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July 31, 2014 - HelpAge India is a leading player in protecting the rights of India's elderly and providing them relief through various programs. HelpAge is partnering with US-based HelpMeSee – a campaign to eliminate cataract blindness – to launch a special campaign to address the issue of cataract blindness for impoverished elderly of India. The special campaign specifically funds Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS) for those suffering needlessly from this curable disease.

“HelpAge India is one of the largest and most successful nonprofit organizations in the country helping the elderly who are in dire need, which makes the HelpMeSee partnership an important step to eliminating cataract blindness in India,” said Mohan Jacob Thazhathu, President and CEO, HelpMeSee, Inc. “Globally, India has the highest incidence of blindness with more than 60% of that blindness being due to treatable cataracts and with HelpAge’s reputation and proven successes in raising both awareness and resources, we are confident that this partnership will have a positive impact in the lives of millions of blind persons in India.”

The partnership aims to provide approximately 120,000 surgeries over the next three years through six partner hospitals located throughout the country, in areas of great need.

“HelpAge India has supported more than 335,000 cataract surgeries over the last 10 years. The beneficiaries are elders who have no significant means of support and are destitute. Their lives come to a standstill for the want of a simple cataract surgery. Every year thousands of cataract surgeries are performed all over India through a network of specialized hospitals and organizations dedicated and working for eye care. Through this partnership with HelpMeSee, HelpAge hopes to increase its reach furthermore and restore sight to more and more destitute elders”, says Mathew Cherian, Chief Executive Officer, HelpAge India.

Cataract blindness is the leading cause of avoidable blindness worldwide. Through the HelpMeSee program, and with support of donations procured through the HelpAge India partnership, an elderly person suffering from cataract blindness can undergo a quick, yet safe operation to restore their sight.

“We believe that the our overall success relies on local partnerships with leading, like-minded organizations along with supporting local surgeons working in areas of the greatest need. Local surgeons in local hospitals will perform 99 percent of all surgeries we sponsor. By empowering local surgeons and supporting local hospitals, we will be building self-sufficiency in very poor, but very proud communities one surgery at a time. This is the only successful route to sustainability and an ideal we strive for in this new partnership with HelpAge India,” concluded Thazhathu.

 

October 17, 2014 -  HelpMeSee – a global campaign to eliminate cataract blindness – and Columbia University’s Edward S. Harkness Eye Institute joined together to hold the very first World Sight Day-themed Grand Rounds in recognition of this annual, public health awareness event to address avoidable blindness.

“To all of us at HelpMeSee, every day is World Sight Day,” said Jim Ueltschi, co-founder, chairman & treasurer, HelpMeSee. “There are millions of people in the world suffering from blindness caused by curable cataract and the awareness of this tragedy is something we should all recognize every single day.”

The theme of this year’s World Sight Day, “Universal Eye Health,” and its call to action, “No More Avoidable Blindness,” spoke directly to the challenge of cataracts, by far the largest cause of preventable blindness. Those in low-income countries lack access to necessary care that can restore their sight and their lives. Cataracts burden entire communities, depriving loved ones the ability to see, to work and to care for their families. Millions of people throughout the developing world face hardship because they have lost their sight to cataracts. Yet there is a scalable, sustainable, high-quality solution to this global crisis.

“This World Sight Day 2014 was a milestone event for HelpMeSee as we continue to expand our campaign for “No More Blindness Caused by Cataract,” said Jacob Mohan Thazhathu, president & CEO, HelpMeSee. “We were honored by the Edward S. Harkness Eye Institute invitation to host this event during the world’s most recognized eye health awareness day and providing HelpMeSee with a high-level platform to share our campaign to eliminate cataract blindness.”

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HelpMeSee has a solution to bring a high quality cataract surgery at a cost no more than US $50 anywhere in the world. The panel discussed the integrated HelpMeSee solution including simulation based proficiency training of cataract specialists, use of pre-sterilized single use kits and community based elimination of cataract blindness elimination through surveillance and use of geographic positioning and surgical reporting systems.

“World Sight Day is internationally recognized in raising the awareness of avoidable blindness, and international development programs that currently exist,” said Dr. George Cioffi, Columbia University, Harkness Eye Institute, Chair of Ophthalmology. “We are impressed with the HelpMeSee campaign and welcomed the opportunity to share the accomplishments and future plans of this organization with our staff and medical students inspired by international development and humanitarian efforts – especially one as focused and targeted as HelpMeSee’s campaign to eliminate cataract blindness.”

Columbia University’s Chair of Ophthalmology, Dr. George Cioffi, moderated the event, with Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, Dr. Lama Al-Aswad as a panelist. Joining the panel from HelpMeSee was Co-Founder, Mr. Jim Ueltschi; Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Glenn Strauss; and President and CEO, Mr. Jacob Mohan Thazhathu.

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Traditional to Grand Rounds, audience members joined the event with questions and comments. Main topics of discussion were:

  • Collecting better evidence on the magnitude and prevalence of blindness prevention
  • Training more eye care professionals to address cataract blindness
  • Working with international partners to provide comprehensive eye care services and how to integrate them into existing healthcare systems
  • Identifying and eliminating social and economic obstacles, particularly for the underserved populations where more than 90% of those suffering from cataract blindness reside.

World Sight Day – Columbia University & HelpMeSee

Cataract blindness has a range of effects, from creating severe social burdens for families to placing economic burdens on their caretakers and communities. Avoidable cataract blindness mostly affects people living in austere regions under impoverished circumstances, limiting their access to affordable, high quality care. Through public healthcare collaborations, dedicated institutions and active individuals can help achieve a goal that will impact millions of people around the world – no more avoidable blindness – no more cataract blindness.

About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is a global campaign to eliminate cataract blindness endemic in developing countries. The HelpMeSee mission is to make sight-restoring, MSIC surgery available to millions of underserved people through financial support and the training of thousands of highly skilled specialist cataract surgeons recruited from within their communities. HelpMeSee has designed and is now producing a virtual reality surgical simulator and training program to be implemented worldwide, adapted from extensive experience in simulator based aviation training.

About Edward S. Harkness Eye Institute

The Edward S. Harkness Eye Institute aims to be a leading international center for the treatment of sight threatening disorders through interaction between outstanding, compassionate physicians and talented scientists in vision and to train ophthalmologists and scientists to be the future leaders in the field. The department’s main objectives are to maintain clinical excellence, strive for new discoveries and enhance educational opportunities.

January 28, 2015 – HelpMeSee – a global campaign to eliminate cataract blindness – proudly shares the work of the Pilotfish design team as they are awarded the Good Industrial Design Award for 2014 for the HelpMeSee MSICS (Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery) Proficiency Training Simulator.

The MSICS Simulator, which is being developed for HelpMeSee by Moog Inc. (NYSE: MOG.A and MOG.B), will be used to train 30,000 cataract surgical specialists in developing countries to perform the MSICS procedure within two decades. This will enable them to perform 3 – 5 million high quality cataract surgeries each year at the most affordable prices, thus eliminating cataract blindness.

 Eye Surgical Simulator design

“We are proud of all our partners involved in creating this cutting-edge and life changing medical technology,” said Jacob Mohan Thazhathu, President & CEO, HelpMeSee. “The high fidelity simulator technology we are developing will allow us to train the thousands of specialists needed to address this global public health crisis.”

Inspiring the HelpMeSee campaign is the tragic fact that 20 million people suffer from cataract blindness, even though a proven treatment already exists. Another 167 million people suffer from cataract induced visual impairment, most of them living in developing countries.

HelpMeSee selected Moog to design and produce the high-fidelity virtual reality MSICS Simulator jointly with SenseGraphics and InSimo. HelpMeSee selected Moog in 2013 due to its strong engineering capability and experience designing and building simulator systems and high level haptic force feedback technology. Moog Industrial Group, a division of Moog Inc., designs and manufactures high performance motion control solutions in a range of industrial applications including simulation systems for pilot, medical and dental training.

Pilotfish leads the industrial design of the simulator, working in close collaboration with the Moog and HelpMeSee teams to fully incorporate all of the surgical, production and user considerations.

A video preview of a simulator prototype is available below:

Global Impact of Cataract Blindness 

Cataract blindness has a range of effects, from creating severe social burdens for families to placing economic burdens on their caretakers and communities. Avoidable cataract blindness mostly affects people living in austere regions under impoverished circumstances, limiting their access to affordable, high quality care. Through public healthcare collaborations, dedicated institutions and active individuals can help achieve a goal that will impact millions of people around the world.

About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee (www.HelpMeSee.org) is a global campaign to eliminate cataract blindness endemic in developing countries. The HelpMeSee mission is to make sight-restoring, MSIC surgery available to millions of underserved people through financial support and the training of thousands of highly skilled cataract specialists recruited from within their communities. HelpMeSee has designed and is now producing a virtual reality surgical simulator and training program to be implemented worldwide, adapted from extensive experience in simulator based aviation training.

April 22, 2015 – HelpMeSee, a global campaign to eliminate cataract blindness, has successfully tested a pre-release version of its GIS-GPS app for community mobilization. The mobile app, currently for use on Android devices, will allow community health workers to better locate patients, map the incidence of cataract blindness, and connect patients to partner specialists who can provide care. The system can define the geographic market for each clinic location and maintain epidemiological information on the prevalence of cataract blindness. It will also integrate with the campaign’s surgical reporting system to monitor patients and validate successful outcomes.

HelpMeSee Reach App field testing

“The HelpMeSee GIS-GPS app is an essential tool to provide the best standard of care to every cataract blind person in a community,” said Jacob Mohan Thazhathu, President & CEO of HelpMeSee. “It optimizes the efficiency of the surgical team and provides community health workers a reliable tool for patient care and follow up services.”

HelpMeSee’s campaign team worked in close collaboration with community level surgical teams and village level health workers to test the app in rural India. Health workers found it to be much faster than the systems currently in place, which are largely paper-based. They can now gather essential patient information and location details, including specific GPS coordinates and altitude data, and transmit them to the hospital remotely.

“It used to take us from 1 to 2 days,” said Meera Devi, a community worker living near Chitrakoot, India. “Now with the mobile app, the whole process is completed in 10 – 15 minutes and then we just need to click send.”

Once identified, patients are connected to nearby health facilities where they can receive Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS) to remove cataracts and implant a new, artificial lens in their eye. The cost-effective surgery is a foundation of the HelpMeSee MSICS training simulator that is also in development. The app will also facilitate patient care through follow up tracking, allowing community workers to locate patients weeks after surgery to check their health and surgical outcome.

HelpMeSee’s use of this technology worldwide will create the first real time epidemiological data on cataract blindness. This is critical for eliminating the backlog of blindness caused by cataract through a patient focused campaign and evidence based practice of essential surgery in communities.

Developed in partnership with Clarity, a leading technology development firm based in Calgary, Canada, HelpMeSee’s app is designed for easy use by community workers. The app uses a graphic interface that can be used by any worker, regardless of their language or literacy level.

About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is a global campaign to eliminate cataract blindness, the leading cause of preventable blindness globally. Along with the GIS-GPS app, HelpMeSee has developed a virtual reality MSICS training simulator to train cataract specialists as well as a pre-sterilized surgical kit to deliver safe care in remote areas. To date, the campaign has delivered over 190,000 sight-restoring surgeries to patients in India, Nepal, China, Peru, Vietnam, Togo and Sierra Leone.

May 11, 2015 – HelpMeSee, a global campaign to eliminate cataract blindness, was recognized with five separate awards for creative marketing, video and photography from the Hermes Creative Awards. The judges received over 6,000 entries from around the world for this year’s contest.

“I’m proud to accept these awards on behalf of our entire team,” said Matt Kupec, Vice President of Development and Marketing at HelpMeSee. “Their hard work has paid off. Particularly in this digital age, creative marketing is a critical part of our campaign to raise awareness about - and ultimately end - the leading cause of preventable blindness.”

Founded with the goal of recognizing “outstanding work in the industry while promoting the philanthropic nature of marketing and communications professionals,” the awards recognize a range of categories from direct mail to publicity to digital media. HelpMeSee was selected as a Platinum Winner for a direct-mail piece that highlighted the IOL lens used in MSICS surgery as well as a Gold Winner for a video used to raise awareness about cataract blindness. Three other marketing pieces, including two photos and one email campaign, received Honorable Mention.

HelpMeSee’s award winning video profiled staff members navigating the streets of New York while wearing a blindfold. They were asked to do activities like shopping, finding the subway or buying a hot dog from a street cart vendor and interviewed on their experiences. The video was produced in partnership with DePalma Productions for use in HelpMeSee’s Giving Tuesday Campaign near the end of 2014.

This year’s awards were judged by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals, an international group from the advertising, PR, media and marketing industries. According to an official release from the Hermes Creative Awards, “AMCP judges are industry professionals who look for companies and individuals whose talent exceeds a high standard of excellence and whose work serves as a benchmark for the industry.”

About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is a global campaign to eliminate cataract blindness, the leading cause of preventable blindness worldwide. It has successfully tested an Android-based smartphone app for patient mobilization and is in the final stages of producing a high-fidelity MSICS surgical simulator to train thousands of cataract surgical specialists.

To date, the campaign has delivered over 193,000 sight-restoring surgeries to patients in India, Nepal, China, Peru, Vietnam, Togo and Sierra Leone. It will expand into nearly 60 countries by 2020.

June 2, 2015 - HelpMeSee, a global campaign to eliminate cataract blindness, has begun a member partnership with the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, "a global alliance of non-governmental agencies and institutions seeking excellence and equity in the provision of eye health services." HelpMeSee joins many other highly regarded public health organizations in this recognition.

"HelpMeSee is pleased to be working with the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness," said Jacob Mohan Thazhathu, President & CEO of HelpMeSee. "We will play a proactive role in this community to reach the critical goal of ending preventable cataract blindness. As one of the leaders in public eye health worldwide, the IAPB will be an invaluable partner in our global campaign."

HelpMeSee joins dozens of other organizations and leading eye care NGO’s who participate as members of the IAPB. As a member, HelpMeSee will help to drive priorities in global eye health, receive further access to international organizations included the World Health Assembly, UN Economic & Social Council, G20 and World Bank, and participate in the leading network of organizations committed to ending preventable blindness. HelpMeSee also brings its groundbreaking technology in cataract surgical simulation, cloud-based reporting systems and GIS-GPS mapping.

"Simulation training has a proven successful track record in various areas of medicine," said Dr. Van Lansingh, HelpMeSee Medical Officer for Latin America. "We hope to have a proven concept in the future that will ensure patient safety and increase surgeons’ proficiency to reduce the prevalence of blindness due to unoperated cataract."

Mom_with_kidFounded in 1975, the IAPB coordinates global efforts to prevent blindness and includes a group of eye care NGO’s and organizations committed to providing eye care worldwide. Its vision is to achieve, “A world in which everyone has access to the best possible standard of eye health; where no one is needlessly visually impaired; and where those with irreparable vision loss achieve their full potential.” Administration of the IAPB network includes seven regions: IAPB Africa, IAPB EMRO (Eastern Mediterranean), IAPB Europe, IAPB Latin America, IAPB North America, IAPB South East Asia, and IAPB Western Pacific.

About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is a global campaign to eliminate cataract blindness, the leading cause of preventable blindness worldwide. Along with the GIS-GPS app, HelpMeSee has developed a virtual reality MSICS training simulator to train cataract specialists as well as a pre-sterilized surgical kit to deliver safe care in remote areas. To date, the campaign has delivered over 194,000 sight-restoring surgeries to patients in India, Nepal, China, Peru, Vietnam, Togo and Sierra Leone.



August 5, 2015 - HelpMeSee was recently granted Special Consultative Status as an official non-governmental organization at the United Nations. The decision was made by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) at its Coordination and Management meeting in July 2015, where the committee reviewed a number of NGO’s that had been recommended for the status in previous meetings. This status is highly selective and HelpMeSee is pleased to begin actively participating within the United Nations community.

Special Consultative Status at the United Nations allows non-governmental organizations to attend official ECOSOC meetings, as well as to submit written and oral statements during meetings. HelpMeSee will take full advantage of this opportunity by participating, and playing a leading role in dialogue and events related to healthcare financing, blindness and cataract blindness, quality assurance, and women’s empowerment. During these meetings, HelpMeSee representatives will have the opportunity to speak in front of global delegations regarding these topics and recommend HelpMeSee’s plan of action to combat these issues. We look forward to meeting with official government delegates from our expansion countries in order to discuss ways to improve HelpMeSee’s efforts in their countries and request their support for our global campaign.

About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is a global campaign to eliminate cataract blindness, the leading cause of blindness worldwide. Along with a smartphone-based patient mobilization app, HelpMeSee has developed a virtual reality MSICS training simulator that will be used to train cataract specialists as well as a pre-sterilized surgical kit to deliver safe care in remote areas. To date, the campaign has delivered over 200,000 sight-restoring surgeries to patients in India, Nepal, China, Peru, Vietnam, Togo, Sierra Leone, and Madagascar.

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An outreach screening center identifying patients in Madagascar, our latest campaign country.



August 6, 2015 - HelpMeSee, a global campaign to eliminate cataract blindness, has now supported 200,000 cataract surgeries globally since 2012. The campaign’s milestone achievement coincides with the launch of operations in Madagascar, which was made possible through a partnership with the Trafigura Foundation.

Dr. Aimee Rakotondra, a partner surgeon in Madagascar, completed the 200,000th global surgery needed to reach this goal at a hospital in the capital city of Antananarivo.

The campaign’s expansion in Madagascar follows the acceptance of a Letter of Intent between HelpMeSee and Madagascar’s Ministry of Health in 2014. Several members of the HelpMeSee team visited Madagascar in June 2015 to begin initial outreach efforts and train medical personnel before surgeries began at the end of July. HelpMeSee’s Madagascar campaign includes ongoing partnerships with both the Ministry of Health and the local chapter of the Lions Club International, a global service organization and major supporter of blindness prevention programs worldwide through the SightFirst program.

"The Madagascar Campaign has achieved a critical milestone for HelpMeSee," said Jacob Mohan Thazhathu, President and CEO of HelpMeSee. "Our focus on delivering high-quality, cost-effective surgeries will restore dignity to the thousands in Madagascar who are needlessly blind. A sustainable solution will ensure that all Madagascans who need cataract surgery in the future will no longer have to wait until they are blind."

HelpMeSee’s partnership with the Trafigura Foundation includes funding for pre-sterilized, single use surgical kits to be used for thousands of surgeries in Madagascar, Gambia, Senegal, Mali, Guinea-Conakry, Angola and Myanmar. Support for HelpMeSee is the latest chapter in a long history of efforts to end preventable blindness.

"HelpMeSee’s mission matches the Trafigura Foundation’s core values. We choose to support organizations that enable people to reach their full potential," said Vincent Faber, Executive Director of the Trafigura Foundation. "Thanks to HelpMeSee, we are able to enhance not just the physical but also the socio-economic wellbeing of beneficiaries. We know that one person recovering sight means that a whole family is strengthened. We are proud to have helped scale up this ground-breaking surgical technique since 2009."

Madagascar has a major shortage of eye care with just two ophthalmologists per million people, according to the International Council of Ophthalmology. The country has an estimated backlog of over 150,000 people who are blind from this treatable condition. A 2014 Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness (RAAB) survey in Madagascar found that cataracts were the cause of 64% of blindness and 86% of severe visual impairment.

During the milestone celebrations, HelpMeSee recognized the highly-acclaimed violinist Paul Peabody for his support, which included overseas concerts to raise funds for HelpMeSee partner hospitals. Peabody, who works with the New York City Ballet, won a Grammy Award as part of the orchestra that recorded the soundtrack for Titanic.

