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Despite being the largest country in Central America, Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. At least partially due to these factors, medical care for the almost six million citizens of Nicaragua is limited, and can be far more expensive than many Nicaraguans can afford.

To help alleviate the difficulties facing Nicaragua’s healthcare system, volunteer physicians and staff operate a free clinic called el Centro Nacional de Oftalmología (the National Ophthalmology Hospital) in Managua, Nicaragua. Among these volunteers are some of our own faculty, Dr. Thomas Mauger, department chairman, and Dr. Rebecca Kuennen, one of our newest faculty members.

In July 2009, they traveled to Nicaragua to volunteer their time and abilities, and were also able to take ten donated corneas supplied by the Tissue Bank International. Because Nicaragua does not have a tissue bank, these donated corneas were a particular blessing to those requiring extensive surgery.

“There was one girl,” said Dr. Kuennen, “about twelve or thirteen, who needed a cornea transplant. She was a beautiful girl, but her cornea had been badly scarred. After the surgery she was crying, she was so happy she could see again.”

Drs. Mauger and Kuennen treated about fifty patients, ranging in age from two to eighty. They performed corneal transplants and other necessary surgeries, while the local physicians, residents, and staff at the hospital watched and learned.

In a letter, one grateful nurse shared her appreciation: “Thanks to our dear friends Dr. Tom Mauger and Dr. Rebecca Kuennen . . . Nicaragua is a needy nation . . . the patients, hospital and doctors here [are] very grateful.”

Past Outreach Trips with Faculty & Alumni:

In September 2005, Bob Chambers, DO and Tom Mauger, MD went to Central America to seek possible areas where the Havener Eye Center could assist efforts already underway to improve and restore Nicaragua’s National Eye Hospital in Managua. The National Eye Hospital is in great need of support as Nicaragua is the second poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

In 2006, former ophthalmology residents, Dr. Dave George, Dr. John Pajka, and Dr. John Walker traveled to Managua, Nicaragua. The National Eye Hospital's ophthalmology clinic relies entirely on volunteer physicians like Drs. George, Pajka, and Walker. Nicaraguans often travel for miles just for a chance to attend the clinic.

In March 2008, physicians from the Havener Eye Institute once again traveled to Central America to provide surgical care to the impoverished area of Managua, Nicaragua. This time they brought more than their fine surgical skills, they brought ten donated corneas for transplanting.


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