For more than 30 years, ASCRS member and ASCRS Foundation Operation Sight Volunteer of the Year, Robert Rice, MD of I Care San Antonio has dedicated his career to the humanitarian care of underserved patient populations. Dr. Rice began making a difference through international mission work but soon discovered his community’s need for charitable care. Devoted to providing care for those who are medically underserved and in financial need, Dr. Rice has volunteered with the ASCRS Foundation’s Operation Sight program since its founding in 2014. He has provided more than 300 surgeries to those who would have otherwise gone without care! Dr. Rice recently discussed his experience as an Operation Sight volunteer to serve the growing need in his community and his advice for other surgeons interested in local charitable care.
ASCRS Foundation: You are part of the ASCRS Foundation’s Operation Sight volunteer network of 740 volunteers and charitable organizations. What inspired you to first get involved with Operation Sight as a volunteer surgeon?
Dr. Rice: I started participating in international mission work 35 years ago and local indigent care over 20 years ago. I was excited to join the ASCRS Foundation’s Operation Sight program to provide additional opportunities for people to experience sight restoring cataract surgery.
ASCRS Foundation: Can you share about the pressing need you witnessed for patients in financial need in your community and how Operation Sight has supported your passion to make care accessible?
Dr. Rice: I Care Vision Center in San Antonio sees many patients who have significant loss of sight from cataracts. We draw patients from 9 counties. In 2021 we performed more than 50 cataract surgeries for patients in need. The Operation Sight Grant program has helped us care for these patients.
ASCRS Foundation: What was your first experience accepting and providing charitable cataract surgery to an Operation Sight patient?
Dr. Rice: It was an honor and blessing to help restore an Operation Sight patient and be partnered with a national organization helping to restore sight in underserved populations.
ASCRS Foundation: Why have you chosen to continue to volunteer with Operation Sight? How does Operation Sight support your passion for charitable care?
Dr. Rice: I am a big advocate for using our resources to help provide care to those who do not have insurance or the financial means to restore their sight through cataract surgery. I would like to see our local program at I Care San Antonio expand to all year round.
One of our patients came from a town 3 hours away from San Antonio. Our staff secured a hotel stay for each surgery at no cost to the patient with help from Operation Sight’s grant program. He is now able to return to work.
ASCRS Foundation: How does volunteering with Operation Sight make giving back locally easy to do?
Dr. Rice: I add the Operation Sight patients on to my regular surgical schedule. Operation Sight works to identify and pre-screen patients for me. The Operation Sight Grant program helps us to offset costs and serve more patients.
ASCRS Foundation: What impact do you witness when making this care accessible?
Dr. Rice: Many of the patients are of working age and are supporting families. Many have lost their jobs because of poor eyesight caused by cataracts. After surgery they can return to work and provide for their families once again.
ASCRS Foundation: What advice do you have for an ophthalmologist considering volunteering with Operation Sight?
Dr. Rice: Many of these patients have cataracts that are much more advanced than our insured patients. Removing the patch from someone who had bilateral hand motion vision prior to surgery, and watching them experience good vision once more is priceless. It is truly a blessing!
Do you share Dr. Rice’s passion for providing accessible care in your community? Contact Program Manager Rachel Goode at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about volunteering with the ASCRS Foundation’s Operation Sight program.