Click here to learn about HelpMeSee’s campaign in Madagascar.

About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is a global campaign to eliminate cataract blindness, the leading cause of blindness worldwide. Along with a smartphone-based patient mobilization app, HelpMeSee has reached the advanced stages of a virtual reality MSICS training simulator that will be used to train cataract specialists. The simulator is the product of a global collaboration between HelpMeSee, MOOG, Inria, InSimo and SenseGraphics.

To date, the HelpMeSee campaign has supported over 200,000 sight-restoring surgeries to patients in India, Nepal, China, Peru, Vietnam, Togo, Sierra Leone and Madagascar.

About the Trafigura Foundation

Launched in 2007, the Trafigura Foundation (www.trafigurafoundation.org) supports sustainable development programs in more than 30 countries. The Foundation’s vision is a world where people reach their full potential through self-sustaining solutions, of which they can gradually take full ownership. Helping people help themselves through income-generating activities is central to the Foundation’s mandate and its desire to create a sustainable model for corporate philanthropy.



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Madagascar may be known for its natural landscape filled with lemurs, baobab trees and stunning seashores, but the isolation that leads to this allure also brings many burdens.

22 million people live in Madagascar. Over 75% live below the poverty line. Nearly a third are illiterate. Risk for a variety of diseases - including malaria - remain high.

When HelpMeSee team members made their first trip to Madagascar, the need for eye care was clear. Most Madagascans live in rural areas requiring a boat trip or a long drive over dirt roads to the nearest town. Meanwhile, the limited number of ophthalmologists-just 2 per million people-mostly live in cities. Access to quality healthcare is challenging in the few places it does exist.


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As our campaign in Madagascar began during our 5th year of existence, we neared the milestone achievement of 200,000 surgeries.

In our short history, HelpMeSee received non-profit certification in 2010. We spent the next 18 months laying the groundwork for a global health campaign before we started surgeries. In those first four years of running programs our average number of annual surgeries was 50,000. In 2014 we completed a total of 76,637. We expect these numbers to only grow.

Since our support for surgeries began, we have developed the most advanced evidence-based effort to end cataract blindness.

For perspective, 200,000 is roughly the population of Baton Rouge or Salt Lake City. Individual personalities could easily be lost in such a volume. But as we are often reminded, each patient has their own story, their own motivations to seek care, and their own unique thread woven into the broader scope of our campaign.


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Scenes from the HelpMeSee campaign launch in Madagascar in the summer of 2015.


From India to China, Peru to Madagascar, our partners restored sight to 200,000 patients across three continents. These were mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. They were a son who could no longer help an elderly parent and a daughter who dropped out of school because she went blind.


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The first patient treated through our Peru partnership. A lifelong poet, could no longer write when he became blind.


Our patients range from infants to centenarians. They work in every field imaginable.

In Peru, our first patient was a poet who turned to memorizing verses after going blind. The list goes on.


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Just a few our patient’s trades.


Our 200,000th surgery was Florentine, an older woman from a slum in the capital city of Antananarivo. She lived with her daughter in a modest home painted in faint blues and reds.

Florentine was one of our first patients in Madagascar, and in many ways her situation reflects the dire challenges most of our patients face. When Florentine went blind, her daughter left work in a local store to spend time caring for her mother. Their main source of income dried up. The impact of blindness almost always extends beyond the patient.

"I was completely dependent on my daughter and others to help cook, to help me move around and even to do the most ordinary things."

-Florentine


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Florentine at home in Antananarivo, Madagascar.


"I will be able to return to my shop and financially support my family and mother."

-Florentine’s daughter


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Florentine (right) at home with her daughter after a successful cataract surgery through a HelpMeSee partner.


Just days after her surgery, the HelpMeSee team visited Florentine to check up on her progress. We asked about her health and her family.

The answer? A smile said it all.

August 13 2015 - HelpMeSee was recognized with eleven different Stevie Awards in the 12th Annual International Business Awards, whose results were announced today.

The International Business Awards are the world’s premier business awards program. All individuals and organizations worldwide - public and private, for-profit and non-profit, large and small - are eligible to submit nominations. The 2015 IBAs received entries from more than 60 nations and territories.

Nicknamed the Stevies for the Greek word for "crowned," the awards will be presented to winners at a gala awards banquet at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Toronto, Canada on October 23rd.

HelpMeSee was recognized with a Silver Stevie Award for Company of the Year in the nonprofit category. Other recognition included Gold Stevie Awards for a video on the HelpMeSee Reach mobile app and the Partners in Sight eNewsletter, Silver Stevie Awards for creative use of Instagram, video, and direct mail, and Bronze for Facebook feed, Twitter feed, the Giving Tuesday Campaign and 2014 Annual Report.

The campaign uses social media as a crucial tool to raise awareness about the health issue of cataract blindness in the developing world and the cost-effective solutions that have been developed. HelpMeSee technologies featured in the winning entries include the HelpMeSeeReach app for community screening, a high-fidelity surgical simulator for training specialists and a single-use surgical kit to improve the quality of care.

More than 3,700 nominations from organizations of all sizes and in virtually every industry were submitted this year for consideration. Stevie Award winners were determined by the average scores of more than 200 executives worldwide who participated in the judging process from May through early August. In their comments on the entries, the judges highlighted HelpMeSee’s "incredible use of technology to solve a common problem."

Past winners in the Stevie Awards series include SalesForce, Pencils of Promise, Dell and DHL.

To connect with HelpMeSee’s award-winning social media, follow us on:

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram

About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is a global campaign to eliminate cataract blindness, the leading cause of blindness worldwide. HelpMeSee has developed a virtual reality MSICS surgical simulator to train cataract specialists as well as a pre-sterilized surgical kit to deliver safe care in remote areas. To date, the campaign has delivered over 200,000 surgeries to patients in India, Nepal, China, Peru, Vietnam, Togo, Sierra Leone and Madagascar.

About the Stevie Awards

Stevie Awards are conferred in six programs: The International Business Awards, The American Business Awards, the Asia-Pacific Stevie Awards, the German Stevie Awards, the Stevie Awards for Women in Business, and the Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service. Honoring organizations of all types and sizes and the people behind them, the Stevies recognize outstanding performances in the workplace worldwide. Learn more about the Stevie Awards at www.StevieAwards.com.



HelpMeSee received two Health & Wellness Design Awards from Graphic Design USA in a contest sponsored by Erickson Stock. The awards recognized the creative design work behind our 2014 Annual Report as well as "20 Million Cataracts", a coffee table book produced in partnership with photojournalist Jarret Schecter to be released this fall.

Graphic Design USA is a leading source of industry news for designers. The Health & Wellness Design Awards recognized outstanding creative direction and design for projects across the health field.

To view our 2014 Annual Report, Click Here.

September 23, 2015 - In preparation for the launch of its simulation-based training programs in cataract surgery, HelpMeSee has expanded its leadership team with new roles in training and development. The new positions include Daniel Hutter, M.D. as Chief Instructor, Michael Moore as Chief Instructor Trainer and Steven J. Moore as Senior Director of Major Gifts and Planned Giving.

"The HelpMeSee campaign has the ambitious goal of training cataract surgeons at a scale needed to address the severe shortage of well-trained specialists," said Jacob Mohan Thazhathu, President & CEO of HelpMeSee. "Our team will lead the transformation of cataract surgical training for a lasting public health impact."

As Chief Instructor, Dr. Hutter will manage the training of the Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS) Simulation-based Training Program (MSTP) Instructors and instructor training delivery process. He will also qualify as one of the first instructors, mentor the Chief and Assistant Chief Trainers, and participate in the validation of the MSTP systems. His work will include assignments at HelpMeSee’s overseas training centers.

Dr. Hutter is a board-certified ophthalmologist whose interest in global blindness prevention began when he served as a staff ophthalmologist on the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital. His work at the convergence of technology and medicine includes time as a Visiting Scientist at the National Library of Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and a certificate in Health Information Technology from The George Washington University. Most recently, Dr. Hutter worked with the Mid Atlantic Permanente Medical Group as a comprehensive ophthalmologist and cataract surgery expert. He holds an M.D. from Jefferson Medical College.

"The simulator is valuable for both novice and experienced cataract surgeons," said Dr. Hutter. "I have performed thousands of surgeries over more than 15 years. Using adjustments which I learned from working on the simulator, the incisions I made in subsequent live patient cataract surgeries were improved."

In the role of Chief Instructor Trainer, Michael Moore will provide simulation training, classroom training and courseware development expertise to assist HelpMeSee team members who create and deliver MSICS classroom and simulator training. He will also partner with the Chief Learning Officer, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Instructor to develop systems for recruiting instructors.

"The use of simulation training in healthcare is a rapidly growing trend, for good reason, and HelpMeSee’s work at the leading edge of this technology will restore sight for millions," said Michael Moore. "I’m thrilled to join such a groundbreaking mission."

Michael Moore has extensive experience in aviation training and flight safety management, most recently as Manager - Flight Safety for Viking Air Limited, manufacturer of the DHC-6 Twin Otter aircraft. Previously, he spent six years with FlightSafety Canada as Program Manager for DHC-6 Twin Otter training, six years with Zimex Aviation as Training Manager and Project Chief Pilot on various Red Cross war relief assignments and a number of years with McDonald’s Canada as a Regional Operations Manager and Training Consultant.

"Michael Moore and Dr. Hutter will play an essential role in standing up the first Simulator Training Centers," said Jon Pollack, HelpMeSee’s Chief of Training Operations. "Together they will be responsible for ensuring that the simulator instructors have the knowledge and instructional skills to enable the trainees to take full advantage of HelpMeSee’s advanced training system in their journey to become highly skilled MSICS surgeons."

Joining HelpMeSee as Senior Director of Major Gifts and Planned Giving, Steven J. Moore will play a key role on the development team. In this new position, he will focus on building relationships with both existing and potential major donors while working closely with HelpMeSee’s Vice President of Development and Marketing, CEO and Board to expand the campaign’s fundraising efforts.

"I look forward to working with the dedicated, professional, and experienced development team that has been assembled by HelpMeSee," said Steven J. Moore. A Kentucky native, he has practiced tax and estate law and served as a major gift and planned giving director for over twenty years. After graduating from The University of the Cumberlands, he completed a J.D. at the University of Kentucky College of Law and a Masters in Tax Law from the College of William and Mary. His past work includes roles as general counsel and, later, Director of Major Gifts and Planned Giving for The University of the Cumberlands. Most recently, he was Director of Major Gifts and Planned Giving at the University of Kentucky, a position he held until August 2015.

About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is a global campaign to eliminate cataract blindness, the leading cause of blindness worldwide. To address this public health crisis, HelpMeSee has developed a virtual reality MSICS surgical simulator to train cataract specialists, a smartphone-based app to facilitate patient outreach, and a pre-sterilized surgical kit to deliver safe care in remote areas. To date, the campaign has delivered over 200,000 surgeries to patients in India, Nepal, China, Peru, Vietnam, Togo, Sierra Leone and Madagascar.



October 9, 2015 - In 1986, with only one ophthalmologist to deal with a cataract burden of 5,500 blind persons, the West African country of The Gambia established a National Eye Care Programme and embarked on the training of middle-level manpower for the control of cataract blindness. Today, with an indigenous team of one ophthalmologist and 17 non-physician cataract surgeons, the country performs an average of 3,300 cataract surgeries per year. However, with a population growing from 0.7 million in 1986 to 2.0 million in 2015, the country still has a cataract blindness backlog of over 2,500. An estimated 15% of the population - close to 300,000 people - are affected by severe visual impairment. In recognition of the achievements of HelpMeSee in its short period of existence, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare is collaborating with the organization in the "Campaign to Eliminate Cataract Blindness in The Gambia by 2018" so as to permanently end the scourge of cataract blindness in the country.

"We have great lessons to learn from our experience in The Gambia and have a strategy to reach every blind and visually impaired person in the country. There is no reason for tens of millions worldwide to lack access to the basic surgical care they need because there are not enough trained providers," said Jacob Mohan Thazhathu, President & CEO of HelpMeSee. "HelpMeSee’s campaign in The Gambia and worldwide emphasizes training as the foundation of a sustainable solution to this public health challenge."

On Monday, October 5th, HelpMeSee and its local partners at Sheikh Zayed Regional Eye Care Center in The Gambia held a launch event at the hospital that included nearly 150 people from the local medical community, government, and public health organizations. The Honorable Omar Sey, The Gambia’s Minister of Health and Social Welfare, attended as a special guest and formally launched the joint campaign with HelpMeSee.

"The goal is to improve the quality of life of The Gambia’s population while reducing the burden of blindness, and its specific objective is to achieve comprehensive and high-quality eye care services which are accessible and affordable to all Gambians, in line with the goals of Vision 2020," the Minister said in an address during the campaign launch. "It is that background that motivated me to sign the MoU with HelpMeSee without any reservations."

Cataracts remain the leading cause of blindness worldwide and are estimated to cause as much as 62% of blindness in The Gambia, which has already made major progress against other forms of preventable blindness. HelpMeSee’s campaign in the country aims to eliminate the cataract surgical backlog by 2018 and ensure that no one remains blind from cataract because they lack access to care.

HelpMeSee brings two of its key technologies to its partnership in The Gambia, including the HelpMeSee Reach App for population-based patient services, including screening and follow up, and a pre-sterilized surgical kit for Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery. Local healthcare professionals who started using the app report significant improvements in the patient screening process and expect to be able to identify patients much faster than before. The pre-sterilized surgical kit, which integrates with HelpMeSee’s surgical reporting system, will help to improve quality assurance and lower infection rates.

HelpMeSee has also developed a cataract surgical simulator and courseware designed to provide state of the art virtual reality surgical training. These systems will provide a safe, standardized, and comprehensive learning system to train thousands of cataract specialists in the areas of greatest need throughout the developing world.

About World Sight Day

World Sight Day is an international day of awareness "to focus global attention on blindness and vision impairment." This year’s theme was Eye Care For All to promote equal access to eye care services.In 2015, World Sight Day was Thursday, October 8th.

About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is a global campaign to end cataract blindness, the leading cause of blindness worldwide. HelpMeSee intends to make the sight-restoring surgery available to millions of poor through financial support and scaling training to the necessary number of MSICS specialists recruited from within their communities. HelpMeSee is pioneering a virtual reality surgical simulator and training program to be implemented worldwide, adapted from extensive experience in simulator-based aviation training. Since 2012, the campaign has supported over 209,000 surgeries through 240 partnerships across India, Nepal, China, Vietnam, Madagascar, Togo, Sierra Leone, Peru and The Gambia.

October 6, 2015 - Moog Industrial Group, a division of Moog Inc. (NYSE: MOG.A and MOG.B), and its partner HelpMeSee, a global campaign to end cataract blindness, will provide multiple demonstrations of a first-of-its-kind cataract surgery simulator in Beijing for representatives from the Chinese Ministry of Science & Technology, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) as part of the Grand Challenges annual meeting. Grand Challenges is a group of initiatives led by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Grand Challenges Canada to promote the use of technology to help the world’s poor and solve pressing global health issues. Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide, despite the fact that a treatment exists. The HelpMeSee Eye Surgery Simulator is part of a global initiative to train the specialists needed to provide this essential surgical care.

After representatives from HelpMeSee and Moog demonstrate how cataract specialists can use the state-of-the-art prototype simulator and courseware to train for Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS), attendees will have an opportunity to try the system. The MSICS simulator can provide trainees with a realistic environment to practice and achieve proficiency in any number of scenarios and will ultimately include more than 249 training tasks and complications that cataract specialists could face during live surgery. Using advanced physics-based virtual tissue models, the simulator produces high fidelity haptic feedback for surgeons and trainees using the system. This level of sensitivity is essential to allow the MSICS trainee to develop the correct psychomotor skills for performing surgery safely. Use of a simulation system also removes the risks and costs associated with practicing on live patients and ensures that trainees begin live surgeries at a level of maximum proficiency.

HelpMeSee selected Moog based on the manufacturer’s haptic technology and high-performance motion control expertise, as well as the historic relationship between Moog and FlightSafety International to produce Level D flight simulators for aviation training. Moog created the virtual environment in which the cataract specialists will develop mastery of MSICS and worked with its partners, SenseGraphics and InSimo, to develop the advanced graphics and physics-based models behind the system.

The locations and dates for the demonstrations of the simulator are:

  • The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) - October 14, 2015
    Beijing Marriott Hotel City Wall
    7 Jian Guo Men South Ave., Dongcheng District, Beijing, 100005, China

  • HelpMeSee Eye Surgery Simulator Demonstration - October 15, 2015
    The Westin Beijing Chaoyang Hotel
    7 North Dongsanhuan Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing, 100027, China

  • The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Grand Challenges Annual Meeting - October 20, 2015
    Kerry Hotel Beijing
    No 1 Guanghua Rd., Beijing, 100020, China
After the demonstrations in Beijing, HelpMeSee and Moog expect to have the final version of the Eye Surgery Simulator ready to deploy worldwide in 2016.

HelpMeSee-and-Moog-demonstrate

The HelpMeSee Eye Surgery Simulator makes use of haptics technology from Moog Inc. to train cataract specialists to proficiency in Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS).



About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is a global campaign to end cataract blindness, the leading cause of blindness worldwide. HelpMeSee intends to make the sight-restoring surgery available to millions of poor through financial support and scaling training to the necessary number of MSICS specialists recruited from within their communities. HelpMeSee is pioneering a virtual reality surgical simulator and training program to be implemented worldwide, adapted from extensive experience in simulator-based aviation training. Since 2012, the campaign has supported over 208,000 surgeries through 240 partnerships across India, Nepal, China, Vietnam, Madagascar, Togo, Sierra Leone and Peru.

About Moog

Moog Inc. is a worldwide designer, manufacturer and integrator of precision control components and systems. Moog Industrial Group designs and manufactures high performance motion control products, solutions and services combining electric, hydraulic, and hybrid technologies with expert consultative support in a range of applications in energy, industrial machinery, and simulation and test markets. Moog Industrial Group, with fiscal year 2014 sales of USD 591 million and over 40 locations worldwide, is part of Moog Inc. (NYSE:MOG.A and MOG.B) which has sales of USD 2.65 billion.

 

December 9, 2015 - HelpMeSee, the global campaign to end cataract blindness, presented its breakthrough eye care technologies at the first-ever World Conference on MSICS this weekend in Pune, India. The conference, held from December 4th - 6th, brought together nearly 1,000 cataract surgeons from around the world who practice Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS).

The Conference was held with the 8th Annual Conference of the International Society of Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgeons, an organization that "aims to improve outcomes of cataract surgery" and "provide better vision to more patients at an affordable cost."

Cataract blindness is the leading cause of blindness globally and in South Asia, where the MSICS procedure first found widespread use. The procedure offers a high-quality and highly cost-effective method for treating cataract visual impairment and cataract blindness.

"Virtual tissue surgical training marries the genius of medicine and the methodology of aviation." said Matthew Walden, Clinical Research Coordinator at HelpMeSee. "This HelpMeSee innovation has altered and permanently changed the trajectory of hands-on human learning."

HelpMeSee’s technology includes a focus on simulation-based learning to train the tens of thousands of specialists needed to provide cataract surgery in the developing world. Developed in partnership with Moog, Symphony Teleca, SenseGraphics and InSimo, the HelpMeSee Eye Simulator provides unprecedented haptic feedback and uses advanced physics- based modeling to simulate the effects of live surgery.

