As a newly-qualified ophthalmologist, Dr Andrew Bastawrous packed up his belongings and headed to Kenya with his wife and one-year-old son.
Relocating his life to a country with a different language and culture to investigate the impact of avoidable blindness was a watershed moment in his career.
“Our time in Kenya was critical to everything that has happened since,” he emphasised during his keynote address at 100% Optical (ExCeL London, 25–27 January).
He went on to see 5000 patients in 100 locations across the country, discovering a seemingly endless queue of people who were blind because of treatable conditions, such as cataracts or uncorrected refractive error.
Far from feeling reassured by being able to give patients back their sight through providing a pair of spectacles or performing cataract surgery, the daunting scale of the challenge began to dawn on Dr Bastawrous.
“I started to feel that, ‘This problem is even bigger than I realised.’ What I started to question is, who else isn’t in this queue?” he said.
Dr Bastawrous went on to harness the power of technology in providing healthcare to remote communities through his social enterprise Peek.
The company has developed Peek Acuity and Peek Retina, apps that can be used to test vision and provide a view of the back of the eye.
Dr Bastawrous’ decision to step outside of his comfort zone has had far-reaching effects both on the course of his career and the patients who are now seeing the world in clearer focus after decades of needless blur.
His story is an inspiring reminder that straying from routine can open up new possibilities.
Taking the opportunity to attend 100% Optical is one way that optometrists get out of the testing room to meet colleagues, learn about exciting research developments and see the latest products on offer.
Take the opportunity to mark next year’s event in your calendar – 23 – 25 January 2021, ExCeL London.