to find if they match the sort of prayers we find in scripture.

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moses redseaExodus 14:5-14; James 1:2-4; Romans 8:35-37
There are times in our walk as believers during which we experience great victory as well as times of trial. When there is victory, it is sweet and we may even be a bit boastful forgetting who has fought the battle for us. When things don’t go well, however, we are quick to complain. We lose sight of the fact that there is indeed a reason, however obscure it may seem to be, that we are passing through the valley. The Jewish nation provides us with a picture of this.

I am grateful for the Jewish people, for both those who were steadfast in their faith and for those who were not. Both provide us with lessons and insight, and serve as our examples for faith. They are a picture of both the good and the bad of our walk, and provide us a reflection of who we are by nature, and what we should and should not look like as believers. By examining the good of their faith we can see that we should be wholly dependent upon our Father.

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I recently came across the following article entitled, “PERSPECTIVE:  A Walk with Him,” which was published in the Christian Ophthalmology Society newsletter dated July 1998 which resonates with me today:

jtsai 98“For me, the past four years at the University of SC School of Medicine has been a well spring of learning not just in terms of medical knowledge, but also with insights into God’s character and lessons about life.  I have specifically been learning the art of resting, the value of waiting, and the necessity of walking closely with Christ.  Because of my perfectionist tendencies, my toughest struggle has been to rest in the Lord.  After having done my best to prepare, a point is reached that I must give it totally over to His care.

Whether it was a big exam, rounds with Dr. Intimidation, or residency interviews,  God’s chief objective was always to cultivate in me a heart of complete reliance on Him.  Isaiah 26:3 is one of my all time favorites:  “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”  I have found His presence and grace to be sufficient for my every need, and that He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that I ask or think.  I am  earning the value of waiting on God’s perfect timing.  Often I have found myself dissatisfied with my current circumstances and wanting to get ahead of God.  

Medical school and residency are not just worthless stepping stones to a fulfilling medical practice.  While it is my desire to blitz from point A to point B in the most efficient manner, God has a purpose in the intervening journey.  He is teaching me that indeed the purpose can be found during the trial and not just after it is over.  He wants me to welcome every difficult person and frustrating experience as His instrument to further shape my character into the image of His Dear Son.  Someone once wisely advised me, “Savor these moments, for you will never pass this way again.”  God’s desire is for me to use this day for His glory no matter how insignificant this time of transition might seem.

God has been impressing me with the importance of daily making an eternal difference in the lives of others.  The fields are truly white with harvest.  During these last four years, He has reminded me that He is still at work in the lives of people, and has been faithful to bring into my life classmates, patients, residents, and attendings who are awakening to their need for His love and salvation.  I have also discovered the frustration of attempting to do God’s work my way.

Another word of wisdom speaks to the necessity of cultivating a daily love relationship with the Lord Jesus in developing an effective personal ministry: “Don’t over-work, over-flow.“  Genuine compassion for people is not a product of human effort, but a by-product that flows when time is spent with its Source.”        Jonathan Tsai,MD

Reading this article recently was like opening a buried time capsule or thumbing through an old newspaper.  It was written nearly 20 years ago by a young man who had just finished medical school and was looking ahead to residency.  He had aspirations to become an ophthalmologist and a family man, but had no idea what God had in store for him ahead.  Those words spoke of the faithfulness of God in providing security, encouragement, rest, purpose, and eternal significance in a sea of anxiety and uncertainty.

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God must be playing tricks on me!!  This is exactly how I felt in the beginning when I woke up in April 2014 with double vision, dizziness and numbness.   A healthy ophthalmologist with an acute onset of double vision?   You’ve got to be kidding, God!

And worse was the sinking feeling of some unfavorable diagnosis given the differential diagnosis that I formed for someone in his mid 40’s who had been very fit and healthy, living a balanced and active lifestyle.  The thoughts of cancer, aneurysm, stroke, and neurodegenerative disorder were on the top of my list!  Or did I have some unknown virus from my recent medical mission to Swaziland? 

After packing overnight clothing for my visit to the ER, every test under the sun was performed by my ER colleague.  Despite negative tests, my diplopia worsened steadily to the point of complete ophthalmoloplegia on day 4.  Soon after came the difficulty breathing and then weakness and tingling in my upper extremities which progressed despite the high dose steroids to involve my lower extremities.


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