"Large scale training of cataract surgeons is the only way forward if we hope to tackle cataract blindness," added Hina Patel, HelpMeSee’s Business Intelligence and Quality Assurance Lead. "HelpMeSee’s simulation-based training program opens a new avenue to deliver this effectively and without harming any patients."

Visiting surgeons at the conference shared the enthusiasm of the HelpMeSee team. "If you have simulation, then the problem of an untrained guy doing surgery on a patient is totally removed," said Dr. Ranjeet H Maniar, an ophthalmologist from Mumbai, India.

"My feeling is that MSICS is the only technique with the help of which you can reduce cataract blindness globally," added Dr. Bidya Prasad Pant, a senior surgeon at Geta Eye Hospital in Nepal.

In addition to the training system, HelpMeSee team members introduced surgeons to the HelpMeSee Reach smartphone app for patient mobilization, the pre-sterilized surgical kit for MSICS and HelpMeSee’s cloud-based surgical reporting systems. The app allows community outreach workers to transmit essential screening data to hospitals directly from the field, saving significant time and letting them screen much larger areas. HelpMeSee’s surgical kit provides a pre-sterilized solution for the MSICS procedure and with a new kit per patient reduces the risk of infection. Together, they provide the solutions needed to deliver sustainable cataract surgery worldwide.

About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is a global campaign to end cataract blindness, the leading cause of blindness worldwide. HelpMeSee intends to make the sight-restoring surgery available to millions of poor through financial support and by scaling training to the necessary number of MSICS specialists recruited from within their communities. HelpMeSee is pioneering a virtual reality surgical simulator and training program to be implemented worldwide, adapted from extensive experience in simulator-based aviation training. Since 2012, the campaign has supported over 222,000 surgeries through 242 partnerships across India, Nepal, China, Vietnam, Madagascar, Togo, Sierra Leone, Peru and The Gambia.



December 23, 2015 - It is with deepest regrets that HelpMeSee announces the death of Dr. Jatin B. Shah, our Chief Medical Officer, Asia.

In a statement, HelpMeSee President and CEO, Jacob Mohan Thazhathu said that, "The passing of Dr. Jatin Shah as a friend and colleague is a great loss to me personally and to the entire HelpMeSee team. Dr. Shah was a frequent public health advocate providing sight-saving surgery to patients in Southeast Asia and Eastern Africa. He was integral to the development of HelpMeSee’s surgical training system and our campaigns in Nepal, Indonesia and Kenya."

Dr. Shah’s philanthropic commitments extended to work with the Lions Clubs International, Vision2020 India and the Ministries of Health and Labor for the Government of India.

Dr. Shah was born on November 4th, 1954 in Mumbai. He attended Topiwala National Medical College and B.Y.L. Nair CH. Hospital graduating with a Diploma in Ophthalmic Medicine and Surgery degree in 1983, followed by a Masters of Surgery degree in 1984. His professional expertise was on anterior segment surgery, cataract, glaucoma, oculoplastic surgery, medical retina as well as pediatric squints and amblyopia.

At the time of his death Dr. Shah held professional consulting positions at the H.J. Doshi Hindu Sabha Hospital, Lions Eye Hospital - Sion, Saifee Hospital, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Motiben Dalvi Hospital and the Conwest Jain Clinic, all located in Mumbai, India.

Dr. Shah was predeceased by two brothers and one sister, leaving behind one remaining brother and three sisters.

HelpMeSee would like to extend their deepest condolences to Dr. Shah’s family, friends and colleagues.

About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is a global campaign to end cataract blindness, the leading cause of blindness worldwide. HelpMeSee intends to make the sight-restoring surgery available to millions of poor through financial support and by scaling training to the necessary number of MSICS specialists recruited from within their communities. HelpMeSee is pioneering a virtual reality surgical simulator and training program to be implemented worldwide, adapted from extensive experience in simulator-based aviation training. Since 2012, the campaign has supported over 222,000 surgeries through 242 partnerships across India, Nepal, China, Vietnam, Madagascar, Togo, Sierra Leone, Peru and The Gambia.



It has been another landmark year for HelpMeSee, so we wanted to take a look back at all that we accomplished in 2015.

Just as we’ve done ever since we started, this year HelpMeSee continued to support thousands of MSICS procedures, reaching the milestone of 200,000+ cataracts surgeries (and counting). We launched campaigns in two more countries in 2015 – Madagascar and the Gambia – bringing our mission to nine countries in total, and laid the groundwork for many more campaigns in the year ahead. HelpMeSee launched its smartphone app and held the first public demonstrations of the HelpMeSee eye simulator for surgical training, which along with our surgical kit form the basis of our comprehensive solution to cataract blindness.

In between all of these events, we found time to share the stories of our doctors and their patients, so that others can better understand the impact of restoring vision can have not just on personal and family lives, but on training professionals and empowering communities around the world.

Here is another look back at all of our progress and stories in 2015:

January 2015

Moog Simulator photo

March 2015Amsterdam office

April 2015

HelpMeSee Reach App

May 2015

 

  • HelpMeSee earns 5 nominations during the Hermes Awards, given out to innovative advertising and marketing campaigns.  VP of Development Matt Kupec accepted on HelpMeSee's behalf for two award winning entries, including HelpMeSee's video used to raise awareness about cataract blindness.

June 2015

IAPB website

July 2015

  • HelpMeSee receives Special Consultative Status as an official NGO at the United Nations, granted by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) at its Coordination and Management meeting in July 2015.

August 2015

Florentine and Madagascar

  • Campaign launch: HelpMeSee rolls-out a new campaign in Madagascar, the island nation off the east coast of Africa. - Milestone: HelpMeSee completes its 200,000th cataract surgery.  The milestone MSICS procedure was performed in Madagascar, on a patient named Florentine (read her story)
  • HelpMeSee wins 11 Stevie awards, in recognition of everything from videos to brochures to social media, and of course winning the Silver Awards for Company of the Year in the Non-Profit category.

September 2015

  • HelpMeSee received two Health & Wellness Design Awards from Graphic Design USA. The awards recognized the creative design work behind our 2014 Annual Report, as well as a forthcoming coffee table book about cataracts.

October 2015

Simulator in China

  • Country launch: HelpMeSee announces it's newest campaign in the Gambia, announced in celebration of World Sight Day in 2015.

November 2015

Global Citizen blog post

December 2015

Pune conference

What's next in 2016?

As you can see, thanks to the continued support of our partners and the generosity of our donors, HelpMeSee achieved great progress towards elimination cataracts blindness during 2015.  Here's looking forward to achieving much more in the new year!

New Years 2016

Can-Virtual-Reality-Be-the-Next-Thing-in-Curing-Blindness-thumbnail.png 

What affects 20 million people, robs the global economy of billions of dollars and can be fixed with a five-minute procedure?

The answer is cataract blindness. The disease, which begins with clouding of the eyes and can lead to loss of vision without treatment, will probably afflict 12 million more people by 2020, as a shortage of skilled doctors limits access to care in developing nations, according to the Rand Corporation.

Jim Ueltschi wants to change all that. Through HelpMeSee, a non-profit organization committed to fighting cataract blindness, he wants to train 30,000 people for a procedure to remove the impairment using a virtual-reality simulator that replicates the human eye and feel of live surgery.


Read the full article here: Can Virtual Reality Be the Next Thing in Curing Blindness?

Young people are incredible.

In 1996 Alex Scott was diagnosed with cancer when she was only a year old. At the age of four she started a lemonade stand to raise money for other children who had cancer. By the time she passed away at the age of eight, Alex had raised over $1 million. Ishika Khanna Ishika Khanna New Yorker Divine Bradley started a community center to provide positive opportunities for teens in his Canarsie, Brooklyn neighborhood where few existed. Canadian, Ryan Hreljac was shocked to learn how far children in Africa had to walk to fetch water. Through chores and public speaking events, he started a foundation that has brought fresh water to nearly 1 million people.

While these sound like large and wonderful accomplishments they all started with a single step from a young person.

Ishkia-Smaller.jpg

HelpMeSee has our own student ambassador changing the world – Ishika Khanna, an eleventh grader from New Jersey. Ishika is an avid reader and at the time I spoke with her she was tackling Shakespeare’s MacBeth. She learned about cataract blindness on trip to India. Before this Ishika really didn’t know that much about this condition. Friends and family had undergone cataract treatment and they were cured. After that, it was as if the cataract had never existed.

When in India, Ishika noticed a person who doesn’t have enough money to treat their cataracts usually becomes blind. Because they couldn’t see, they couldn’t work, weren’t able to support themselves and sometimes even died – an astonishing realization for someone used to seeing cataracts treated as a routine procedure here in the United States.

That is why she decided to become involved in HelpMeSee’s Student Ambassador program.

Ishika’s mom adds that she was shocked to find out that “cataracts is not just a disease that comes with aging. Children are born with cataracts. Eliminating cataracts isn’t always about helping an older person, but allowing children with cataracts to continue on with their education.”

What’s even more incredible is the way Ishika is bringing awareness of cataract blindness to her friends, family and classmates through a Dine in the Dark event she will be holding on January 31st. What is this going to be like? Ishika and her fellow diners will be eating while blindfold to learn how a visually impaired person experiences this normally routine task. “Everyone eats with their eyes,” adds Ishika, “but what would it be like not to have that sense?” This is not Ishika’s first venture in helping others.

In addition to working with HelpMeSee Ishika has raised money for other charities by giving henna tattoos and helping out at her local food pantry. Like Alex, Ryan and Divine, Ishika started early. She donated her hair for cancer patients at the age of six.

Ishika is amazing! What does she do for fun? She and her turtle, a red-eared slider, listen to Hindi music together.

Stay tuned for our follow-up blog post where Ishika shares some pictures and stories from her dinner. Would you like to be an ambassador for HelpMeSee? Learn more and submit your application through our website or send us an email at ambassadors@helpmesee.org.

HelpMeSee and our partner Shri Sadguru Seva Sangh Trust recently announced new Cataract Backlog Free Communities in the Banda, Hamirpur, Panna and Satna Districts of India with another in line for the Mahoba District. The achievement of these incredible milestones creates the perfect opportunity to explain the meaning of a Cataract Backlog Free Community and a Reduction in Cataract Blindness.

To begin this we need to establish some basics: 

How many people are actually blind due to cataracts?
The number of people who are legally blind due to cataracts as concluded by the World Health Organization is 20 million. This number is an estimate as no one could count the actual number of people. There is difficulty enough in finding these people for treatment let alone counting them. Using surveys and statistics WHO was able come up with this number.1

What does “legally blind” mean?
Vision and vision loss can occur various stages. Visually impaired means that “a person’s eyesight cannot be corrected to a normal level.” Legally blind is a standard at which someone with vision problems could be considered disabled.

In the U.S. a person is legally blind if they have a visual acuity of 20/200 or less with the best use of vision correction in the better eye. 20/200 means someone would have to be standing within 20 feet of an object to see it as clearly as someone with perfect vision could see it at 200 feet.

Twenty million seems like a very large number. Is it an achievable goal?
Three hundred million people died of smallpox in the 20th century.2 If we can tackle epidemics like smallpox, then eliminating blindness due to cataracts in 20 million people should be easy, right? As people are cured of an infectious disease, barring an outbreak, the likelihood that someone in the future contracts that disease is smaller. There are fewer opportunities to spread the infection.

With cataracts, the number of people treated doesn’t affect the development of new cases. The global population is aging and exposure to UV radiation is more likely, placing a larger percentage of people at risk for cataracts. If this were a waiting list the rate at which people are joining is actually increasing.

How do we handle this growing number of cataract patients and what is CSR?
While the WHO calculated that 20 million people are blind due to cataract, this number itself is around 20 years old. There are more cases occurring every day. Luckily many people are being treated and making their way to the end of these waiting lists.

The public health community wanted to come up with a figure to determine that rate at which people are being treated. Since countries vary in size, economic stability and access to healthcare Cataract Surgical Rate (CSR) their solution, is an equality yardstick measuring how countries are addressing the problem of cataract blindness. Cataract Surgical Rate is the number of cataract treatments performed per year for every 1 million people within a specific geographic area. The CSR in places like India, Africa, and Latin America is lower, so cataract patients on those waiting lists are growing faster than they can be treated creating a backlog.

For example, here are a few of the cataract surgical rates for countries around the world:  Cataract Surgical Rate chart

Can we ever completely eliminate cataract blindness?
 If we ramp up the Cataract Surgical Rate to treat more people and catch up to the point where we only have brand new cases, we have created a Cataract Backlog Free Community. Our waiting list is cleared and it’s time to go home.

But not so fast... 
Cataracts aren’t going away soon and even increasing - we may have cleared our waiting list but the front door is open and people are still coming in… at an accelerated pace. The scientific community, where accuracy is of the utmost importance, would say that we never fully eliminated the backlog. There will always be a few people waiting but in smaller numbers. We’ve created what they call a Reduction in Cataract Blindness. There were X percentage of people who had cataracts and now it has drastically been reduced to Y.

A Reduction in Cataract Blindness is great and accurate, but those focused on fundraising and marketing would rather say that we eliminated the backlog. It sounds better if the problem has gone away completely rather than only being improved. Until there is a way to prevent cataracts there will always some people in need of treatment and backlogs, but drastically smaller ones.

Infographic explaining the process through which the backlog of patients awaiting treatment can be reduced.

Mission Accomplished!
We must still take pride in our accomplishments and our Cataract Backlog Free Communities are a reflection of this. A Cataract Backlog Free Communities is sensational – A Reduction in Cataract Blindness… amazing. Both of these are laudable milestones and now we understand what they actually mean.

Do you have a question about Cataract Backlog Free Communities or a Reduction in Cataract Blindness? Please check our FAQs page for more information.

References:
1 http://www.who.int/whr/1998/en/whr98_en.pdf
2 http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/empire_seapower/smallpox_01.shtml

February 12, 2016 - HelpMeSee and the Lions Health Foundation Alibag, India have launched a partnership to end cataract blindness, the leading cause of vision loss in India’s second most populous state, Maharashtra. The partnership focuses on training in Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS) and the use of surgical quality assurance systems. Lions Health Foundation Alibag has begun planning construction for a new hospital in Raigad District, the initial focus area for the joint campaign.

Lions Health Foundation Alibag

Lions Health Foundation Alibag announcing the launch of partnership with HelpMeSee.

Five Lions Clubs have joined together in Alibag to eliminate cataract blindness in Raigad District, Maharashtra. To this end, the Lions Clubs of Alibag, Alibag-Poynad, Alibag-Mandva, Alibag-Revdanda and Lions Club Chembur Diamonds have united to form a new body - Lions Health Foundation Alibag.

At the launch of the partnership between HelpMeSee and Lions Health Foundation Alibag, HelpMeSee President & CEO Jacob Mohan Thazhathu said, "HelpMeSee is committed to excellence in training of cataract surgeons and with simulation technology. This will ensure outstanding quality of surgical care and patient services to everyone. In this 21st century we owe it to every blind and visually impaired person to actively pursue the goal of ending cataract blindness."

Lion Nitin Adhikari, Vice-Chairman, Lions Health Foundation Alibag made a pledge of $50,000 to eliminate cataract blindness in the Raigad District. Thanking Lion Adhikari, Mr. Thazhathu, applauded the commitment of Lions Health Foundations efforts in Alibag for a locally sustainable campaign.

Cataracts cause nearly two-thirds of all blindness in India, where over five million are estimated to be blind. According to Nitin Gadkari, India’s Road Transport and Highways Minister, cataracts account for more road accidents than alcohol.

HelpMeSee brings two of its key technologies to the partnership in Raigad, including the HelpMeSee Reach App for population-based patient services, and a pre-sterilized, single use, disposable surgical kit for Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS).

"Our problem today is cataract," said Ashok Mehta, former President of the International Association of Lions Clubs. "We’ve been working for the past 25 years, but we have not been able to solve the problem. I am sure with the help of HelpMeSee we’ll be able to see the light of day and bring vision to thousands of people who are needy and deserving."

Co-coordinating efforts, Lion Venkataraman Subramanian of Lions Club Chembur Diamonds said,"The campaign which we have initiated now between Lions Health Foundation Alibag and HelpMeSee is unique in every sense. It is a partnership between two international organizations that believe in removing unnecessary blindness. We will ensure that the surgery done is of international standards ? for all patients whether rich or poor, belonging to any caste or creed. This is just the tip of the iceberg. We have to eliminate blindness from all the districts."

About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is a global campaign to end cataract blindness, the leading cause of blindness worldwide. HelpMeSee intends to make the sight-restoring surgery available to millions of poor within their communities by training tens of thousands (mostly women) to perform high quality, high volume MSICS surgery throughout the developing world. HelpMeSee is pioneering a virtual reality surgical simulator and training program to be implemented worldwide, adapted from extensive experience in simulator-based aviation training. Since 2012, the campaign has supported over 237,000 surgeries through 242 partnerships across India, Nepal, China, Vietnam, Madagascar, Togo, Sierra Leone, Peru and The Gambia.



About Lions Clubs International & Lions Health Foundation Alibag

Lions Clubs International is the largest service club organization in the world with over 1.4 million members in more than 46,000 clubs serving communities in more than 210 countries and geographical areas worldwide. Since 1917, Lions clubs have aided the blind and visually impaired, championed youth initiatives and strengthened local communities through hands-on service and humanitarian projects. Five Lions Clubs in Greater Mumbai joined together to form the Lions Health Foundation Alibag.

HMS-Lions-Logo

 

 



USAID combined logo

March 2, 2016 - In partnership with Instituto Damos Vision (IDV) and with support from USAID’s Child Blindness Program, HelpMeSee is launching a comprehensive effort to identify and eliminate cases of pediatric cataract blindness in Peru. Over half of all blindness in Peru results from cataracts, mostly because of a shortage of necessary care. The joint project between HelpMeSee, IDV and USAID will expand both screening and care for children affected by cataract blindness.

"We are proud to be part of USAID’s Child Blindness Program, especially in Peru where thousands remain needlessly blind from this condition," said Dr. Van Charles Lansingh, HelpMeSee’s Medical Officer for Latin America. "Through the remarkable work of our partners at El Instituto Damos Vision we will be able to address one of Peru’s most critical health issues."

Outreach and screening technologies developed by HelpMeSee will be used for the first time in Peru to assist community health agents and facilitate access to care. These include HelpMeSee Reach, a smartphone app that includes a Global Positioning and Patient Information System and integrates with Google’s Android platform to improve health evaluation and screening. Dozens of community health agents and volunteers in the region of IDV will be trained in this technology and work on the ground to identify patients in need.

"USAID’s Child Blindness Program (usaid.gov/childblindness) is excited to provide support to HelpMeSee and their innovative and far reaching work in Peru," said Liliana Riva, Program Manager of the USAID Child Blindness Program. "Our grant process is highly competitive with each project fully vetted for organizational competency and project effectiveness. We are thrilled HelpMeSee is joining us as a key collaborator in our global efforts to reduce avoidable blindness in children and vulnerable populations."

Though many countries in Latin America, including Peru, have increased their access to eye care in recent years, resources in many lower income areas remain low. The pilot will be led on the ground by staff members from HelpMeSee and IDV near Peru’s capital of Lima. Data gathered by the pilot project will allow local medical staff to measure the backlog of those who need surgery and ensure that they receive timely attention and follow-up care. It will also be used to develop a national database of pediatric blindness cases.

Through funding from the Child Blindness Program at USAID, this program is made possible with the generous support of the American people.

