Our doctors are deeply invested in giving back to underserved communities. This is why Dr. Kent Kirk and Dr. Dean Bauer participate in an ophthalmology mission trip to Peru every year. This trip, sponsored by St. John the Baptist Church in Edmond, OK, brings much-needed eye care such as cataract surgery to poor communities lacking in medical services.
Bringing Eye Care to Piura, Peru
The city of Piura, located approximately 600 miles north of Lima, has a population of only 400,000. Unemployment is high at 40%, and the residents do not have regular access to eye care. Cataracts are a problem, as are other preventable and treatable eye diseases and conditions.
Dr. Kirk and his colleagues perform between 100 and 125 cataract surgeries during each week-long trip. In addition, they perform 25 to 50 pterygium surgeries. Cataracts are the leading cause of treatable blindness in the world, and 8% of the population of Piura is estimated to have bilateral cataracts resulting in legal blindness.
Dr. Kirk has also been instrumental in bringing high quality equipment to Piura. He was able to get two operating microscopes for use in the surgicenter, and he liaises with SEE (Surgical Eye Expeditions) International in order to receive supplies such as lens implants and medicine.
Dr. Bauer has come on this trip for the past 3 years. He is in charge of the post-op clinic, where he sees post-operative patients of one day as well as one year.
Family to Family
Santisimo Sacramento Catholic Church in Piura, the sister parish to St. John the Baptist Church, has a program called "Family to Family." This program involves families in the United States "adopting" families in Piura. The US family pays a small monthly fee so that basic food items such as cooking oil, rice, and canned goods can be sent to their adopted Piuran family.
Dr. Kirk and his family participate in this program, sending basic necessities to a mother with two small children. In addition to their basic food sponsorship, they also pay tuition so that the children can attend a parochial school run by Santisimo Sacramento.
A Gratifying Opportunity
Dr. Kirk got involved in these mission trips for two reasons. The first was personal, as he has always wanted to use his medical expertise to help the less fortunate. Instead of building houses, he uses his expertise to help restore eyesight. Although he can only hope to scratch the surface of the overwhelming cataract problem in Piura, he is at least able to make a difference in the lives of the people he can treat.
The second reason was for his family. Each year, Dr. Kirk takes his three children with him on this trip, where they are able to assist with surgeries. Dr. Kirk hopes that this experience has planted the seed for his children's future involvement in medical mission work. In addition, his wife has joined them for the past two years.
When Dr. Kirk and his family return home after a mission trip, they are in unanimous agreement that they got even more out of the experience than they gave. St. Francis of Assisi said, "For it is in giving that we receive," and the degree of appreciation and gratitude from the kind and friendly patients in Piura reminds Dr. Kirk of the reason he went into medicine.
Dr. Kirk plans on continuing these mission trips to Peru for many years to come.
Schedule Your Consultation
If you are in need of eye care, don't hesitate to contact Kirk Eye Center at 708-397-8080 to schedule your consultation. We serve patients in River Forest, Gurnee, and other areas of greater Chicago.