Ethiopia – Robert Sinskey Eye Institute

The ASCRS Foundation recognizes ophthalmology’s responsibility to the Developing World and supports several ongoing humanitarian programs, including The Robert Sinskey Eye Institute in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

In 2015, The Sinskey Eye Institute will treat more than 17,000 patients. Since its founding in 2004, the Institute has seen over 100,000 visits. It is the largest charitable eye hospital in Addis Ababa, and patients travel from far outside the city to be seen at SEI. Surgery is performed four days each week, and over 1,200 cataract surgeries will be done in 2015. The Institute offers both phacoemulsification and manual small incision cataract surgery.

The total staff numbers 18, including ophthalmic surgeons, Allehone Ayalew, MD, and Mekonnen Zerihun, MD. There are six ophthalmic nurses now employed at the Institute, including head nurse, Sr. Adanach, who has been with the Institute since its opening. All staff are Ethiopian. They speak the same language and live in the same communities as their patients. They inspire the trust needed to provide ongoing, effective care. Dr. Zerihun is among the best phaco practitioners in all of Ethiopia.

Through a partnership with the Himalayan Cataract Project, the Sinskey Eye Institute has begun a clinical rotation for Ethiopian residents. The residents come from Ethiopia's three training programs and spend time seeing patients and learning surgical technique from Drs. Allehone and Zerihun. The ASCRS Foundation board believes that training the next generation of Ethiopian surgeons is the best way to improve overall eye care in the country.

The ASCRS Foundation completed work on a new facility in 2013. The new building provides an exceptional opportunity for care for some of Ethiopia's poorest patients. The facilities are excellent and rival some of the leading private clinics in the country.

In 2014, the Institute opened an optical shop which now generates enough revenue to help subsidize the diagnostic, medical, and surgical care offered to patients.

The Case for Surgical Glaucoma Care

The ASCRS Foundation’s Robert Sinskey Eye Institute will treat over 17,000 patients in 2015 and the Eye Institute’s lead ophthalmologist, Dr. Allehone Ayalew, estimates 25% of those suffer some form of glaucoma.

“Glaucoma is a major problem in Ethiopia and other poorer regions of Africa and is the leading source of permanent blindness,” said Dr. Alan Crandall, Senior Vice Chairman of Ophthalmology and Visual Science at the University of Utah, and a member of the ASCRS Foundation’s International Initiatives Committee.

“Surgery is the best option to treat glaucoma patients in those parts of the world where medical therapy is not an option. Pressure-reducing eye drops can easily cost $100 a month, which represents three months’ salary for the average Ethiopian. And there are often no pharmacies outside of the major city centers. Most times the ophthalmologist gets only one opportunity to treat the patient, and glaucoma surgery is far-and-away the best approach in these instances.”