About USAID & the Child Blindness Program (CBP)

Through quality, innovative programs, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is preventing and treating blindness, restoring sight and providing eyeglasses to thousands of people in the poorest communities of the world. CBP features prominently in USAID’s approach to eliminate blindness worldwide. Funding under this program originated through a congressional directive in 1991. Since then, the generous support of the American people has made it possible to deliver eye care to over three million children.

About Instituto Damos Vision

El Instituto Damos Vision (IDV) is a private non-profit organization that focuses its efforts on children up to 14 years old from the poorest and most vulnerable sectors of Peru. Educating for prevention is the main policy of the Institute, since in most cases, blindness or visual impairment in Peru occurs from perfectly preventable causes. IDF has a multidisciplinary team that combines strategies in ophthalmology, medical education, media fields, and management in order to motivate people to cultivate practices and attitudes to preserve their visual health.

About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is a global campaign to end cataract blindness, the leading cause of blindness worldwide. HelpMeSee intends to make the sight-restoring surgery available to millions of poor through scaling training to the necessary number of MSICS specialists recruited from within their communities and financial support. HelpMeSee is pioneering a virtual reality surgical simulator and training program to be implemented worldwide, adapted from extensive experience in simulator-based aviation training. Since 2012, the campaign has supported over 241,000 surgeries through 242 partnerships across India, Nepal, China, Vietnam, Madagascar, Togo, Sierra Leone, Peru and The Gambia.

March 21, 2016 - HelpMeSee, the global campaign to end cataract blindness, announces the appointment of Gerry McRae as Chief Operating Officer. A veteran of the aviation industry, Gerry served most recently as Executive Director of Business Development at FlightSafety International, the world’s foremost aviation training company and the leading provider of simulation-based training for pilots.

"Gerry’s experience in simulation-based training and business development in aviation is fundamental to the success of HelpMeSee as a sustainable effort to train highly proficient cataract surgeons worldwide," said Jacob Mohan Thazhathu, President & CEO of HelpMeSee.

"Gerry is a terrific addition to the senior management of HelpMeSee,” added James Tyler Ueltschi, HelpMeSee’s Co-Founder & Chairman. “His extensive experience and knowledge in both training and business development is exactly what we need to accomplish our goal of training tens of thousands of specialists to end cataract blindness in the developing world."

In his twenty years at FlightSafety International, Gerry worked extensively with simulation-based training systems and led initiatives across the Middle East, South America, India and China. His previous roles at FlightSafety included Director of Project Management and Planning, Center Manager for the Toronto Learning Center and Deputy Head of Training. He holds a Master’s degree from Lancaster University in Engineering Project Management and a Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering from Ryerson University.

As COO, Gerry’s responsibilities will extend across HelpMeSee’s strategic and tactical initiatives in training, simulation technology and business development. He will work closely with the Chief Executive Officer, the executive leadership and the Board. Based in North America, he will be working extensively with HelpMeSee’s offices and partners in India, China, Europe, Africa and the Americas.

About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is the global campaign to end cataract blindness, the leading cause of blindness worldwide. The campaign has developed a virtual reality surgical simulator and training program to be implemented worldwide, adapted from extensive experience in simulator-based aviation training. Live testing of the training program began in early 2016.

Through this technology, HelpMeSee intends to dramatically scale training of cataract surgeons in developing countries to increase access to sight-restoring care for tens of millions of people who remain needlessly blind. Since 2012, the campaign has supported over 244,000 surgeries through 242 partnerships across India, Nepal, China, Vietnam, Madagascar, Togo, Sierra Leone, Peru and The Gambia.



Madagascar-joint-release

March 17, 2016 - A new agreement between the Malagasy Ministry of Health, HelpMeSee, and Lions Sight First Madagascar (LSFM) will expand access to quality cataract surgical care dramatically in Madagascar. The agreement follows a successful pilot in 2015 and extensive preparations for a nation-wide health campaign.

At a press conference led by Madagascar’s Ministry of Health, Dr. Hery Andriamanjato, the Ministry’s Director of Partnerships, confirmed that cataract surgery would be included in the government’s upcoming universal health care program.

"This is the partnership we need, especially at this moment," added Dr. Herlyne Ramihantaniarivo, Director General of Madagascar’s Ministry of Health.

Cataracts are the cause of 64% of blindness and 86% of severe visual impairment in Madagascar.

HMS CEO Mohan joined

HelpMeSee CEO Mohan Jacob Thazhathu joined by Madagascar health officials at a joint news conference.



"Over the past 19 years, Lions Sight First Madagascar, with support from Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) and in partnership with the Ministry of Health, supported over 68,000 cataract surgeries in forty-four hospitals and clinics all over the country. We also trained forty Malagasy surgeons as part of "Chirurgie Oculaire Essentielle" for essential eye care. Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS) is already performed with several of our partners, including Salfa Clinical Lutheran Church in Ambohibao, Antsirabe, Fianarantsoa and Sambava and public hospitals in Mahajanga and Tamatave. HelpMeSee’s support for training will significantly increase the number of surgeons across the country and improve access to Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS)," said Lion MJF Olivier Rabenjamina, President of Lions Sight First Madagascar. With the high demand for training of 150 to 180 qualified cataract surgeons, HelpMeSee will begin to accelerate the training of additional cataract surgeons in 2016.

Essential surgical care for cataracts remains inaccessible in much of the country in part because almost two-thirds of the population lives in rural areas. To address this need for expanded care, the tripartite agreement includes an emphasis on improving the skills of existing surgeons and training more to provide access to sight-restoring care in all districts of Madagascar.

"Right to sight should be fundamental in health care services and delivery to reach every Malagasy who needs cataract surgery, from Antsiranana in the north to Tulear and Fort Dauphin in the south," said Jacob Mohan Thazhathu, President & CEO of HelpMeSee. "I am inspired by the commitment of the Ministry of Health and Lions Sight First Madagascar to create a nationally sustainable solution through the universal health care plan."

At the official launch event in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, nine surgeons from HJRA, HelpMeSee’s first partner hospital in the country, received their certifications in Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS), part of a joint program between the University of Marseilles and the University of Antananarivo. Dr. Jean-marie André, HelpMeSee’s Medical Officer for Africa, led the training. HelpMeSee’s technologies for patient mobilization, surgical delivery and surgical quality assurance will all play a key role as the operations scale nationwide. These include HelpMeSee Reach, a smartphone app for patient screening and mobilization, HelpMeSee’s single-use, pre-sterilized MSICS kit, and cloud-based surgical quality assurance programs to monitor the outcomes of care.

Three local surgeon

Three local surgeon partners in Madagascar proudly display their new MSICS certifications at a graduation ceremony in Antananarivo.



HelpMeSee’s technologies for patient mobilization, surgical delivery and surgical quality assurance will all play a key role as the operations scale nationwide. These include HelpMeSee Reach, a smartphone app for patient screening and mobilization, HelpMeSee’s single-use, pre-sterilized MSICS kit and cloud-based surgical quality assurance programs to monitor the outcomes of care.

The first shipment of 903 pre-sterilized, single-use cataract surgical kits are already in use in Antananarivo with another 2,000 expected to follow soon to complement the partnership launch.

About Lions Sight First Madagascar

Lions Clubs International is the largest service club organization in the world with over 1.4 million members in more than 46,000 clubs serving communities in more than 210 countries and geographical areas worldwide. Since 1917, Lions Clubs have aided the blind and visually impaired, championed youth initiatives and strengthened local communities through hands-on service and humanitarian projects.

Lions Sight First Madagascar (LSFM) is a nonprofit national organization of 50 Lions and Leo Clubs members all over the country committed to improving access to eye care and developing comprehensive eye care services, including cataract screening and surgery, refraction and affordable glasses projects, screening and treatment of diabetic retinopathy and treatment of conjunctivitis. Since 1997 with support from Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) and in partnership with the Ministry of Health, their program to treat cataract blindness has brought sight to 68,318 people living in remote communities across Madagascar. 69,683 pairs of glasses have been delivered under refraction and affordable glasses project. With support from Lions Clubs International Foundation, LSFM will perform 11,500 cataract surgeries over the next 30 months.

About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is a global campaign to end cataract blindness, the leading cause of blindness worldwide. HelpMeSee intends to make the sight-restoring surgery available to millions of poor within their communities by training tens of thousands of specialists (mostly women) to perform high quality, high volume MSICS surgery throughout the developing world. HelpMeSee is pioneering a virtual reality surgical simulator and training program to be implemented worldwide, adapted from extensive experience in simulator-based aviation training. Since 2012, the campaign has supported over 243,000 surgeries through 242 partnerships across India, Nepal, China, Vietnam, Madagascar, Togo, Sierra Leone, Peru and The Gambia.

 



ClassyAwards_HMS

HelpMeSee has been named a finalist in the 2016 Classy Awards, an annual event to recognize 100 of "the most innovative nonprofits and social enterprises." This year’s finalists include organizations working across healthcare, education, employment and environmental issues. HelpMeSee was recognized specifically for its innovative approach to ending cataract blindness with an emphasis on surgical training.

Classy Awards Finalists are a prestigious group of nonprofits and social enterprises selected for their excellence in social innovation and ability to solve a social problem. This year, Classy had 1300 programs across all cause categories submit nominations, and the competition was at an all-time high. The application process was rigorous and intensive, and we were judged using stringent criteria that assesses an organization’s potential to solve a problem and innovative solution.

"The Classy Awards team spends a year extensively researching social innovations from around the world. We’ve been fortunate to discover some incredible organizations over the past few years, but this year’s pool of nominees is one of the strongest we’ve ever seen! We’re honored to play a role in convening leaders throughout the sector to recognize their efforts," said Pat Walsh, Co-Founder and CIO of Classy.org.

Final winners will be selected from the group of nominees and announced at the Classy Awards and Collaborative conference to be held June 14 - 16 in Boston. We hope to see you there!



April 15, 2016 - HelpMeSee is proud to announce the addition of Mark Cheung as Managing Director of our Hong Kong office. In this role, he will be responsible for fundraising efforts in Hong Kong and lead partnerships with foundations and corporations committed to ending cataract blindness in Asia and worldwide.

"Mark brings years of successful non-profit leadership to our team. His experience and energy will play a crucial role in our growth within Hong Kong and across East Asia," said Jacob Mohan Thazhathu, President & CEO of HelpMeSee.

Most recently, Mark was Resource Development Director of Habitat for Humanity Hong Kong, responsible for partnerships with corporations and philanthropists. Previously, Mark was Fundraising Director of Plan International Hong Kong, where he led collaborations with major foundations, corporations, banks and generous individuals to support Plan’s mission to help children in developing countries. Prior to Plan, Mark was the Fundraising Manager at Enlighten for Epilepsy, where he worked closely with the CEO to advance the NGO’s mission to serve families affected by epilepsy in Hong Kong.

"Cataract is an eye condition which can affect every one of us if not looked after and treated properly. Unfortunately, throughout the developing world, cataracts are untreated because of lack of access to trained specialists. Cataract blindness afflicts 20 million people in the developing world. I am excited to be part of the HelpMeSee global campaign team to train tens of thousands cataract specialists throughout the developing world to bring sight to the cataract blind and relief to their families," said Mark Cheung, Managing Director of HelpMeSee Hong Kong.

"I am determined to raise public awareness and funding to end blindness caused by cataract especially in Hong Kong, mainland China and throughout the Far East."

Mark will work closely with the entire international development team to build support for HelpMeSee’s campaign to end cataract blindness worldwide.

About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is the global campaign to end cataract blindness, the leading cause of blindness worldwide. HelpMeSee intends to make the sight-restoring surgery available to millions of poor through scaling training to the necessary number of MSICS specialists recruited from within their communities and financial support. HelpMeSee is pioneering a virtual reality surgical simulator and training program to be implemented worldwide, adapted from extensive experience in simulator-based aviation training. Since 2012, the campaign has supported over 241,000 surgeries through 242 partnerships across India, Nepal, China, Vietnam, Madagascar, Togo, Sierra Leone, Peru and The Gambia.



May 6, 2016 - HelpMeSee is pleased to announce its selection as one of two featured nonprofits for the speaker gift donation at the annual International Finance Corporation’s Global Private Equity Conference in association with EMPEA. The 2016 conference will be held during May 9 - 12th at The Ritz-Carlton in Washington, DC.

The World Health Organization (WHO) considers cataract surgery among the most cost-effective health interventions. Yet in spite of this fact and a proven and affordable surgical cure, an estimated 102 million people remain blind or disabled from untreated cataract. HelpMeSee is implementing a social-enterprise model to build local capacity within partner countries, increase training of medical professionals and expand access to sight-restoring eye care for underserved communities.

"HelpMeSee is privileged to be recognized by the Global Private Equity Conference as a social enterprise focused on solving the challenge of access and affordability of quality cataract surgery worldwide," said Jacob Mohan Thazhathu, HelpMeSee’s President and CEO. "HelpMeSee is focused on emerging markets and private equity capital is fundamental to the successful expansion of affordable eye care for all."

Robert van Zwieten, President and CEO of EMPEA, commented in response to the selection of the organization, "Economic empowerment for the 102 million fellow human beings in this world who are blind or disabled due to cataract starts by getting them the affordable cataract surgery pioneered by HelpMeSee. Just when the institutional investors who took part in EMPEA’s annual Global Limited Partner Survey highlighted health care as the most attractive sector in which to invest via emerging markets private equity in 2016, HelpMeSee fits the profile of a social enterprise showcasing how superior technological and process innovation and local capacity-building can bring affordable and high-quality eye care to underserved communities in our markets."

The conference is in its 18th year and convenes over 800 attendees representing over 60 countries. A donation was made on behalf of all the 100+ speaker faculty at the conference to both HelpMeSee and Ashoka, whose mission is to catalyze the world’s leading social entrepreneurs and ignite a generation of change makers to help sustain and support large-scale social change.

This year’s attendees include senior investment professionals and representatives from international finance institutions, endowments, public and pension funds, law firms and various government agencies. Akin Gump, Amethis Finance, Clearwater Capital Partners, Everstone, EY, Gulf Capital and Swicorp are all lead sponsors at this year’s event.

About EPMEA

EMPEA is the global industry association for private capital in emerging markets. We are an independent non-profit organization with over 300 member firms, comprising institutional investors, fund managers and industry advisors, who together manage more than US$1 trillion of assets and have offices in more than 100 countries across the globe. Our members share EMPEA’s belief that private capital is a highly suited investment strategy in emerging markets, delivering attractive long-term investment returns and promoting the sustainable growth of companies and economies. We support our members through global authoritative intelligence, conferences, networking, education and advocacy. For more information, visit www.empea.org.


About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is a non-profit social enterprise working to end the global health crisis of cataract blindness. Through a focus on surgical training and technology innovation, HelpMeSee is building a sustainable solution to the leading cause of blindness. Since 2012, HelpMeSee has supported nearly 250,000 sight-restoring procedures through partnerships across nine countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. For more information, visit www.helpmesee.org


Before: Untreated cataracts lead to severe visual impairment and blindness.
After: A 5 minute procedure can restore a patient’s sight.

By 2020, the number of blind people in India will be close to the population of Manhattan.  Almost 2/3rds of them will be blind from a condition that can be treated in 5 minutes at a cost of $50 — cataract.

“What affects 20 million people, robs the global economy of billions of dollars and can be fixed with a five-minute procedure? The answer is cataract blindness.”
Bloomberg logo

Article by Christine Harvey, published January 2016

Since 2012, HelpMeSee has supported almost 250,000 sight-restoring cataract procedures. The vast majority of these were in India, where the government cites cataract as the single largest cause of car accidents, even ahead of alcohol. Today, estimates for the number of Indians blind from untreated cataract begin at 5 million people.

Causes of Blindness in IndiaSource: National Programme for Control of Blindness, Government of India

Communities of Sight: Our First Five

On 26 January 2016, India celebrated her 67th Republic Day. On this occasion, government officials declared two districts — Banda and Hamirpur — in Uttar Pradesh ‘cataract backlog free,’ meaning that all patients affected by cataract blindness in that district received sight-restoring care. The effort required extensive outreach within the local areas by hundreds of health workers recruited from within their communities.

Sitarani post-surgerySitarani received cataract surgery in 2015 at HelpMeSee’s partner hospital in Chitrakoot, India. After surgery she was able to return to work in her local store.

In Banda, which has a population of 1.9 million people, our local partner hospital and surgeons conducted a total of 22,879 surgeries with the support of 942 female community workers. The effort began in June 2014.

In Hamirpur, home to almost 1.2 million people, our partners conducted a total of 11,871 sight-restoring procedures. 588 health workers — all women — led a yearlong effort to identify patients in need of cataract surgery and connect them to care.

HelpMeSee worked closely with local surgeons, community mobilizers, nurses and hospital staff — many based at our partner hospital Sadguru Netra Chikitsalaya in Chitrakoot, India. Medical teams used both the HelpMeSee Reach app for patient outreach and our cloud-based surgical reporting system to capture essential information on patient health and outcomes.

Using the HelpMeSee Reach appA community mobilizer interviews a patient with HelpMeSee’s Reach app near Chitrakoot, India.

With the success of Banda and Hamirpur, HelpMeSee and its partners reached a total of five total districts and established our first five Communities of Sight.

“These districts are among the first in India where all those affected by cataract blindness received care,” said Jacob Mohan Thazhathu, President and CEO of HelpMeSee. “They stand as an example for the rest of India and for countries worldwide that remain affected by this public health crisis.”
India map

Looking Ahead: New Partnerships

In February 2016, we launched the next phase of our partnerships to expand within India. HelpMeSee and the Lions Health Foundation Alibag, India launched a partnership to end cataract blindness in India’s second most populous state, Maharashtra. The partnership focuses on training in Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS) and the use of surgical quality assurance systems. Lions Health Foundation Alibag has begun planning construction for a new hospital in Raigad District, the initial focus area for the joint campaign to restore sight to thousands in the region.
“Our problem today is cataract,” said Ashok Mehta, former President of the International Association of Lions Clubs. “We’ve been working for the past 25 years, but we have not been able to solve the problem. I am sure with the help of HelpMeSee we’ll be able to see the light of day and bring vision to thousands of people who are needy and deserving.”

Lions Health Foundation Alibag event A leader of the Lions Health Foundation Alibag, based near Mumbai, India, speaks during the partnership launch with HelpMeSee in February 2016.

 


June 22, 2016 - HelpMeSee was chosen as a top 10 nonprofit and social enterprise at the 6th annual Classy Awards, in recognition of its innovative program to end cataract blindness through surgical training. The Classy Awards, which Classy presents in honor of “remarkable changemakers of our generation,” are the capstone event to the three-day Collaborative conference in Boston, which brings together social innovators such as charity: water, Heifer International and Microsoft Philanthropies.

Classy selected the 10 award recipients from among 1,300 nonprofit and social enterprise programs, which were evaluated through an extensive year-long research and vetting process. In April 2016 HelpMeSee’s program was nominated among 100 finalists for the Classy Award. Winners were selected by a 110-member honorary board of leaders and experts from academia, non-profit organizations, for-profit corporations, global NGOs and other industries.

Stage-Picture

On winning this award, HelpMeSee’s VP of Development and Marketing Matt Kupec commented that, "We’re honored to be selected among so many incredible programs who are equally committed to social good. This was an inspiring event, and we’d like to thank Classy for creating this platform to share our mission with other like-minded organizations."

winner-logo-blue

Pat Walsh, Co-Founder and CIO of Classy.org said about the awards, "The Classy Awards team spends a year extensively researching social innovations from around the world, and this year’s pool of nominees was one of the strongest we’ve ever seen.” Speaking about this year’s winning programs, Mr. Walsh added, “We’re excited to name HelpMeSee as one of this year’s winners, and to play a role in recognizing the organization’s efforts to end blindness. We were impressed by HelpMeSee’s track record of success and look forward to continuing to watch this program grow."

