The IMANA-sponsored cataract surgery team in Pakistan travels to remote areas to conduct dozens of free eye camps. Residents of these areas have very limited access even to basic health care and this program brings advanced eye surgeries to their doorsteps, providing the gift of sight to nearly 4,000 patients annually.
Dr. Khalid Dogar (center) spends over 20 days away from home per month providing free cataract surgeries to the needy.
Below is a Q&A with Dr. Khalid Dogar, who leads this exemplary effort.
Q: How long have you been working in ophthalmology?
I started working as a medical eye officer in 1985 for a government hospital Tarbella dam project. This work was of my own choosing. I was posted there to perform duties as a general duty medical officer. I requested to adjust my duties to the evening or night shift and then performed duties in the eye department during the day on a purely volunteer basis.
From 1987 to 1990 I was given administration duties for a government-owned pharmacy in Faisalabad. Then I was away from any eye department, but my interest in ophthalmology continued. In November 1990, I was deputed by the government for training and specialization in ophthalmology. Since then, I have practiced ophthalmology.
Dr. Dogar and his team travel through the most remote areas of Pakistan to treat the poor.
Q: You work up to 20 days per month away from home. Is it hard being away from family and familiar comforts?
Mostly we have free eye camps lasting three days at outstations, and I remain away from family and my private clinic. Initially this appeared to be a little bit difficult, but myself, my family and my patients have now adapted to it. I must appreciate the role of my wife in this regard.
Q: What is your motivation to work in this role?
My motivation is the sigh of relief poor patients give when they gain vision after cataract surgery. The encouragement by my friends, IMANA and others is also a motivation for me. We work for the poor irrespective of their social status, creed, or religion.
Due to working long hours, Dr. Dogar (l) must now wear a hard neck collar.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges you face in this role? What are some of the biggest rewards?
The problems are mostly financial and arranging good workers. I do pay them an honorarium, but this hard work demands a lot of dedication. Fortunately all of my team members are dedicated, but all are serving in various government departments and they have to get approved leave to participate from their parent departments. Sometimes they experience difficulty in getting their leave sanctioned. Earlier this year we set up an eye camp near the Afghan border without our surgical room assistant, but we were successful thanks to some improvisation.
I have developed cervical spondylosis due to long working hours over the years.
The biggest reward is easing the life of the poor segment of our society.
Patients of all ages with various ocular problems attend the camps.
Q: What types of cases do you see? How is the health of those living in rural areas impacted versus those in more populated regions?
We focus on cataract surgery and advertise accordingly. However patients with various ocular problems attend the camps. We primarily screen for cataracts but examine all others and advise them accordingly. The number of neglected cataract patients is much more in remote areas. Normally we provide one set of medicines to operated patients and prescribe the same to purchase from market afterward, but in some remote areas like the upper Neelum Valley, such medication is not available. We have marked these areas and now provide them with the full course of medication.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
I have nothing else to add but want to give special thanks to IMANA for supporting all this work.