Mendicute and Gessa, Javier and María, are prestigious specialists in ophthalmology. Reputed professionals and medical directors of the Miranza Group at the Miranza Begitek clinic in Donostia and the Miranza Virgen de Luján clinic in Seville, respectively. They are also professionals who are sensitive to people with vision loss and without economic resources who are condemned to blindness if they do not receive ophthalmological intervention in time. Both have participated in the initiative Solidarity Surgery – The wings of Miranza, promoted by Eyes of the world, with the aim of turning one of the surgeries they perform in their clinics, complemented by the contribution of the Miranza Group, into an opportunity to restore sight to people who live thousands of kilometres away. Their involvement, together with that of other colleagues, also supportive and partners in this project, has made it possible for 144 people in Mozambique and Bolivia to recover their sight and quality of life throughout 2022.
Although their frenetic healthcare, teaching, and research activity does not allow them to travel to the field, Dr. Mendicute and Dr. Gessa have contributed their commitment to a world without avoidable blindness. As if flapping butterfly wings, they have managed, from their clinics, to change vulnerable contexts, support local professionals in carrying out cataract operations, and transform the lives of tens of people. Thank you on behalf of all of them.
How and when did you find out about the Eyes of the world Foundation and what interested you most about its work?
Javier Mendicute: I’m lost in time, but I got to know the Foundation more than 15 years ago, through colleagues from the Donostia University Hospital who were involved in collaborating on the field in different destinations.
María Gessa: I met the Foundation about a year ago, through Miranza and Borja Corcóstegui. What interested me most about it and caught my attention was its efficiency, which allowed us to feel useful despite being in a distant operating theatre, and to be able to help with a small effort.
What do you think of the projects that Eyes of the world carries out in some of the most vulnerable territories? And how do you value the initiatives it implements to train and build capacity among local professionals?
Javier Mendicute: The work in these vulnerable territories, which are sometimes not very accessible due to the political and economic situation in which they live, is of merit. Solving vision problems in precarious situations is always essential. But perhaps I value more the training and the attempt to create capacities among local professionals so that the work carried out is not a one-off event; the success is to be able to give continuity to the assistance provided. And the most difficult thing, trying to keep these trained professionals in their environment will make them develop their work in the long term: sowing for the future!
Maria Gessa: I am captivated. There is a lot to help, but not only with professionals who come from Europe to operate with short-term effects. Even more important is the medium and long-term work in training in visual health, prevention, and solving vision problems. Giving them tools and knowledge, always with the support they need, so that they can optimally solve problems related to vision and visual health.
Do you think it is possible to achieve a world without avoidable blindness? What are the challenges facing the ophthalmological collective in order to contribute to the Universal Right to Sight?
Javier Mendicute: I am an optimist by nature, but not on this specific point. I am interested in global scenarios in terms of ending avoidable blindness in the world. We are 240,000 ophthalmologists, but 80% of us are concentrated in just 13 countries. And, moreover, in developing countries, the few ophthalmologists that exist are concentrated in urban areas. There is a lot of work to be done. Initiatives such as the one developed by Eyes of the world are always necessary.
María Gessa: A world without avoidable blindness is certainly possible. For example, something as “routine” as cataract surgery in a first-world country like Spain makes the difference between being able to survive or not in an underdeveloped country. The challenges we face are many, such as helping access ophthalmological care for all inhabitants (in these countries it is not easy, as many live hundreds of kilometers away and sometimes have to walk because they do not have the financial means to travel by other means of transport), raising awareness among local authorities of the need for medical care, promoting eye health, with prevention activities, training local specialists so that in the future, they can be the ones to effectively solve the eye problems and diseases that arise and, of course, the expeditions of highly complex medical surgery or facilitate access to it in our country.
How do you assess the results achieved by Eyes of the world thanks to your participation in the project Solidarity Surgery – The wings of Miranza? With what message would you encourage other colleagues to take part in this initiative?
Javier Mendicute: Raising awareness among health professionals is a starting point. Eyes the world is also working on this task. The Solidarity Surgery project can be of great importance and spread to many centers. Let us be aware that a small contribution for us can put an end to avoidable blindness in some environments and that this recovery also has social implications: recovery of people of working age for productive activities that will improve their social environment, recovery of elderly people who will not need family support for their daily lives.
Maria Gessa: I appreciate it very much, it makes me happy every time I see the banner of the solidarity wings with the “butterfly effect” because, for very little of my life, I can really help and have a real impact on the lives of other people. It is a great fortune to be able to contribute to such an impeccable organization as Eyes of the world.
What three words would you use to define the Eyes of the world Foundation?
Javier Mendicute: Solidarity, vision, hope.
María Gessa: Solidarity, efficiency, precision.