Recognitions
July 9, 2012

In The News

Dr Clark again returned to Vietnam in June, 2010 as a physician instructor at the Imperial City Eye Meeting held in Hue, Vietnam at the Morin Hotel. It was the largest Ophthalmologic meeting ever held in Vietnam. It was attended by 450 Vietnamese Ophthalmologists. Dr Clark presented techniques in phacoemulsification and manual small incision cataract surgery. On Dr Clark’s prior visit to Vietnam, he was team leader for a surgical mission in Hue, Vietnam.

His team performed 119 cataract surgeries.Brighton doctor performs cataract surgeries on recent Vietnam trip Here is the article by Tom Tolen | The Livingston Community News Friday April 24, 2009, 12:00 AM A Brighton area doctor has a different perspective on life after coming back from a trip to Vietnam. Dr. Robert Clark, an ophthamologist with offices at the Woodland Health Center west of Brighton, returned earlier this month after spending two weeks performing cataract-removal procedures. “My reward was in helping other people, and being thankful for what we have here and what we take for granted,” he said. “Ninety percent of the patients are blind because of cataracts,” Clark added.

The trip was arranged through Surgical Eye Expeditions, or SEE. The nonprofit organization restores sight to disadvantaged blind people through the efforts of volunteer ophthalmic surgeons. The group works in 44 countries performing free surgeries, among them procedures to correct strabismus, sometimes called “cross-eyes,” in children. The doctors pay their own way, including airfares, accommodations and other expenses. “The work we do could not happen without the volunteer work by people like Dr. Clark and others who restore sight through their donations,” said Kim Bass, administrator of international clinics at SEE offices in Santa Barbara, Calif. Bass said 650 ophthalmologists belong to the organization. Clark became intrigued with the idea of helping people in a Third World nation ravaged by decades of war, first with the colonial French and later between the U.S. and North Vietnamese. “I just decided it was time to give back,” he said. “My reward was in helping people and in being thankful for what we have here and take for granted.”

He arrived March 21 with wife Debbie and four cases of medical equipment at Hue Central Hospital, and performed 119 operations as team leader and the only non-Vietnamese physician. “(Patients) tried to thank you in English, and would chase you down to thank you,” he said. He also found time to lecture on different techniques for cataract removal and how Lasik surgery is performed. Although cataract removal takes only 15 minutes in the U.S., it took “45 minutes to one hour” at the Hue clinic, due to the primitive conditions, he said. An oddity was that other doctors had bare feet, something Clark said may have been due to the oppressive heat, even though parts of the hospital were air-conditioned. “I was so incredibly proud of my husband, with the primitive equipment and people peering over his back (during surgery),” said Debbie Clark. She added that on one occasion she counted 26 people in the 18-by-18 foot operating room, many of them resident doctors eager to learn the procedure. Family members of patients were also allowed to stay overnight at the hospital, which increased congestion.

Clark said there is no resentment against Americans from the Vietnam War. “They love Americans,” he said. “We didn’t expect such warmth and intense desire to please,” Debbie Clark said. On their last day, the owner of a hotel gift shop took Debbie Clark on a shopping trip by scooter, a common mode of transportation in Vietnam, and that evening they were feted at a banquet in their honor, hosted by hospital doctors. They presented the Clarks with a going-away present of an embroidered silk picture depicting the Parfum River, which flows through town, a Buddhist pagoda and boats. Debbie Clark said it really touched her. “I cried,” she said. Dr. Clark corresponds by e-mail with several of the doctors and may return someday. “As soon as I left, I wanted to come back,” he said.
Jun 1, 2011