In just five years, HelpMeSee has supported nearly 250,000 life-changing cataract surgeries through partnerships working with 282 cataract surgeons across nine countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. This year, the organization will celebrate what would have been the 100th birthday of its co-founder Albert L Ueltschi, the late founder of FlightSafety.

Classy.org, the hosts of the Classy Awards, is an online platform dedicated to fundraising for individual campaigns and organizations. Previous winners of Classy Awards include Invisible Children, Action Against Hunger and the Trevor Project.

Group_picture

HelpMeSee team members pose with Classy Award (pictured left to right): Leticia John, Molly Biechele, Stefany Marranzini, and Matthew Hurst

About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is a non-profit social enterprise committed to ending the global crisis of cataract blindness, the leading cause of blindness worldwide. HelpMeSee intends to make sight-restoring surgery available to millions of poor within their communities by training tens of thousands surgeons, many women, to perform high quality, high volume Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS) surgery. Since 2012, the campaign has supported nearly 250,000 surgeries through partnerships across nine countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

About Classy

Classy is the world’s first social impact platform with the goal of helping organizations solve social problems more effectively and efficiently. Since launching in 2011, Classy has helped more than 2,500 social enterprises including Oxfam, World Food Program USA, and National Geographic to raise hundreds of millions of dollars. Classy also hosts the Collaborative and Classy Awards to recognize excellence in social innovation. Based in San Diego, CA, Classy employs a staff of over 180 people and was recently recognized by Fast Company as one of the world’s 10 Most Innovative Companies for Social Good. Classy is backed by investors including Mithril and Salesforce Ventures.

Simulation-Based Learning System developed by HARMAN Connected Services enables thousands of specialists to be trained in cataract surgery using HelpMeSee’s Eye Surgical Simulator

June 29, 2016 - HARMAN, the premier connected technologies company for the automotive, consumer and enterprise markets, announced today its role in developing an enterprise software solution for simulation-based training management with HelpMeSee, the global campaign to end cataract blindness. This Training Management System software is a critical component of the complete training system designed by HelpMeSee to support delivery of the standardized manual small incision cataract surgery (MSICS) training program, which will support the education of thousands of cataract specialists to perform vision-restoring cataract surgery.

"As the need for cataract surgeries continues to rise, it’s important that we partner with companies like HARMAN to develop technology to support our simulation-based program to train cataract specialists in high-quality, affordable surgeries," said Jacob Mohan Thazhathu, president and chief executive officer of HelpMeSee.

The surgery takes approximately five minutes to complete per eye. Though the procedure is relatively quick and low-cost, many people in the developing world suffering from cataract blindness do not have access to this sight-restoring surgery. This simulator-based training management system will help train the thousands of cataract specialists needed in order to make these surgeries available globally to more than 20 million people blinded by cataracts.

HelpMeSee has employed HARMAN’s software services to develop a simulation-based training management system for delivering standardized cataract surgery training. The system includes an application that allows development of a library of pre-configured training scenarios that are presented to trainee specialists. Using these scenarios, it is possible for trainees to learn, practice and become experts at performing surgical tasks and the MSICS procedure. It provides a wide range of training tools and features that includes:

  • Recording and monitoring surgical performance on the Eye Surgical Simulator
  • Reporting of cataract specialist’s proficiency level through each stage of training
  • Expediting the completion of surgical training in less than six months, significantly reducing the time required for acquiring surgical skills and qualifying for independent surgery
HelpMeSee plans to offer the training program at select training centers around the world, supporting the ability to deliver high-quality, high-volume cataract surgeries and successfully meeting the challenge of eliminating avoidable blindness due to cataracts around the world.

"As software services become a critical component of for many industries, from health care to communications to automotive, technology-savvy companies are increasingly turning to HARMAN for advanced and proven cloud, mobility and analytics solutions that enable stronger and more fulfilling experiences across connected enterprises, connected homes and connected cars,” said Sanjay Dhawan, president, HARMAN Connected Services. “We are extremely proud to play a role in HelpMeSee’s incredible mission to train more cataract specialists, and ultimately improve the lives of their patients around the world."

 

About HARMAN

Harman LogoHARMAN (harman.com) designs and engineers connected products and solutions for automakers, consumers, and enterprises worldwide, including connected car systems, audio and visual products, enterprise automation solutions; and connected services. With leading brands including AKG®, Harman Kardon®, Infinity®, JBL®, Lexicon®, Mark Levinson® and Revel®, HARMAN is admired by audiophiles, musicians and the entertainment venues where they perform around the world. More than 25 million automobiles on the road today are equipped with HARMAN audio and connected car systems. The Company’s software services power billions of mobile devices and systems that are connected, integrated and secure across all platforms, from work and home to car and mobile. HARMAN has a workforce of approximately 29,000 people across the Americas, Europe, and Asia and reported sales of $6.7 billion during the 12 months ended March 31, 2016. The Company’s shares are traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol NYSE:HAR.

About HelpMeSee

HMS logoHelpMeSee (helpmesee.org) is a global campaign to end cataract blindness the leading cause of blindness worldwide. HelpMeSee is developing advanced simulation based training to meet the increasing demands for cataract surgeries worldwide. To support this, HelpMeSee is pioneering a virtual reality surgical simulator and training program adapted from extensive experience in simulator based aviation training. Since 2012, the campaign has supported over 248,000 surgeries through 242 partner surgeons across India, Nepal, China, Vietnam, Madagascar, Togo, Sierra Leone, Peru and The Gambia. HelpMeSee is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and was recognized among the top 10 most innovative social enterprises as a winner of the 2016 Classy Awards.

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, June is the first month of summer. It’s a time we focus on gardens, the beach and time away from work or school. When thinking of the sun most of us want to protect our skin, but UV rays can also impact your risk for cataracts. Spreading awareness of information like this is one of the reasons why June is designated as Cataract Awareness Month.

In recognition of this month we hosted an online chat where many of our social media subscribers and webs visitors were able to submit questions that were answered by our Chief Instructor, Dr. Daniel Hutter. To begin, let’s start off with some general facts about cataracts:

  • 3 MILLION cataract surgeries are performed every year in the United States.1
  • Cataracts affect nearly 22 MILLION Americans age 40 and older.2
  • By age 80, more than HALF of all Americans will have cataracts.3
  • Globally, 20 million people are BLIND because of cataracts.4
  • Cataracts are the LEADING cause of vision loss worldwide.5

Screening for cataracts
Community health workers in Lima, Peru learn how to screen for cataracts.

Now for some of the answers provided by Dr. Hutter:

  • For someone who is visually impaired due or blind due to cataracts, cataract surgery may also correct visual acuity issues like nearsightedness and farsightedness due to the replacement of the natural lens. When the eye’s lens is replaced with the new artificial one, they can be fitted similar to contact lens possibly correcting some visual acuity issues.
  • While cataracts are usually caused by a build-up of protein due to aging, they can also develop because of other health issues or be present at birth. Diabetes has an impact on the eyes. Children can be born with cataracts because of heredity predispositions or inadequate prenatal care. Medications like steroids can induce cataracts. Sometimes a traumatic injury to the head or eye can lead to their development of a cataract.
  • It’s important to correct issues with sight in children when they are still young. The first few years of life is when the brain develops its ability to process signals from the eye. If the visual cortex does not evolve in the usual way, it may not be able to recover these capabilities later on.
  • Cataracts cannot come back. When the natural lens is removed during cataract surgery it is replaced with an intraocular lens (IOL) made from an acrylic that can never cloud. Over time, the “sack” that held the original lens and now holds the artificial one, can become cloudy. The result may look like a cataract to the person effected, but it’s not really a cataract. The good news is that this condition can be treated through a quick procedure using a laser.

You can read a full transcript of Dr. Hutter's "Ask Me Anything" about Cataracts here

Dr. Daniel Hutter participated in this session from Mumbai, India where he is developing our training program. It was great to chat with him online and a special thanks to him for his time.

Stay tuned to our Facebook page for more opportunities to engage with HelpMeSee representatives.

References:
1 My Eyes (AARP)
2 American Academy of Ophthalmology
3 National Eye Institute
4 World Health Organization
5 American Academy of Ophthalmology

HelpMeSee just launched our 10th country campaign to eliminate cataract blindness in the country of Myanmar. For a bit of background, many may be more familiar with Myanmar by its historical name -Burma. The country is located in Southeast Asia on the Bay of Bengal and shares its borders with India, China and Thailand. Due to Myanmar’s political history, many feel the area has kept the traits of a bygone era in Asia, making it a unique tourist destination.

During his visit to the country, our CEO Jacob Mohan Thazhathu, received support for this new campaign from a special guest, Dr. Ashin Nyanissara. Also known as Sitagu Sayadaw, Dr. Nyanissara is a prominent Buddhist monk and leader in the Sitagu Monastery, holding a position in both title and honor similar to the Dalai Lama in Tibet.

According to the World Health Organization, nearly 1% of Myanmar’s population of 51 million people, or over half a million, are impacted by cataract blindness - one of the highest rates in Southeast Asia.

Within the next few months, HelpMeSee will begin our work by identifying people with cataract blindness through community outreach using the HelpMeSee Reach app. To address the shortage of eye care professionals, we will be partnering with the local government, spiritual leaders, corporate and philanthropic partners to train over 600 cataract surgical specialists to treat current and future cases.

As a hallmark of the HelpMeSee campaign, all cataract specialists will be using the HelpMeSee pre-sterilized surgical kit and recording the results of their procedures in our cloud-based surgical records system. Both steps guarantee safe treatment through a clean set of surgical instruments and the consistent monitoring of patient outcomes.

Due to years of slow economic growth Myanmar is still developing, but reforms starting in 2011 and an opening of the country to NGOs like our own have made this campaign possible.

So how does this country look like from a firsthand perspective, and what was HelpMeSee able to accomplish when our team visited the country? Here are a few pictures that highlight the events of our trip:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ll be adding more pictures as they come in, so be sure to bookmark this page and follow us on Instagram for updates.

If you would like more information on our Myanmar campaign visit our Myanmar: Restoring Sight microsite.

August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month dedicated to providing information and awareness on eye health in children. Take our quiz to test your knowledge of eye health, congenital cataracts and the importance of eye and sports safety with kids.




So how did you do on the quiz? Review your responses against the detailed answers below. 


  1. At what age should a child have their first eye exam?

    The American Optometric Association suggests that infants should have their first comprehensive eye exam at 6 months of age with follow-ups at 3 and then 5 or 6 years. After 6, a child’s eyes should be examined every 2 years unless they have eyeglasses or contact lenses which normally require an annual examination.

    A good rule of thumb is to plan an eye exam as a back-to-school activity.

    While many schools screen children these exams are not as comprehensive as those performed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. Don’t rely on them as a primary means of disease screening or visual acuity testing. 

  2. How many children in the U.S. are visually impaired?

    According to the Health Alliance Plan more than 12 million children in the U.S. have a visual impairment. For this assessment visual impairment was defined as a limitation of the eye that leads to a loss of visual acuity, limited peripheral vision, an inability to limit to look at light (photophobia), double vision (diplopia), visual distortion, or perception difficulties.

  3. Which of the following is NOT a sign of visual impairment in children? 

    Signs of visual impairment in children according to the American Optometric Association are:

    • Disinterest in reading or viewing distant objects
    • Squinting or turning the head while watching television
    • Frequent eye rubbing or blinking
    • Covering one eye
    • An eye that turns in or out
    • Double vision or
    • Family history of vision health issues

    kids eye exam

    While older children are often better at communicating symptoms, they may not always recognize an experience or situation as a vision issue. Parents or guardians should remain observant for the symptoms of eye problems in older kids. Additional symptoms of eye health issues in school age children may include:

    • Lack of comprehension or poor efficiency when performing school work
    • Experiencing discomfort, fatigue, or hyperactive/distracted behavior
    • Holding reading materials and books close to the face
    • Frequently losing track of place when reading
    • Difficulty with reading comprehension

    As for the answer to the quiz a yellowing of the eyes are symptoms of another critical health issue although not necessarily a sign of visual impairment.

  4. How many sports-related eye injuries occur each year in the United States?

    Eye injuries are the leading cause of blindness in American children. The National Eye Institute estimates that:

    • A U.S. emergency room visit occurs every 13 minutes because of a sports-related eye injury
    • Most eye injuries among 11 to 14 year olds occur during a sporting activity
    • Sports with the highest number of eye injuries are baseball, softball, ice hockey, racquet sports, and basketball

    In total, there are an estimated 42,000 sports-related eye injuries in the U.S. every year.

    Protective eyewear is critical for children involved in sports. In fact, the State of New Jersey requires all children with corrective glasses to wear protective goggles during sports. If your school system or government doesn’t have a policy on this, start a petition to put one in place.

  5. What is the yearly cost of sports-related eye injuries in the United States? 

    The estimated 42,000 sports-related eye injuries occurring each year in the U.S. resulting in approximately $175 to $200 million in medical bills. 

    Kids playing football in Madagascar

  6. What percentage of sports-related eye injuries can be prevented each year by wearing protective eyewear?

    Protective eye wear can prevent 90% of sports-related eye injuries. Take a lesson from NBA star Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Kareem started wearing protective eyewear in college and continued this practice throughout his NBA hall-of-fame career.

    When looking for protective sports eyewear chose those that meet ASTM standards and are made of polycarbonate or trivex material.  For more information on ASTM standards visit the Vision Council website on Sports Protection.



  7. How many children are born in the U.S. each year with cataracts?

    Contrary to popular misconceptions, cataracts aren't just a disease of the aged. In fact, children can be born with cataracts or develop them shortly after birth. While this is less common in the U.S., it is more frequent in the developing countries of Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America.

    Infant with Cataracts

    According to AAO 3 to 4 U.S. children out of 10,000 will have visually significant cataract.

  8. Which of the following is NOT a cause of cataract in newborns?

    According to EyeWiki, a majority of cases of pediatric cataracts in developed countries cannot be associated with any condition and are usually asymptomatic.  With over 15 genes involved in congenital cataract formation, many medical experts feel that a genetic mutation may be the explanation for a majority of pediatric cataract cases.


    Other links to congenital pediatric cataracts can include metabolic issues for the mother - others may be: Wilson’s disease – a rare genetic disorder that results in the accumulation of copper in the organs, hypocalcemia – low serum levels of calcium in the blood, a genetic condition such as Down’s syndrome, or also diabetes. Other causes for cataracts in babies are intrauterine infections with German measles, herpes, chicken pox, or syphilis infections. Lastly, eye trauma is associated with the development of cataracts in children.


    So what isn't a cause of cataracts? While never ruled out, no study has ever proven a link between prenatal radiation exposure and the development of cataracts at birth.

If you enjoyed taking this quiz, please feel free to pass this onto someone else by sharing it on your social media accounts.

In the September 2016 issue of National Geographic magazine, the publication highlighted the global health challenge of blindness in a series of published articles and interactive stories.  The following is a letter to the editor of National Geographic submitted by Dr. Van Charles Lansingh, HelpMeSee's medical officer for Latin America:

I want to congratulate David Dobbs and National Geographic for this extraordinary coverage about ending blindness, which appeared in the September 2016 issue. It has been widely commented on social media and by leaders in the field including the International Council of Ophthalmology.

As an ophthalmologist working on preventing blindness, Mr. Dobb’s moving account of Nambian eye surgeon Helena Ndume struck a chord with me. Until recently, preventable blindness has not received the attention it warrants on the global health agenda. As Mr. Dobbs wrote, the vast majority of the global population with blindness live in developing countries. Six years ago, the WHO estimated that 285 million people were visually impaired, of whom 39 million were blind. Untreated cataracts account for 51% of the global burden of blindness, and a further 33% of visual impairment.

Despite the good work being done by many cataract specialists like Helena Ndume in developing countries, the waiting list for treatment are getting longer with no end in sight. Because the global population continues to live longer, those awaiting treatment will only increase unless the shortage of trained cataract specialists working in developing countries is addressed. Health care paradigms need to be broken and creative use of technology is urgently needed.

There is a solution to ending cataract blindness – training the tens of thousands of skilled cataract specialists needed. HelpMeSee is focused on rapidly increasing the number of trained cataract specialists and reduce risk to patients by using comprehensive simulation-based training technology and establishing training centers in the developing world. By forging alliances with various NGOs, medical partners, local governments, and academic centers we can meet this pressing need to provide sight-restoring cataract treatment for millions.

Thank you Mr. Dobbs and National Geographic for this story of hope. Everyone deserves to live in a world without preventable blindness.

Best regards,
Dr. Van Charles Lansingh, MD

Van Lansingh and team in Peru

Since 2015, Dr. Lansingh has served HelpMeSee as the medical officer for Latin America, promoting sound surgical training, public health strategies and sustainable eye care solutions to eliminate blindness caused by cataract. In October 2016, Dr. Lansingh will be honored by the American Academy of Ophthamology with the 2016 International Blindness Prevention Award in recognition of his accomplishments reducing blindness and restoring sight around the world.

New York, NY - In recognition of World Sight Day, today HelpMeSee has submitted its petition to the United Nations calling for support to train specialists to treat cataracts, which is the leading cause of preventable blindness around the world. The petition was submitted by HelpMeSee's CEO Jacob Mohan Thazthathu on behalf of over 12,000 signatories to the UN’s headquarters in New York City.

World Sight Day, a global holiday established by the UN’s World Health Organization to raise awareness about eye health and bring attention to blindness and eye health, is celebrated each October by HelpMeSee and its partners around the world. The WHO estimates over 20 million people, most of whom live in developing countries, are blind from cataracts despite that their sight can be restored by a high-quality and cost-effective surgery. This petition submitted by HelpMeSee calls on the UN to support an increase of training for cataract specialists needed to treat the millions of cataract blind around the world.

Speaking about the petition, Mr. Thazhathu said, “In submitting this petition to the United Nations, HelpMeSee is fulfilling its mission to end the global health crisis of cataracts. By training the thousands of cataract specialists needed in the developing world, we can create a sustainable solution which will eliminate cataract blindness for millions of people.”

Since its founding in 2010, HelpMeSee has been developing a comprehensive training program centered on simulation-based training using a high-fidelity Eye Surgical Simulator. Once completed, the Eye Surgical Simulator will be used to train highly skilled cataract specialists at the scale needed to reduce the backlog of patients awaiting treatment.

HelpMeSee has a special consultative status to the United Nations as an official NGO selected by the Economic and Social Council. Working together our partners in developing countries, HelpMeSee’s program contributes towards the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals which promote equality, economic growth, and ensure global well-being. By submitting this petition to the United Nations, HelpMeSee hopes to raise awareness about the impact of cataract blindness and the shortage of skilled specialists, while continuing promoting collaboration with its partners around the world.

About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is a non-profit social enterprise committed to ending the global crisis of cataract blindness, the leading cause of blindness worldwide. HelpMeSee intends to make sight-restoring surgery available to millions of poor within their communities by training tens of thousands surgeons, many women, to perform high quality, high volume Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS) surgery. Since 2012, the campaign has supported nearly 250,000 surgeries through partnerships across ten countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Dr. Van Charles Lansingh, HelpMeSee’s Chief Medical Officer for Latin America, has been selected by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) as this year’s winner of the International Blindness Prevention Award. This award, given to Dr. Lansingh in honor of his career working to reduce blindness globally, was presented at AAO 2016, the Academy’s 120th annual meeting, which took place in Chicago, IL on October 16, 2016. The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world’s largest membership association of eye physicians and surgeons.

