After experiencing my first international surgical mission to the Philippines with my family this past summer, I returned to Hampton Roads with a new passion for restoring vision to those in need both at home and abroad. Our lead physician on the mission to his homeland, Dr Juan Montero, asked me to join the board of Montero Medical Missions (MMM), a newly formed faith-based and interfaith humanitarian organization wherein our belief in God is expressed in the heart of our actions. You have known me as the founder of Beach Eye Care (now 20 years old); but more recently, I have chosen to additionally participate in global eye care as the Vice President of Montero Medical Missions. I’ve been providing eye care in Hampton Roads for 26 years, initially as an ophthalmology resident at EVMS, then in my private practice while serving 22 years as a visiting eye doctor to the residents of Southeastern Virginia Training Center. The Beach Eye Care Team delivers the gift of sight daily through the charitable care programs of Beach Eye Care and the Virginia Center for Eye Surgery and by working with Chesapeake Care Free Clinic and Beach Free Clinic. I have lectured internationally in France, China, Estonia, and the Philippines. But, it was only through the local connections of my wife from her elementary school PTA work with a fellow mom, that we began to work in the Philippines last year. Initially, our work in the Philippines started with donating retired glasses and our partnership with Essilor Optical to provide eyeglasses lens blanks. But travelling to perform surgery to perform surgery was our goal, and I fulfilled that dream when my entire family and I partnered with Dr. Montero to go on a family mission to the Philippines this past July, my first international surgical experience. See my previous blog for more details.
So, what is a mission? Webster’s defines it as an important assignment carried out for a purpose typically involving travel by a group of people. Why Montero Medical Missions now? The answer lies in our mission statement:
[quote]To provide medical missions and create sustainable healthcare projects for physicians and allied health professionals with international roots; to share blessings and healthcare with their fellow countrymen”[/quote]
And, what does it take to accomplish a mission? Incredible teamwork, organization, planning, fund raising, and enlisting business/corporate participation are the keystones. On our recent mission to the Philippines, a third of our budget came from donations of product from eye care companies such as Alcon, Allergan, and Ista; a third from our mission sponsor Physicians for Peace; and the last third from contributions from family foundations and fund raising done at Beach Eye Care including a sunset cruise on the American Rover and a Philippine feast in our church, Community UMC.
And, why go? We, my family and I, viewed this as an incredible opportunity to serve the needs of the Lord’s people in an area of the world connected to Hampton Roads thru Dr Juan Montero. This was an opportunity to receive much more than we could give back by restoring sight removing dense cataracts, dispensing glasses, diagnosing diabetes, and leaving more modern surgical equipment to treat the world’s #1 cause of preventable blindness – cataracts. Seeing the other side of the world with its splendor of people, land, and sea, further added to this unparalleled opportunity. When Dr Montero asked me to serve on the Montero Medical Missions board and then as Vice President, I accepted this new commitment to help globally. And my fellow eye physicians at Beach Eye Care have stepped up to participate with their support in fundraising and with their presence on missions designed to restore eyesight, to improve hearing, or to walk freely with prosthetic limbs.
Dr Montero has assembled a board to help with his passion of the last 2 decades, providing care to those in need at home as well as where it is needed in the world. One of his ventures was opening the doors of the Chesapeake Care Free Clinic. With its recent expansion, Chesapeake Care Free Clinic is the largest of its kind in the United States. Montero Medical Missions is partnering with the Veterans’ Hospital to help the underserved in our community who have defended our freedom. We continue to support Dr Chris Buniel, our optometrist on the island of Mindanao, with our eyesight program in the Philippines. Montero Medical Missions is planning future international mission trips to Bulgaria, Peru, Ghana, and Vietnam. Our goal is to send a Beach Eye Care eye physician on each of these trips. Dr Koza plans to travel with EVMS to Honduras in March, and Dr Lipton will volunteer in Bulgaria in the spring.
So, how can you help? We welcome your donation of used, retired glasses as well as monetary ones via checks made payable to: The Montero Foundation w/MMM on the memo line and mailed to 524 Woodards Ford Road, Chesapeake, VA 23322. Beach Eye Care physicians pay their own way and these funds are used for the needed mission supplies. Thank you for helping us do our part to restore the world’s vision.
– G. Peyton Neatrour