A few years ago, Key-Whitman Eye Center’s eye surgeons Faisal Haq and Kimberly Warren were looking for an opportunity to do surgical mission work for underserved people. After speaking with colleagues who were performing cataract surgeries in Central America through the Belize Council for the Visually Impaired (BCVI), Dr. Haq and Dr. Warren were intrigued.
According to Dr. Haq, “We had been hearing for years that there is a big need for ophthalmology services in underdeveloped countries, largely due to lack of access. So when we heard about BCVI, we knew we wanted to do something.”
Both doctors wanted to share their expertise in treating cataracts, because it would give them the opportunity to make a profound difference in the lives of people who might otherwise go untreated.
“Cataracts are the number one form of preventable blindness. As ophthalmologists, we have a unique skill set that allows us to change people’s lives, because once we treat cataracts, our patients can see again. Ophthalmology lends itself well to short-term missions, because we can make a very large impact on someone’s life in a very short window of time. It has been very rewarding to be able to do this type of work through BCVI,” Dr. Warren says.
To date, Dr. Warren and Dr. Haq have traveled to Belize three times and performed more than 75 surgeries, including cataract and pterygium procedures. During their visits, which typically last about five days, patients travel from all corners of Belize just to be evaluated by eye surgeons participating in the BCVI program.
Due to limited time and resources, the ophthalmologists can only handle a finite number of cataract surgery cases per visit. Says Dr. Haq, ”When we go to Belize, we have to screen patients and decide which procedures we’re going to do because we can’t do them all. BCVI doesn’t have the facilities to do every type of surgery, so we have to be selective.”
One young patient became a top priority during the most recent Belize mission trip. As Dr. Warren explains, “Days before we arrived, a young man in his 20s who lays tile for a living was using a tile saw, when a piece of tile penetrated his cornea and ended up lodging in the lens of his eye. This instantaneously produced a traumatic cataract, which rendered him blind. Had the tile and cataract not been removed quickly, he would have lost his eye. Fortunately we arrived the week his injury occurred. Because we were able to perform surgery right away, he was able to see again the next day.”
Other patients wait months and even years to be seen by the ophthalmologists, with no guarantee they will be selected for surgery. One of Dr. Haq’s most memorable patients was a former teacher who traveled nine hours by bus to be seen by the team. She wasn’t a likely candidate … at first.
“This teacher had to quit her job because she couldn’t see anymore. Upon examination, we discovered her cataract was one of the more advanced cataracts we’d seen, so we didn’t think she would make our list initially. But after hearing her story, we couldn’t say no. She ended up doing very well, and the last I heard, she went back to teaching. As cataract surgeons, we have the opportunity to change the lives of the people we operate on, but the teacher’s story is one I’ll never forget, because she made such a big impact on us,” says Dr. Haq.
While the doctors pay for all of their own expenses, they collaborate with Key-Whitman to raise funds to pay for instruments and supplies, as well as airfare and accommodations for the surgical techs and other staff who accompany them on the trip.
If you’d like to help support BCVI’s broader mission, the organization accepts donations directly through its website. If you’d like to make a donation to support fundraising efforts for the Key-Whitman medical missions to Belize, please call (214) 220-3937 for more information.
ABOUT DR. HAQ:
Dr. Faisal Haq received his undergraduate degree from Boston University and earned his medical degree from the Boston University School of Medicine. He completed his ophthalmology residency at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Haq has been tending to the needs of Key-Whitman patients since 2006 and was recently recognized as a “Best Doctor” in Collin County by D Magazine in 2011 and 2013-2017. Dr. Haq lives in Plano with his wife and two children. He loves to travel and has been on several surgical mission trips to Belize to perform charity cataract surgery.
ABOUT DR. WARREN:
A native of Houston, Texas, Kimberly S. Warren, M.D., graduated summa cum laude from Texas Tech University with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology. Dr. Warren earned her medical degree from the Texas Tech University of Sciences Center where she was a member of the prestigious Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society. As a Key-Whitman eye surgeon, Dr. Warren specializes in vision correction surgery with high-technology lenses, as well as glaucoma management. Dr. Warren and her husband are proud parents of three children and reside in Plano.