Established in 1992, the International Blindness Prevention Award honors an individual who has made significant contributions to reducing blindness or restoring sight worldwide. Its recipient is selected each year by the AAO’s Global Education and Outreach Committee, composed of doctors from across the Ophthalmology field. Past recipients include many leaders in eye health, including Govindappa Venkaraswamy (1992), Hugh R Taylor (2001), Allan Foster (2005), Gullapalli Rao (2006), Bruce Spivey (2007), and Clair E Gilbert (2011). See a complete list of past award award winners here.

Speaking about his selection for the award, Dr. Lansingh said:

“For over 20 years, I’ve had the privilege working with so many friends and partners involved in the prevention of blindness, without whom our success around the world wouldn’t be possible. This award is a call to action for greater patient outreach, especially those in need, and the need to change our mindset future generations of eye health professionals."

Dr. Lansing teaching in Peru

Dr. Lansingh presents during a HelpMeSee training session for ophthalmic nurses in Lima, Peru

 

Lauding the The Academy’s selection, HelpMeSee’s CEO Jacob Mohan Thazhathu congratulated Dr. Van Lansingh for his deserved recognition. “HelpMeSee is privileged to have Van as a key member of our leadership. His contributions are fundamental to the achievement of HelpMeSee’s mission to achieve highest quality standards in cataract surgical training and eliminate cataract blindness in the world.”

Dr. Van Lansingh was on hand to accept the award during the opening ceremony of the AAO 2016 on October 16, 2016. He is the first medical officer at HelpMeSee to be honored by the Academy for his work preventing blindness.

 

About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is a non-profit social enterprise committed to ending the global crisis of cataract blindness, the leading cause of blindness worldwide. HelpMeSee makes sight-restoring surgery available to millions of poor within their communities by training cataract surgeons, many women, to perform high quality, high volume Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS) surgery.Since 2012, the campaign engaged 267 surgeon partners and supported nearly 250,000 surgeries, across ten countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

October 19, 2016 - Two unique Music for Vision concerts being held in Mumbai and Delhi in October marks the start of a new phase in HelpMeSee's global campaign to end cataract blindness, with the proceeds going to support training for cataract specialists and achieve cataract backlog free communities in some of the poorest districts in India by 2020. India has one of the largest cataract-affected population in the world.

The Concerts

The concerts, being held at the prestigious NCPA, Mumbai, and Siri Fort Auditorium, Delhi, are a unique Indo-US musical collaboration bringing together leading international musicians. They are presented by HelpMeSee and Music for Life International (MFLI), two well-known international organizations. The dates of the concerts are October 20th at Tata Theatre, NCPA, Mumbai, and October 23rd at Siri Fort auditorium, Delhi.

They will feature legendary Sarod Maestro Amjad Ali Khan; distinguished US based conductor and MFLI Artistic Director, George Mathew; renowned American violinist; Elmira Darvarova (the first woman ever to serve as Concertmaster of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in New York); and the Bombay Chamber Orchestra which has brought orchestral music to Indian audiences for more than half a century. The concerts will feature iconic works by Indian and American composers, Utsad Amjad Ali Khan who will be soloist in his Samaagam Concerto for Sarod and Orchestra, and Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring respectively.

MFLI Artistic Director George Mathew observed: “Music has the capacity not only to bring people together for a cause, it has frequently and can become the vehicle to illuminate the cause. Aaron Copland’s iconic ballet music is a powerful metaphor for the gift of vision that HelpMeSee seeks to bring to millions of people affected by cataract in India and beyond.”

India Vision: A Five Year Perspective

Since 2012, HelpMeSee has worked with 292 cataract specialists in ten countries who have performed nearly 250,000 surgeries, and have created India’s first ‘Cataract backlog free’ district in Chitrakoot, Uttar Pradesh in 2014 and subsequently replicated this in another four districts (two each in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh).

Recently HelpMeSee opened its Learning Development Centre in Mumbai, where high-fidelity simulation and courseware training systems are being developed to train cataract specialists, based on the success of simulation-based aviation training technology.

The HelpMeSee India Foundation is supported by an India Advisory Board with eminent business leaders, Mr Ranjit Shahani, VC & MD, Novartis, Mr Pradip Shah, Founder, Chairman of IndAsia Fund Advisors, Mr. Sunil Mehta, Chairman & Managing Director, SPM Capital Advisers and distinguished personalities, Ms. Hema Malini, Mr. Kapil Dev and Mrs. Subhalakshmi Khan amongst others.

Jacob Mohan Thazhathu, President and CEO, HelpMeSee said, Access to affordable, high quality cataract surgery is the solution to eradicate cataract blindness, which is by far the leading cause of all treatable blindness in India and the rest of world. Cataract blindness elimination can achieve massive economic impact and end the human suffering of victims and their families. Effective public-private partnerships assure that no cataract blind person is left behind. In India or anywhere else. ”

About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is the global campaign to end cataract blindness, the leading cause of blindness worldwide. HelpMeSee intends to make sight-restoring surgery available to millions of poor through training tens of thousands of cataract specialists recruited from within their communities. HelpMeSee is pioneering a virtual reality surgical simulator and training program adapted from extensive experience in simulator-based aviation training. Since 2012, the campaign has supported nearly 250,000 sight-restoring cataract surgeries by 292 cataract specialists working across ten countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

About Music for Life International  

Music for Life International, (MFLI) is a New York based social enterprise that was established to create social impact in a variety of sectors through music. MFLI presents musical concerts and other programs to promote the awareness of major international humanitarian crises and other public interest issues around the world. MFLI takes its name from the legendary MUSIC FOR LIFE concert organized by Leonard Bernstein in 1987 at Carnegie Hall. MFLI is a registered 501(c)(3) tax-exempt not-for-profit organization. MFLI’s global humanitarian concerts have included Beethoven’s Ninth for South Asia (2006), REQUIEM FOR DARFUR (2007), Mahler for the Children of AIDS (2009), Beethoven for the Indus Valley (2011), Shostakovich for the Children of Syria (2014) and The Scheherazade Initiative (2015), focusing on gender violence. These concerts, presented in Carnegie Hall, have brought together distinguished musicians from over 100 leading international ensembles including the New York Philharmonic, MET Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Boston Symphony, San Francisco Symphony and others.

Randria’s Story, an immersive VR/360° video telling the story of what it’s like to live with cataract blindness, was recently named as a winner of two W3 Awards for creative excellence on the web. Out of thousands of entries, HelpMeSee’s unique video was selected as a Gold Award winner for Online Video by a Non-Profit also for a Silver Award in the Public Service category.

The W3 Awards are presented each year to a range of creative and marketing professionals, including recognitions for websites and online marketing in addition to online videos. This year’s awards were selected from over 5000 entries and were judged by media and marketing professionals from the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts’ (IAVA) invitation-only panel.

“We were once again blown away at the creativity and quality of this year’s entrant. As our connected world continues to expand in new and exciting ways, our winners are a true testament to the power of Web creativity around the globe.” said Linda Day, the director of the IAVA.

The winning video, which follows the story of one of HelpMeSee’s patients and their family in Madagascar, which was filmed using a cutting-edge 360° video camera in early 2016, was released on multiple platforms in May 2016 and has since been viewed over 60 thousand times on Facebook. The 360° film is best viewed using a VR headset such as Oculus Rift or Google Cardboard viewers, but can also be viewed in your browser or using your smartphone.

Watch HelpMeSee’s W3 Award winning video for yourself by clicking the play button below:

and read about Randria’s Story along with dozens more patient stories right here on our website.

Out of hundreds of entries around the world, HelpMeSee has been selected by judges of the Clearly Vision Prize as one of nine Innovation Prize winners. HelpMeSee was recognized by judges in the Training category for its simulation-based training program, which aims to train the thousands of cataract specialists needed to treat cataract blindness around the world.

The Clearly Vision Prize was established early in 2016 by Clearly founder James Chen to find innovative solutions to “the number one unaddressed disability in the world - poor vision”. This competition opened in April 2016, eliciting over a hundred entries from 21 countries, narrowed down to 36 semifinalists identified by judges as those with the greatest impact on access vision correction. Among the nine Innovation Prize winners, HelpMeSee was commended by the judges for the potential of its simulation-based surgical training program which will improve access to treatment for cataract blindness.

Speaking about the goals for this international competition, James Chen said “Good vision empowers and transforms lives on every level… In the digital era, the world has the ideas and the technology to crack this challenge and transform access to sight around the world.”

In recognition of this honor, HelpMeSee’s CEO Jacob Mohan Thazhathu commented “We are honored to be named among the most innovative groups for our focus on training to treat cataracts, which is the leading cause of preventable blindness around the world.” He added, “Thank you to the judges of the Innovation Prize for this special recognition, and to the founders of Clearly for inspiring this competition in search of new solutions for the global health issues of visual impairment.”

In addition to being named among the Innovation Prize winners, HelpMeSee’s sustainable solutions to end cataract blindness were recently recognized by the 2016 Classy Awards as among the top 10 most innovative non-profits in the world. HelpMeSee was established in 2010 to end the global health crisis of cataracts blindness, which impacts over 20 million people, by creating a simulation-based training program to rapidly train thousands of cataract specialists needed in the developing world. Building on our co-founder Al Ueltschi’s success as a pioneer in aviation simulation training, HelpMeSee has been developing a high-fidelity surgical simulator as part of the comprehensive training program, which was recognized by Clearly in the Training subcategory for the Innovation Prize. 

About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is a non-profit social enterprise committed to ending the global crisis of cataract blindness, the leading cause of blindness worldwide. HelpMeSee intends to make sight-restoring surgery available to millions of poor within their communities by training tens of thousands surgeons, many women, to perform high quality, high volume Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS) surgery.

Since 2012, the campaign has supported over 250,000 surgeries through partnerships across ten countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. HelpMeSee is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and was recognized among the top 10 most innovative social enterprises as a winner of the 2016 Classy Awards.

Over the last year HelpMeSee has reached numerous milestones, achievements, and awards so we wanted to take one last look back at all that we accomplished in 2016.

Thanks to the generous support of our donors and partners, HelpMeSee supported sight-restoring treatment for thousands of people around the world, reaching the milestone of over 250,000 cataract surgeries! We launched a new campaign in Myanmar, and expanded operations in two countries - Madagascar and Peru -  bringing our mission up to ten countries in total.

HelpMeSee's simulation-based training program took a major leap forward with the opening of the new Learning & Development Center in Mumbai, India, and HelpMeSee received a major grant from USAID to test the Reach App in identifying pediatric cataracts in Peru.  Our innovative solutions to eliminating cataract blindness led to numerous recognition and awards throughout 2016, including being named among the top 10 non-profits in the world at the Classy Awards.

Here is another look back at all of our progress in 2016:

January 2016


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  • HelpMeSee was featured in Bloomberg for its innovative technology used to eliminate cataract blindness.

February 2016

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March 2016

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April 2016

May 2016

  • HelpMeSee released "Randria's Story", the first 360/VR film showing what it's like to live with cataract blindness in Madagascar.

  • During the Global Private Equity Conference in Washington DC, HelpMeSee was selected as a featured non-profit for its work in emerging markets.

  • At the launch of Stitching HelpMeSee, Music For Vision performs its second concert at the Healey Museum in The Netherlands.

  • HelpMeSee Hong Kong opens its new office.

June 2016


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July 2016

August 2016


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September 2016

HelpMeSee Global Development Center Inauguration - with Al.jpg

  • HelpMeSee opened its new Learning and Development Center in Mumbai, India where the simulation-based training program will be developed. 

  • Dr. Lansingh writes an open letter to National Geographic magazine in response to its cover story about blindness.

  • The first meeting of HelpMeSee India Foundation's board is held in Mumbai, India adding new members to the advisory board including Mr Ranjit Shahani, Vice Chairman & Managing Director, Novartis India Ltd and Mr Pradip P. Shah, Chairman, IndAsia Fund Advisors, and many others.

October 2016

 November 2016

 December 2016

  • With support from Trifigura Foundation, Lions Clubs, all of our partners, and thanks to the genorosity of our donors we reached another milestone - 250,000 sight-restoring surgeries since founding in 2010.

On February 13th, 2017 a community of musicians will come together to celebrate the restoration of vision. This benefit concert will be presented by Music for Life International in New York City’s legendary Carnegie Hall, with proceeds to support HelpMeSee, who have been chosen as the sole beneficiary.

For more information, please read the full concert announcement here. To purchase tickets or learn about sponsorship opportunities, please visit MusicForVision.org.  

Net proceeds from this concert will support HelpMeSee's mission to eliminate cataract blindness.

DEVELOPMENT FOR ALL: THE FIGHT TO END GLOBAL POVERTY
Statement to the 55th Session of the United Nations Commission for Social Development (CSocD55)
By Jacob Mohan Thazhathu, President & CEO, HelpMeSee
Tuesday February 7, 2017

Subscribing to the United Nations 2030 Agenda to combat poverty and leave no one behind, which calls for:

  • Committing to help Member States to achieve this critical goal.
  • Supporting the strategies for eradicating poverty to achieve sustainable development for all.

We call on member states, private, public and civil society partners to:

  1. Eliminate human suffering and economic loss by preventing the increased disability caused by visual impairment and blindness, mostly due to age-related cataract.
  2. Scale up human resources and gainful employment opportunities in delivering essential surgical care.
  3. Reduce time and costs needed for surgical skills training using advanced simulation technology modeled on the success in aviation training.
  4. Reform surgical training to focus on safety and optimal outcomes for patients.
  5. Eliminate the current shortage to meet the growing demand for surgical services in remote and impoverished communities.
  6. Establish sustainable and market based, high-quality surgical services which provide universal access to affordable eye care.
  7. Make available high quality, low cost consumables.
  8. Promote the eye care team approach to increase productivity.

Cataract blindness is a disease of the poor. In the United States blindness is the most feared disease according to an August 2016 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association-Ophthalmology. It is more feared that loss of a limb or even Alzheimer's. So it’s no wonder that cataract treatment is the most performed surgery in the United States, with 3.5 million surgeries completed annually in a country of 300 million.

HelpMeSee presents at CSocD55

Not so in the developing world, where an estimated 20 million poor people, the majority women, are bilaterally blinded and remain so because they lack access to affordable treatment within their communities. In some countries, there is less than 1 ophthalmologist per million people. The World Health Organization estimates over 3.5 million disability-adjusted life years would be averted per year if cataract blindness was treated. The World Bank considers cataract treatment one of the most cost-effective health interventions.

HelpMeSee’s mission is to train 30,000 cataract specialists from throughout the developing world to perform a quick (as little as 5 minutes), very low cost (less than $50) high-quality procedure which cures cataract blindness and restores visual acuity lost to cataract disease. By doing so, this will create highly skilled jobs, reduce poverty and restore dignity for millions of people.

HelpMeSee is able to scale training through the use of high-fidelity simulation technology and courseware used in commercial aviation training, where standardized training delivers unparalleled safety and efficiency.

Today, the poor cataract blind, their families, and their communities are calling on the United Nations Commission for Social Development, governments, civil service organizations, NGOs, and the private sector to adopt this strategy of increasing access to affordable treatment by training thousands of cataract specialists to end cataract blindness worldwide. HelpMeSee’s strategy of training specialists to perform a single low-cost procedure can help lift millions of people out of poverty and hopelessness, and reduce worldwide blindness from all causes by one half.

 

Watch HelpMeSee present its statement to the 55th Commission for Social Development.  To review a recording of the full session, please visit the UN's website at http://webtv.un.org/ 

DEVELOPMENT FOR ALL: THE FIGHT TO END CATARACT BLINDNESS
Statement to the 50th Session of the United Nations Commission on Population and Development (CPD50)
Thursday April 6, 2017

Subscribing to the United Nations 2030 Agenda to combat poverty and leave no one behind, which calls for:

  • Committing to help Member States to achieve this critical goal.

We call on member states, private, public and civil society partners to:

  1. Eliminate human suffering and economic loss by preventing the increased disability caused by visual impairment and blindness, mostly due to age-related cataract.
  2. Scale up human resources in delivering essential surgical care.
  3. Reduce time and costs needed for surgical skills training using advanced simulation technology modeled on the success in aviation training.
  4. Eliminate the current shortage and meet the growing demand for surgical services in remote and impoverished communities.
  5. Establish sustainable and market based, high-quality surgical services which provide universal access to eye care.

Cataracts are the leading cause of preventable blindness, and a burden on families around the world. In spite of many advances in medicine, it remains a disease of the poor, with the World Health Organization estimating 90% of those blinded by cataracts live in developing countries. Although cataracts can occur at any age, visual impairment and blindness is most often developed later in life, with nearly half of those over the age of 65 expected to experience vision loss caused by cataracts within their lifetime.

As the global population continues to grow and the percentage of adults above working-age increases, cataracts will also increase in parallel with the evolving population age structure. In 2010 the World Health Organization estimated that at least 20 million people already suffer from cataract blindness, and that number can be expected to grow with a rapidly aging population. Women are disproportionately impacted by cataracts, just as they represent the majority of persons over age 65. According to the 2015 World Population Prospects report, persons aged 65 and older will more than triple in Asia, Africa, and Latin America – including in developing countries where cataract treatment is needed most.

Even as this backlog of patients awaiting treatment grows, the number of skilled cataract specialists available to provide treatment has remained stagnant. In many developing countries, there simply are not enough trained specialists available to restore sight to the millions in need of cataract surgery. Unless significant action is taken to train the thousands of surgeons needed, the global health crisis of cataracts will only grow worse in the years to come.

HelpMeSee’s mission is to train cataract specialists in the developing world to perform a cost-effective, high-quality treatment for cataract blindness which restores visual acuity lost to cataracts. Based on the success in using simulation technology to train pilots in commercial aviation, HelpMeSee is able to scale training through simulation techniques which standardize safety and efficiency in treatment.

Today HelpMeSee, along with the cataract blind and their families, are calling on the United Nations Commission on Population and Development, member states, NGOs, and civil service organizations to adopt this strategy of increasing access to treatment for a rapidly aging population by training thousands of cataract specialists. HelpMeSee’s strategy of training specialists to perform a single procedure can help reduce the backlog of patients awaiting sight-restoring cataract surgery, even as the global population continues to grow older.


Watch HelpMeSee present its statement to the 50th Commission on Population and Development. To review a recording of the full session, please visit the UN's website at http://webtv.un.org/

April 28, 2017 - Dr. Van Charles Lansingh, Chief Medical Officer for Latin America at HelpMeSee, has been selected by the Pan-American Association of Ophthalmology (PAAO) to receive the Benjamin F. Boyd Humanitarian Award for 2017.

First awarded in 1987, the Benjamin F. Boyd Humanitarian Award recognizes PAAO members or significant individuals who participate in charitable activities, indigent care, community service and humanitarian activities through a program of public service. The award is given by the PAAO every two years and will be presented to Dr. Lansingh during the Opening Ceremony of the 33rd Pan-American Congress of Ophthalmology in Lima, Peru.

Throughout Dr. Lansingh’s three-decade career, he has worked to reduce blindness and restore vision around the world. Between 2004 to 2015, he served the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) as regional coordinator for Latin America, and in 2016, he accepted a position as the Director for Advocacy at the International Council of Ophthalmology (ICO). Starting in 2015, Dr. Lansingh joined HelpMeSee’s campaign to eliminate cataract blindness as their Chief Medical Officer for Latin America, where he was recently awarded the International Blindness Prevention Award by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).

