SARASOTA, Fla. (August 5, 2021) – Center For Sight is preparing for its annual Mission Cataract event scheduled for August 11 and 18. Cataract surgeons Dr. David Shoemaker, Dr. William Lahners, Dr. Joshua Kim, Dr. William Soscia, Dr. Jon Berlie and Dr. Joaquin O. De Rojas will perform free life-changing cataract surgeries in the Sarasota and Naples AAAHC-accredited surgery centers. The event, funded by the Center For Sight Foundation, annually helps up to 100 people who cannot pay for cataract surgery get the vision correcting care they need.
Cataracts are a natural part of the aging process and develop slowly, causing cloudy vision, loss of color perception and trouble reading or driving at night. There is no way to prevent cataract formation. Surgery is necessary to remove the clouded lens and replace it with an artificial intraocular lens implant.
Center For Sight is one of only 19 ophthalmology practices in the United States that offers this free service to uninsured patients through Mission Cataract. The practice has been performing vision restoration for underprivileged community members for over 30 years.
“Our team’s mission is to ensure that no one suffers visual loss due to a treatable condition due to inability to pay,” said Dr. David Shoemaker, founder and director of cataract and lens replacement surgery at Center For Sight. “Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness and we are committed to changing lives through this program. There is no greater gift than the gift of sight, and we are proud to continue to offer Mission Cataract to those in our community who need it annually.”
Stories of This Year’s Mission Cataract Recipients
Placida resident Justine Ashley spends her time at the library, reading biographies and renting movies to take home to watch. For the past two years, seeing well enough to enjoy her books and movies has become difficult due to her advanced cataracts. “After surgery I look forward to driving with confidence, no matter the time of day, and reading my books without squinting through a magnifying glass,” said Ashley.
Robert Matheny, a Eustis resident, says his vision is like looking through a yellow-tinted frosted shower door. “I haven’t been able to enjoy my hobby as an amateur astronomer for quite some time,” said Matheny. “I look forward to spending time under the stars with my telescope and I would count it a blessing to be able to look at a tree and spot the mockingbird that’s singing.”
Sarasota resident Burton Schulz is the only driver in his household but battles blurry vision when on the road. After cataract surgery, he’s most looking forward to driving with confidence and completing his word search puzzles without the assistance of a magnifying glass.
Jari Kainuiaiunem has struggled with homelessness and relies on his eyes to get him around the Venice area safely. Once his vision is restored, he is excited to recognize his own face in the mirror and help friends with everyday tasks. “I’ve never been treated better than how the team at Center For Sight has treated me,” said Kainuiaiunem.
Necessary Partnerships to Continue Mission Cataract
To ensure ongoing funding for the annual Mission Cataract program, Shoemaker formed the Center For Sight Foundation, a donor-advised fund of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation. Every dollar received is put towards the annual Mission Cataract charitable initiative to purchase medications, surgical supplies, protective post-operative glasses, and the intraocular lenses to be placed in patients’ eyes at the time of surgery.
In addition, Center For Sight has partnered with Operation Sight, a national program through the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS) Foundation in order to expand its reach in Southwest Florida and nationwide. The goal of Operation Sight is to build a network of volunteer organizations that provide care to Americans unable to access or afford cataract surgery. Center For Sight’s affiliate practice, Carolina Eyecare Physicians, located in Charleston, South Carolina, is the founding practice of the Operation Sight program and will also be participating to serve patients in need within the Lowcountry.
Not only do the Center For Sight surgeons and Center For Sight Foundation donors participate in providing this service, but the premier laser technology company, LENSAR, Inc., of Orlando, will donate the use of its advanced LENSAR laser system.
To qualify for Mission Cataract, patients must complete an application and meet specific criteria to be eligible for treatment. Applicants must be United States citizens, have a confirmed diagnosis of cataracts, live at or below the poverty level set by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, and be without Medicare, Medicaid, or third-party insurance coverage.