Thanking PAAO for this recognition, Dr. Lansingh said, “For me, this reflects a true spirit of cooperation and education. I work in several capacities, primarily as HelpMeSee’s Medical Officer and also with the IAPB and with the ICO as Director of Advocacy, as well as serving on the board for several ophthalmology organizations. My efforts are to get many organizations working together towards one common goal: making blindness a thing of the past.”

Announcing the award, Eduardo C. Alfonso, M.D., PAAO President and Chairman of Bascom Palmer Eye Institute of the University of Miami, said, "The Benjamin F. Boyd Humanitarian Award could not be going to a more deserving person.  Dr. Lansingh has dedicated his life to community service, prevention of blindness programs and other humanitarian activities.  The Bascom Palmer family is extremely proud of Dr. Lansingh where he serves as a voluntary assistant professor of ophthalmology."

HelpMeSee President & CEO Jacob Mohan Thazhathu commented, “Dr. Lansingh’s work and accomplishments in prevention and elimination of blindness have significantly advanced education, training, and community ophthalmology and public policy support. We applaud the PAAO for this well-deserved recognition of Van, and in our common mission to end cataract blindness.”

Most recently Dr. Lansingh completed a HelpMeSee campaign to eliminate pediatric cataracts in Peru, partnering with Instituto Damos Vision (IDV) with support from USAID as part of the Child Blindness Program to screen for pediatric cataracts and restore sight to children. 

For more information about PAAO, please visit at http://PAAO.org

To read a translation of this press release in Spanish or in Portuguese, or in a language of you choice please click here.

Africa Day celebrates the independence and progress of nations across the African continent, with this year’s theme devoted to “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend Through Investments in Youth.” Indeed there has been great progress over the years, with many countries in Africa leading economic and social development, including major improvements in public health. With more than half of Africa’s population under the age of 24, the future looks very bright for continued growth and development, yet a major barrier remains in many places – preventable blindness and visual impairment caused by cataracts.

Read more from Dr. Jean-Marie Andre's blog post on the IAPB's website.

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Dr. Andre with Dr. Onja, one of HelpMeSee's partner surgeons he helped train in Madagascar.

June 15, 2017 - HelpMeSee is pleased to announce that George Brady has joined the organization as Chief of Simulator Operations. In this role, Mr. Brady will manage the worldwide delivery and ongoing support for HelpMeSee’s high fidelity virtual reality surgical simulators, designed for training 30,000 cataract specialists needed in the developing world to end cataract blindness.

Before joining HelpMeSee, Mr. Brady worked for nearly two decades at FlightSafety International (FSI), the world leader in professional aviation training and simulation systems. At FSI, he led the team responsible for the worldwide technical and logistic support of flight simulators and other advanced training devices. He also represented FlightSafety on an international committee which set industry standards for engineering and maintenance of air crew training devices.

“I’m very proud to be a member of the HelpMeSee team. Its mission to eliminate cataract blindness by training tens of thousands of cataract specialists appeals to me on a very personal and professional level,” said George Brady. Commenting on the benefits of simulation training, he added “No commercial pilot is allowed into the cockpit until he or she has proven that they can manage emergencies that may occur in-flight. With the HelpMeSee simulator, trainees can repeatedly practice the cataract procedure in a patient-safe learning environment before they see a live patient. This training approach has worked wonderfully in aviation and its transfer to medicine has begun.”

“We are delighted to have George join us. His depth of experience in simulator and product support is huge and demonstrates HelpMeSee’s commitment to having the best simulator support in medical simulation” said Gerry McRae, Chief Operating Officer at HelpMeSee. “We have many simulator deliveries scheduled over next few years. George will make sure the simulators are delivered, well maintained, and supported to achieve high levels of utilization and serviceability. With George’s extensive knowledge and experience, we will be positioned stronger than ever before to end the worldwide cataract blindness epidemic.”

Prior to working at FSI, George Brady spent more than 10 years working for McDonnell Douglas/Boeing in the support of military owned and operated flight simulators. Before that, he served in the U.S. Air Force for 8 years.

About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is the global campaign to end cataract blindness, the leading cause of preventable blindness worldwide, by massively increasing the training of cataract specialists to serve in the developing world. Through the use of high fidelity simulation-based surgical training, similar to what has been achieved in commercial aviation, a large scale for training cataract specialists can be accomplished. In addition to training, since 2012, HelpMeSee has supported over 250,000 sight-restoring cataract surgeries in 11 developing countries across Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

HelpMeSee presented the first US public demonstration of the breakthrough Eye Surgical Simulator at the 41st Annual Meeting of the Christian Ophthalmology Society (COS) in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. This annual meeting hosted the largest attendance in COS’ history, during which doctors, nurses, and medical professionals were provided the first opportunity for a hands-on demonstration of the virtual reality simulator used in HelpMeSee’s simulation-based training program for cataract specialists.

Attendees experienced the lifelike visual realism and tactile-feedback provided by the high-fidelity simulator, which is currently in development. Conference attendees also had the opportunity to review HelpMeSee’s eBook, which is used in conjunction with Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS) training. Comprehensive courseware and simulation will enable HelpMeSee to scale the training of thousands of highly skilled cataract specialists needed to end blindness caused by cataract.

COS demo.jpg

Responses from attendees at the COS meeting were universally positive, with many returning for repeat demos on the simulator. Experienced cataract surgeons were invited to participate in-depth review sessions with Dr. Glenn Strauss, HelpMeSee’s chief subject matter expert throughout simulator development. Dr. Strauss is responsible for ensuring the simulator and courseware prepares cataract specialists for live surgery in months rather than years. The expert surgeons' feedback was recorded and will be used to verify the simulator’s current capabilities and identify future enhancements as the simulator is further developed.

“We were honored to feature HelpMeSee’s revolutionary training system at COS’s annual meeting,” said conference organizer and COS president, Dr. Stan Pletcher. “Attendees were clearly excited to try the technology for themselves – it’s clear that simulation training has the potential to completely revolutionize the way that surgeons are trained for live surgery around the globe,” and he added “HelpMeSee’s training program will be an excellent match for our members’ mission to restore sight around the world and to be involved in training.”

“It was gratifying to share our training technology with the real experts – those skilled surgeons providing sight-restoring care to those in need in the developing world,” said Dr. Van Charles Lansingh, Medical Officer for Latin America at HelpMeSee. “Their feedback is invaluable to finalizing development of our training program,” he said adding “Thank you to the Christian Ophthalmology Society for inviting us to participate in their annual meeting.”

The recently completed the Module A training package was presented, which includes the tasks for creating the tunnel incision, which is the fundamental first step of an MSICS procedure.  HelpMeSee continues to enhance the development of the simulator and associated courseware.  In the years to come, working together with partners and institutions around the world, HelpMeSee plans to open a number of large in-residence training centers disbursed throughout the developing world to train thousands of cataract specialists.

 

About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is the global campaign to end cataract blindness, the leading cause of preventable blindness worldwide, by massively increasing the training of cataract specialists to serve in the developing world. Through the use of high fidelity simulation-based surgical training, a large scale for training cataract specialists can be accomplished. In addition to training, since 2012, HelpMeSee has supported over 250,000 sight-restoring cataract surgeries in 11 developing countries across Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

About Christian Ophthalmology Society

The Christian Ophthalmology Society was founded in 1977 as an interdenominational group of eye physicians and surgeons who confess that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord. Their annual meeting has engaged physicians from around the globe and has become a very credible and popular public forum on ophthalmology missions. The society has taken seriously the call for improving international involvement and development by engaging topics such as best surgical practices and techniques, partnering with national ophthalmologists and sustainability. The COS has been committed to education on manual small incision cataract surgery.

World Sight Day is one of the most important days of the year here at HelpMeSee. A celebration to highlight the importance of sight. The theme for this year is #makevisioncount. As you know, vision makes a difference in everyday life and here are some examples from the HelpMeSee team of the images they would miss if they lost their sight. 


Today is World Sight Day, an annual celebration to highlight the importance of vision and one of the most important days...

Posted by HelpMeSee on Thursday, October 12, 2017

 

Share the images that you would miss the most if you lost your sight here 

People who cannot see, cannot work and become dependent on others. Many times, another family member must leave work to take care of the person who is blind, which doubles the loss of household income. When it’s a child who is blind because of cataracts, they usually cannot attend school, and even if they do, it is hard for them to keep up with others. 

But there’s a solution to this health crisis, and we have it by using:

  • Our simulation-based training program

  • Our Reach smartphone application for location-based outreach

  • And treatment scheduling and the monitoring of all cataract surgery outcomes in our cloud-based app reporting system

As we previously mentioned  in some of our letters and articles, supporting cataract surgery provides one of the best returns on investment. The World Health Organization has even said that cataract surgery is one of the most efficient medical interventions in the world, second only to vaccinations. 

You can help us #makevisioncount by donating towards our World Sight Day $250,000 Matching Gift Campaign. If you cannot do that, then commenting on this Facebook post below with a picture of something that highlights the importance of sight to you would help spread the word about the importance of World Sight Day.  

 

 

“I do not know if blindness is a curse but sight is a miracle.”  - Unknown

 

The Impact of Sight

Innovators create to fulfill a need to make life easier, better or safer. The latter spurred HelpMeSee’s co-founder, Al Ueltschi to create FlightSafety International in 1951, a global leader in aviation training using simulation technology.  Al's experience at Flight Safety led him to co-found Orbis International in the late 1970s, the world’s first Flying Eye Hospital, and more recently HelpMeSee.

 Al Ueltschi 2

                                                                                    Albert. L Ueltschi 1917-2012

Al saw the full impact of eyesight on a person's life when he witnessed a mother seeing her child for the first time in years after regaining sight. It was at that moment that Al decided to devote himself to doing whatever he could to restore sight to the treatable blind. FlightSafety's incredible success in aviation training transformed the aviation industry and Al felt that simulation technology was the best way forward in training people to treat cataract disease. HelpMeSee's goal is to train the 30,000 cataract specialists needed to address the shortage of specialists required to treat the developing world's cataract blindness backlog, where currently there are as few as 1-2 ophthalmologists per million people. 

The centerpiece of Al’s new mission, an organization by the name of HelpMeSee and their Eye Surgical Simulator was envisioned to train specialists in Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS), a 5 -minute procedure that removes cataracts without the need for a suture. MSICS costs 1/100 of the amount of other cataract procedures

Patient

Traditional cataract training methods have severe limitations that complicate the process of producing the number of surgeons needed to end cataract blindness. Trainee's use "wet labs" where the student practices on the eyes of deceased animals. Afterward, senior specialists are required to monitor students during all "live" procedures. This requirement lengthens the training time to avoid injury to patents.

The use of a high fidelity simulator to teach MSICS is far more progressive in its approach by allowing the student to practice on a computer model, which develops their muscle memory and perfects their surgical skills. Al knew that developing this simulator with the of complexity needed for this task would be extremely difficult. But he trusted his team of engineers and medical professionals. 

 

 A Call to Help Those Less Fortunate

One crucial member of the HelpMeSee simulator development team is Chief Simulator Subject Matter Expert, Dr. Glenn Strauss.  Glenn left his private ophthalmology practice in 2004 to devote his life to the forgotten blind by promoting and teaching the MSICS cataract procedure to others. HelpMeSee’s simulator project provided Glenn with the opportunity to achieve this dream. Both Glenn and Dennis Gulasy, former Head of Simulation at FlightSafety, worked tirelessly on the specifications, design, and performance of the eye simulator. 

Glenn Strauss

Dr. Glenn Strauss  

Glenn also authored the MSICS training eBook that describes the facets of the MSICS procedure as well as all possible complications and how to treat them when they occur. The HelpMeSee eBook also addresses non-medical topics, such as how to set up a clinic in an area with limited resources, lessons on medical ethics, and business practices for cataract clinics. 

Glenn with Students

The HelpMeSee Eye Surgical Simulator and Training Courseware

The simulator incorporates sets of complex physics models built upon thousands of hours of data. The training experience mimics the true-to-life sensation of operating on an actual patient. The student can feel the same response of an eye against their surgical instruments. The simulator records practice sessions so the instructor and student can analyze performance at the conclusion of each training session.

Simulator ClassSimulator Class 1 

The MSICS training course consists of the eBook, classroom instruction, simulator practice, and class time. The eBook's simplified wording, high-quality images, and animated graphics are written to transcend cultures, educational backgrounds, and languages. It includes live surgery videos and questionnaires with prompts for group discussions. The format of the eBook is designed so the student can study independently, with a tutor or a group. At the end of the course, each student receives a qualification in MSICS that certifies their ability to operate on live patients.

Proof of Concept, Development Partnerships, and Upgrades

In July 2012, HelpMeSee selected former FlightSafety partner Moog Inc, to develop the eye simulator. In 2013, Moog contracted with French software company, InSimo to develop the simulator's physics models, a computer application defining how the eye would behave during surgery. A further contract with SenseGraphics, a Swedish graphics software company was made to create the virtual eye graphical display in the microscope. HARMAN Professional Solutions of India were tasked with providing the software for delivering the online courseware. 

simulator

HelpMeSee Eye Surgical Simulator  

In the fourth year of HelpMeSee’s history, two more prototypes debuted winning the 2014 Good Industrial Design Award. It was in the following year, 2015, that the simulator made its first public demonstrations at the Gates Foundation sponsored event in Beijing, China, and at the First MSICS World Conference in Pune, India. 

Upgrades to computational systems and software continued. In 2016 the simulator achieved beginning to end high-definition simulation for the MSICS tunnel incision, the specialized technique making MSICS possible.

In 2017 the Tunnel Construction Course Module was completed in preparation for the development of additional intraocular training components to follow. 

MSICS Conference

2015 World MSICS Conference  

A Sustainable Solution that Addresses a Developing World Need

President and CEO of HelpMeSee, Jacob Mohan Thazhathu speaks of HelpMeSee's eye simulator and training program as the only practical solution to scaling access to cataract treatment in the developing world. Cataract blindness is a disease of the poor. By treating blindness, those cured can once again work and provide for their families. This makes HelpMeSee more than just a philanthropic charity. It is also an economic stimulus on the order of billions of dollars of increased GDP. And in this instance, the technological advances that HelpMeSee will create will be used in the areas they are needed most. 

Collage

HelpMeSee Stories 

November 21, 2017 – The International Society of Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgeons (ISMSICS) and HelpMeSee jointly announce a series of events for the upcoming Comprehensive Cataract Conference 2017 (CCC 2017), including demonstrations of HelpMeSee’s simulation-based training program to address the shortage of well-trained cataract specialists worldwide. The conference is organized by ISMSICS as host of the 2nd World Conference on MSICS on December 1-3, 2017.

CCC 2017 will be attended by hundreds of experts in cataract surgery who will share their insights and experiences in providing quality cataract care. HelpMeSees’ global team will present solutions which support surgical training and patient safety. Both HelpMeSee and ISMSICS strongly support Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS), a high quality, quick, and low cost solution to end cataract blindness and treat visual impairment throughout the developing world.

Founder and Chairman of ISMSICS Dr. Amulya Sahu, who is a well-known eye surgeon and organizer of this global conference said, “CCC 2017 is a platform for eye surgeons from around the world to share their expertise and learn about innovations in surgical techniques and technology. We are excited that attendees at CCC 2017 will be able to get demonstrations of HelpMeSee’s simulation-based training tools for surgeons to learn MSICS without fear of damaging a patient’s eye. It is a great innovation, which I am sure every training institute will want to have in the future.”

During the 3-day conference, HelpMeSee will host two scientific symposiums on “The fundamentals of simulation-based training in MSICS” and “Technology-driven community-based approach to cataract patient care to eliminate cataract blindness”. Representatives from HelpMeSee will provide attendees with hands-on demonstrations of its virtual reality Eye Surgical Simulator developed to rapidly scale training of highly-skilled cataract specialists. The integration of this simulator and courseware used in this simulation-based training program is currently underway at HelpMeSee’s Learning Development Center in Mumbai.

Jacob Mohan Thazhathu, President and CEO of HelpMeSee said, “Together with expert participants at CCC 2017, HelpMeSee will explore opportunities to scale surgical training in MSICS. Affordable solutions to treat cataract blindness can only be achieved by well-trained MSICS specialists in every community. HelpMeSee is committed to working together with ISMSICS to accomplish this mission.”

Joint CCC logos-01.png

About ISMSICS 

The International Society Of Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgeons (ISMSICS) is an organization to promote excellence and accessibility in cataract surgery. The organization aims to improve outcomes of cataract surgery while providing better vision to patients at an affordable cost. The organization is surgeon focused and surgeon driven- of, for and by cataract surgeons. ISMSICS is dedicated organization to research and development in the field of cataract surgery, especially Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery, to make cataract surgery more accessible, affordable and give patients the best of vision.

About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is a non-profit organization committed to ending the global health crisis of cataract blindness by increasing access to safe and affordable treatment through high scale simulator- based training . It is estimated that there are more than 100 million individuals living in the developing world who are needlessly blind or visually impaired due to untreated cataracts. HelpMeSee estimates that 30,000 MSICS specialists will be needed to eliminate the cataract blindness backlog.

December 1, 2017 - HelpMeSee has signed a 5-year agreement with The International Society of Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgeons (ISMSICS) to become a global sponsor of the Comprehensive Cataract Conferences (CCC) to promote safe cataract surgeries for eliminating the backlog of untreated cataract blindness worldwide. Organized by ISMSICS, CCC 2017 is currently underway in Chennai, India through December 3rd 2017, with HelpMeSee announced as the global sponsor and active participant in numerous events during the 3-day conference.

During these bi-annual conferences, experts in cataract surgery from around the world will be brought together to share solutions for treating cataract blindness, covering the every aspect from surgical training and pre-operative preparation through surgical complications and post-operative patient care. By organizing these global conferences, the two organizations will work to promote Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS) as the safe global standard to eliminate the backlog of blindness and visual impairment due to untreated cataracts.

Signing ceremony.jpg
HelpMeSee chairman Jim Ueltschi (left) exchanges signed agreements with ISMSICS chairman Dr. Amulya Sahu (right) during a signing ceremony in Chennai, India.

Dr. Amulya Sahu, founder and Chairman of ISMSICS said, “Through the shared platform of CCC, we plan to educate surgeons from across the world about the modern training and surgical support, including HelpMeSee’s revolutionary simulation-based training program for cataract specialists. MSICS is ideal solution for treating cataract blindness globally, and together we can restore hope to millions afflicted by this curable condition.”

James Tyler Ueltschi, co-founder and Chairman of HelpMeSee said, “By joining together, HelpMeSee and ISMSICS aim to transform the lives of millions in the developing world, who are deprived of eyesight due to the shortage of skilled cataract specialists and lack of access to surgical treatment. This conference series will help raise awareness among surgeons and medical professionals about sustainable solutions which can increase access to safe treatment for cataract blindness.”Team photo.jpg

With CCC 2017 serving as the first conference in a multi-year collaboration between these two organizations, this joint effort will help stimulate the campaign for the elimination of the cataract blindness backlog around the world.

Joint CCC logos.png

About ISMSICS

The International Society Of Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgeons (ISMSICS) is an organization to promote excellence and accessibility in cataract surgery. The organization aims to improve outcomes of cataract surgery while providing better vision to patients at an affordable cost. The organization is surgeon focused and surgeon driven- of, for and by cataract surgeons. ISMSICS is dedicated organization to research and development in the field of cataract surgery, especially manual small incision cataract surgery, to make cataract surgery more accessible, affordable and give patients the best of vision.

About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is a non-profit organization committed to ending the global health crisis of cataract blindness. Through a focus on simulation-based training for cataract specialists, HelpMeSee has developed sustainable solutions to increase access to safe, affordable treatment. HelpMeSee's goal is to improve quality and expand access to cataract surgical care, including a network of thousands of trained cataract specialists to provide eye care across the developing world.

Dear friends, esteemed colleagues, and honored guests,

Glenn Strauss (headshot).jpg

I am so pleased and honored to receive this award. As far as I know it is the first of its kind and highlights the importance of new horizons in ophthalmology training in general as well as MSICS training in particular. And this is my passion.

When I was first approached by Jim Ueltschi about the idea of using high fidelity simulation to create a scalable training model, I knew the challenges would be huge and perhaps even insurmountable. We did not know at that time if it was possible. But I was convinced that someone needed to try, even if only to be the shoulders to stand on for future success.

Thanks to the vision of Al Ueltschi and the dedication, and leadership of the HelpMeSee team and Jim Ueltschi in particular, we have achieved a level of simulation fidelity that proves immersive virtual reality simulation is worth the effort. My hope is that thousands of surgeons, especially those who have not had access to the high quality training that most of us have enjoyed, will be able say they are winning the challenge to address global cataract blindness. We need to open the door to training for the best and brightest surgeon trainees no matter where they live or how poor they are.

For those of you who spend hours of time and put in the enormous effort it takes to train even one surgeon well, I am sure you can look forward with me to seeing how simulation will reduce the risk and improve the efficiency of training for hundreds. It will be great fun to have a tool that allows us as trainers to focus on the specific training challenges that students learning micro-surgical skills face without worrying about patient safety or the problem of finding enough patients to provide adequate training experience. It will be rewarding to see students progress and actually measure their progress in specific tasks.

For me the life of international work in ophthalmology training has been a walk of faith from the beginning. I hope for each of you, this award is an encouragement to continue to strive to work for something that is bigger than all of us: the challenges of global blindness.

Thank you again for this honor.

- Dr. Glenn Strauss, MD
Chief Subject Matter Expert
HelpMeSee

December 2, 2017  –  Dr. Glenn Strauss, cataract specialist and Chief Subject Matter Expert at HelpMeSee, has been named by The International Society of Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgeons (ISMSICS) as the first recipient of the Albert Lee Ueltschi award for Simulation in Ophthalmology.

The award was presented to Dr. Strauss during a ceremony at the Comprehensive Cataract Conference 2017 (CCC 2017) in Chennai, India in recognition of his numerous contributions to developing simulation based-training for cataract specialists around the world. Named after Al Ueltschi, a pioneer in simulation training for aviation as founder of FlightSafety International, this award was given in recognition of Mr. Ueltschi’s decades of philanthropic work on blindness. In 2010 Al Ueltschi co-founded HelpMeSee, whose mission is to use simulation technology to train the thousands of cataract specialists needed to perform sight-restoring cataract surgery for the millions of blind around the world.

For the past 3 decades, Dr. Strauss has dedicated his life to ophthalmology and treating cataract blindness. In 1997, he began volunteering with Mercy Ships as an eye surgeon and provided training for their medical missions. Shortly after HelpMeSee was founded in 2010, Dr. Strauss joined its simulation-based training project as a medical leader. Throughout development of the Eye Surgical Simulator, Dr. Strauss served as a subject matter expert by providing guidance to HelpMeSee and its partners to assure that the simulator accurately replicates the realism of a live cataract surgery.

Jim Ueltschi, son of Al Ueltschi and chairman of HelpMeSee, said, “Glenn exemplifies the spirit, dedication and inspiration of those few people who make miracles happen. He is obviously a very talented ophthalmologist, but he also can write complicated surgical descriptions for simulator engineers, a truly remarkable and rare gift, believe me. Glenn is also a world-class humanitarian. My father would be very proud of him and his contributions to ending cataract blindness. It is fitting that he is the first recipient of this award.”

Dr. Amulya Sahu, co-founder and chairman of the ISMSICS said “Dr. Strauss is an inspiration for all ophthalmologists. He follows Al Ueltschi’s example by paving the path to fighting blindness through training. Thanks to Dr. Strauss’ lifelong dedication, millions of poor and needlessly blind people around the world have hope for a brighter future.”

Upon accepting the award, Dr. Strauss provided his statement, “For me the life of international work in ophthalmology training has been a walk of faith from the beginning. I hope for each of you, this award is an encouragement to continue to strive to work for something that is bigger than all of us: the challenges of global blindness.”

Joint CCC logos-01.png

About ISMSICS

The International Society Of Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgeons (ISMSICS) is an organization to promote excellence and accessibility in cataract surgery. The organization aims to improve outcomes of cataract surgery while providing better vision to patients at an affordable cost. The organization is surgeon focused and surgeon driven- of, for and by cataract surgeons. ISMSICS is dedicated organization to research and development in the field of cataract surgery, especially manual small incision cataract surgery, to make cataract surgery more accessible, affordable and give patients the best of vision.

About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is a non-profit organization committed to ending the global health crisis of cataract blindness. Through a focus on simulation-based training for cataract specialists, HelpMeSee has developed sustainable solutions to increase access to safe, affordable treatment. HelpMeSee's goal is to improve quality and expand access to cataract surgical care, including a network of thousands of trained cataract specialists to provide eye care across the developing world.

December 3, 2017 - The International Society of Small Incision Cataract Surgeons (ISMSICS) has named Dr. M.S. Ravindra as the first recipient of the Dr. Jatin Shah award for Excellence in Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS). The award was presented in a ceremony to Dr. Ravindra as part of the Comprehensive Cataract Conference 2017 (CCC 2017) in Chennai, India.

The ISMSICS presented this award for Excellence in MSICS in memory of the late Dr. Jatin Shah (1954-2015), in recognition of his tireless efforts as an eye surgeon and in honor of his legacy training the next generation of cataract specialists. Dr. Jatin Shah dedicated his life to restoring sight, working with numerous NGOs and philanthropic groups, most recently having served as HelpMeSee’s Medical Officer for Asia. He leaves a legacy as an expert of excellence in MSICS and advocacy to save sight.

Through his work over the last 35 years, Dr. M. S. Ravindra has become a leading ophthalmologist and medical researcher, developing innovative surgical techniques using the latest advanced technology. As chairman and medical director of Karthik Netralaya specialty eye hospital, Dr. Ravindra’s team has provided quality micro-surgical treatments serving countless people suffering from blindness and visual impairment. He has trained many ophthalmologists in modern techniques, and has helped advocate training for affordable surgical treatment for cataracts across south Asia.

Dr. Amulya Sahu, chairman and co-founder of ISMSICS said, “We are honored to present an eye surgeon of Dr. Ravindra’s caliber with the first Excellence in MSICS award. Like the late Dr. Jatin Shah, he has dedicated his career to make safe, quality treatment available to even the neediest populations. As a scientific advisor to ISMSICS, he has helped promote innovative treatment options for cataracts, and we thank him for his lifelong commitment to restoring sight.”

Dr. Van Charles Lansingh, HelpMeSee's Chief Medical Officer said, “We congratulate Dr. Ravindra on this recognition, and thank him for his many contributions advancing cataract treatment. HelpMeSee and ISMSICS are engaged to help promote MSICS as a safe, scalable, high-quality, cost-efficient procedure to reduce the burden of cataract blindness worldwide. ”

Joint CCC logos.png

About ISMSICS

The International Society of Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgeons (ISMSICS) is an organization to promote excellence and accessibility in cataract surgery. The organization aims to improve outcomes of cataract surgery while providing better vision to patients at an affordable cost. The organization is surgeon focused and surgeon driven- of, for and by cataract surgeons. ISMSICS is dedicated to research and development in the field of cataract surgery, especially manual small incision cataract surgery, to make cataract surgery more accessible, affordable and give patients the best of vision.

About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is a non-profit organization committed to ending the global health crisis of cataract blindness. Through a focus on simulation-based training for cataract specialists, HelpMeSee has developed sustainable solutions to increase access to safe, affordable surgical treatment. HelpMeSee's goal is to improve quality and expand access to cataract care, including a network of thousands of trained cataract specialists across the developing world.

December 2, 2017 – During a ceremony at the Comprehensive Cataract Conference (CCC), the International Society of Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgeons (ISMSICS) presented Appasamy Associates with the Excellence in Ophthalmic Manufacturing award.

The award was given in recognition for their accomplishments manufacturing HelpMeSee’s surgical kit for Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS). As manufacturer of the first single-use, pre-sterilized surgical kit developed by HelpMeSee, Appasamy have revolutionized eye care by providing cataract specialists with all the instruments, consumables, and pharmaceuticals needed for a complete MSICS procedure, even in the most remote regions of the world.

Since 1978, Appasamy has been a leading manufacturer and distributor of ophthalmic equipment, microscopes, lasers, IOLs, microsurgical instruments and pharmaceuticals. Appasamy’s dedication to support for eye care have become a benchmark among medical vendors, innovating with new manufacturing techniques to meet the needs and specifications of the ophthalmic community.

While presenting the award during CCC 2017, ISMSICS chairman Dr. Amulya Sahu said, “Appasamy Associates have become an industry leader, striving to make modern technology and equipment within the easy reach of ophthalmic surgeons and eye care professionals. We thank them for their work supporting MSICS as safe global standard for improving cataract treatment for patients around the world.”

Jacob Mohan Thazhathu, President and CEO of HelpMeSee said, “Over the last three decades of work, Appasamy’s commitment to manufacturing quality have been widely appreciated throughout the world. HelpMeSee is proud to work together with Appasamy in developing our single-use surgical kit for MSICS, and thanks to this breakthrough technology, hope can be restored to millions of people in need cataract surgery.”

Joint CCC logos.png

About ISMSICS

The International Society of Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgeons (ISMSICS) is an organization to promote excellence and accessibility in cataract surgery. The organization aims to improve outcomes of cataract surgery while providing better vision to patients at an affordable cost. The organization is surgeon focused and surgeon driven- of, for and by cataract surgeons. ISMSICS is dedicated organization to research and development in the field of cataract surgery, especially manual small incision cataract surgery, to make cataract surgery more accessible, affordable and give patients the best of vision.

About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is a non-profit organization committed to ending the global health crisis of cataract blindness. Through a focus on simulation-based training for cataract specialists, HelpMeSee has developed sustainable solutions to increase access to safe, affordable surgical treatment. HelpMeSee's goal is to improve quality and expand access to cataract care, including a network of thousands of trained cataract specialists across the developing world.

During 2017 HelpMeSee made major progress towards our goal to eliminate cataract blindness around the world. The year began with Music For Life International hosting a major fundraising concert in New York’s world-renowned Carnegie Hall to benefit HelpMeSee, and wrapped-up in Chennai, India where HelpMeSee made big news at the Comprehensive Cataract Conference. In between HelpMeSee reached many new milestones, releasing the first training module in our simulation-based training program and working with major institutions who will help advance training as the solution to cataract blindness.

Along with major progress came a few setbacks, as the anticipated delays due to software bottlenecks communicated by Moog in 2016 continued to present new challenges to the timeline for simulator development in 2017.  HelpMeSee followed a systemic process of expert reviews throughout the year, with 138 MSICS experts unanimous in their opinion that the simulator would be helpful for training - it was decided to begin deploying simulators to multiple locations in the new year!

Thanks to the generous support of our donors and partners, we are now closer than ever to our shared goal of making cataract treatment accessible and affordable for the millions of people in need – so let’s take one more look back at all we accomplished in 2017:

February

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AprilUN oral statement

  • The UN Secretary General's Special Advisor on Myanmar, Ambassador Vijay Nambiar visits HelpMeSee’s office in New York City

  • At the United Nations building in New York City, HelpMeSee presents its statement to the 50th Commission on Population and Development

May

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  • Representatives from Wenzhou Medical University visit HelpMeSee's office in New York City to discuss how simulation-based training can be incorporated into curriculum.

  • In celebration of National Sunglasses Day, HelpMeSee’s campaign is highlighted online for our work eliminating cataract blindness.

July
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  • A group of top students from Wenzhou University/ SUNY Optometry, Global Health Leadership Development Program visited HelpMeSee’s office in New York City to be among the first students to experience a demo of the Eye Surgical Simulator.

  • A new study shows that blindness is the most feared health condition among Americans

AugustPAAO award

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  • HelpMeSee partner surgeon Dr. Bidya Pant is presented with an Eye Health Hero award at the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness’s annual meeting in Nepal

  • A new team of Subject Matter Experts is formed to lead HelpMeSee’s training program at Learning Development Center in Mumbai, India

October

  • On World Sight Day 2017, $250,000 matching gift campaign for training cataract surgeons is announced.

  • HelpMeSee Hong Kong organized a livestream on Facebook with HelpMeSee Eye Care Ambassador Dr. Justin Tong to answer questions about cataracts on World Sight Day.

  • The Ambassador of Togo, His Excellency, Frédéric Edem HEGBE and the First Secretary of the Embassy of Togo Mr. Yawo Akpemado visited HelpMeSee’s offices in New York City.

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DecemberCCC awards ceremony
Dr. Van Charles Lansingh accepts an award on behalf of Dr. Strauss during the Comprehensive Cataract Conference in Chennai, India

Throughout 2017 HelpMeSee followed a systemic process of expert reviews from experienced cataract specialists. Dozens of expert surgeons were unanimous in their opinion that the current state of the simulator in-development would be helpful for training, so it was decided to begin deploying at least 6 simulators to 5 locations around the world to begin testing in the new year!

Bangalore, India, March 05, 2018 - HelpMeSee is launching a campaign to perform 300 sight-restoring cataract surgeries in Bangalore, India, thanks to a $35,000 corporate social responsibility grant from Moog Motion Controls Pvt Ltd in J. P. Nagar, Bangalore, India. Nayonika Eye Care Charitable Trust (NECT) will perform these surgeries using HelpMeSee's Reach app, pre-sterilized single-use Surgical Kit, and Surgical Reporting System. 

Cataract is a significant cause of blindness worldwide and in India, especially, blindness due to cataracts assumes voluminous proportions. In 2016, HelpMeSee and their partner, Sadguru Seva Sangh Trust, helped the local administration to declare five districts - Chitrakoot, Hamirpur, and Banda of Uttar Pradesh as well as Satna and Panna of Madhya Pradesh as cataract blindness-free backlog communities. HelpMeSee will support Karnataka to create a sixth blindness-free backlog community in India. Similar efforts are underway in the North Tripura district of Tripura, Moradabad district in Uttar Pradesh, and the Mahoba district of Uttar Pradesh.

In a statement, Dr. Ranjit Maniar, HelpMeSee's Regional Medical Officer, Asia, stated, "The large numbers of cataract blind in and around Bangalore city demonstrates that cataract blindness is not just a rural issue. This health crisis impacts India's urban poor as well, especially with regards to access and affordability of proper eye healthcare." 

Moog Motion Control's General Manager, Sanmay Dasgupta, expressed that providing this support for surgeries illustrates Moog's commitment to the needs of society and the step towards a positive change. "As a development partner for the HelpMeSee's Eye Surgical Simulator, we fully understand the crisis of cataract blindness," said Dasgupta. "This support from us is another way we can alleviate the suffering caused by this obstacle to a healthy society."

Dr. P. L. Nataraj, Director of Health and Family Services for Karnataka graciously thanked all three partners. "This would not be possible without the support of Moog, HelpMeSee, and NECT. This campaign is an example of how partnerships with government agencies, for-profit business, and charities, can work together to improve the quality of lives in our communities."

Surgeries started on March 1, 2018, at NECT's hospital facilities under surgeon Dr. Surekha Prashant. 

About Moog India

Established in 1990, Moog in India has witnessed strong growth, currently comprising a team of over 500 professionals possessing leading-edge engineering expertise. In addition to defense applications in India, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation countries, and the Middle-East, Moog India serves as a focal point for servo motors production, and solutions and services for industrial products. Moog's Indian manufacturing plant, design center, sales, and support facilities are located in Bangalore in a state-of-the-art infrastructure that spans an area of over 146,050 square feet.

About Nayonika Eye Care Charitable Trust

Founded in 2010, Nayonika Eye Care Charitable Trust (NECT) is dedicated to the advancement of vision care in the district of Karnataka through awareness, treatment, and monitoring. NECT has supported 300,000 citizens of Karnataka with their eye health innovative projects: Amruta Dristhi, Netranjali, Nayonika Makala Netra, Healthy Vision India, and the Nayonika Vision Wall. The trust has performed over 12,000 cataract surgeries and distributed more than 19,000 free spectacles at no cost to recipients. The trust's hospital offers cataract surgery, medical retina management, and treats corneal disorders, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and uveitis.

About HelpMeSee

HelpMeSee is a non-profit organization committed to ending the global health crisis of cataract blindness. Focusing on simulation-based training for cataract specialists, HelpMeSee continues to develop sustainable solutions to increase access to safe, affordable treatment. Led by a network of trained cataract specialists, HelpMeSee aims to expand access to cataract surgical care and improve the quality of eye care across the developing world. 

On April 7, 2018, HelpMeSee celebrates World Health Day (WHD), an annual celebration recognizing global healthcare as a fundamental human right, which was first demanded by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948. In honor of WHO’s 70th anniversary, HelpMeSee declares our support for universal healthcare because we too stand for equal access in healthcare regardless of age, gender, race, and income.

At HelpMeSee, our mission is to eliminate cataract blindness on a global scale by using our simulation-based training program and Eye Surgical Simulator to teach Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS) to surgeons. MSICS is a high quality and affordable surgery that can save millions of lives in a short period of time.

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Rural villagers wait to be examined for cataracts by outreach workers in Nepal 

Vision as a Human Right

Albeit global health serving as an all-inclusive umbrella term, HelpMeSee considers that the condition of one’s vision can determine the overall quality of one’s life, ultimately producing a chain reaction and impacting other aspects of one’s home, work, and social life.

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​A pre-op patient with bilateral cataracts in Chitrakoot, India

Everybody deserves equal access to healthcare because everybody needs their health to maximize their life on this planet. The irony of universal healthcare, however, is that it does not exist everywhere in the world. Eyesight is a critical component of visual health. In rural areas of developing countries, sight is necessary for everyday sustenance. Those with visual impairment experience depression and become dependent on other family members who need to work and provide materials as well. The blind become marginalized because they are not seen or treated as equals in society, which poses a greater demand for health equity. That is to say, universal healthcare does not discriminate. Rather, universal healthcare prioritizes the number one cause for concern of all life: holistic health.

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​(See prior photo) Post-op 

Excess Hunger Without Healthcare

In poor countries where workers are paid less than $2 a day to feed their families, paying for healthcare weighs in at a heavy price. When people suffer from lack of nutrition and food security, their quality of work plummets. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) affirms that people should consume a certain amount of food energy to balance the amount of energy they expel so that they may “maintain body size, body composition and a level of necessary and desirable physical activity consistent with long-term good health.” By placing expenditures on healthcare for individuals who survive on scant meals and are expected to produce quality work nevertheless, is a death sentence. It is a backwards notion that one’s health, a basic right, should be compromised. Hunger and poverty occur on an individual basis with the cautionary of resulting in a larger scale epidemic. However, these proportions can be reduced and relieved.


Universal Eye HealthCare

HelpMeSee’s comprehensive solution to restore vision to the blind across the world involves surgical training, patient outreach, and support for sight-restoring cataract procedures. To the HelpMeSee team, World Health Day is a powerful reminder that universal healthcare can deliver a brighter future for everybody, and at HelpMeSee, we are devoted to helping the blind see.

Albert L. Ueltschi, HelpMeSee’s founder and inspiration, once said, “If you don’t have your health, you have zero.”