By Stephanie Godward, Director of Marketing and Communications, RestoringVision
At 76 years old and having personally impacted 77,000 people living in poverty across the globe with the power of clear vision so far, optometrist Dr. David Curtis’s life is dedicated to helping others – and finding ways to multiply and accelerate his reach.
This National Volunteer Month, we recognize Dr. Curtis for his 80 completed medical missions over the course of 24 years, helping to solve the global vision crisis while thinking “outside of the box” to create his Eye Doc in a Box program, which trains lay people to complete vision screenings in impoverished communities worldwide.
Because of one man’s actions and willingness to make a difference for his global community – nearly 3 million people living in poverty can now see clearly as a result of Dr. Curtis’s personal work, his Eye Doc in a Box training seminars, and the resulting impact.
During one of his trips to a village in India, a group of mothers was eager to receive a vision screening and eyeglasses for the sake of their children’s safety and those for whom they prepared food. The women regularly sorted stones out of rice while preparing meals. In the past, not being able to recognize a stone in rice due to blurry vision had tragic consequences. A person eating once bit into a stone, breaking a tooth. It resulted in a dental emergency that caused an abscessed tooth that ultimately resulted in the person dying from the infection. The women said the eyeglasses would help them to see clearly, allowing them to see and remove stones from the rice they serve – potentially saving other lives as a result of their restored vision. In this case, eyeglasses were life-changing, and lifesaving.
Dr. Curtis noted that while most of the people in the village he was serving at the time were illiterate, it was still critical for those over the age of 45 to have eyeglasses for this reason and for many others. This is one of many stories that has inspired Dr. Curtis to dedicate his life to the cause of clear vision.
“I do this because I am a Christian and Christians are supposed to give back. Using eye care to demonstrate the love of God to people is what motivates me,” Dr. Curtis said. “The impact of a pair of glasses will last for years.”
Dr. Curtis took his first medical mission trip to India in 1999 and since then, his life has never been the same.
“I came back from India blown away by the incredible need for eye care. It was a real revelation for me,” he said.
After realizing the extreme need for eye care across the globe, the North Carolina-based optometrist has dedicated his life’s work to helping people in need, even shaping his own private practice and business decisions to ensure he had the chance to continue his outreach work through the years. In 2009, he opened a second office and hired an optometrist to work when he was on medical outreach trips, then he hired a third. In 2015, he sold his practice to those two optometrists to devote his time to serving people in need of vision care in impoverished communities.
For the past five years, he has been partnering with RestoringVision’s Community Outreach Program to purchase low-cost, high-quality glasses that people he serves would not have access to otherwise. He prefers to work with RestoringVision because he knows the glasses will last longer for people in need because they are brand new and high quality.
Dr. Curtis recently returned from his 80th trip – this one occurring in Kenya, where he was able to serve up to 130 people per day with the system he has created to train lay people – with no medical training required – to provide vision screenings for people living in extreme poverty: Eye Doc in a Box. He completed his first Eye Doc in a Box seminar in 2003. To date, he has trained about 2,000 people to complete vision screenings for people living in impoverished communities across the globe.
“Basically, everybody will develop presbyopia if they live long enough,” he said. “On a different trip, I was in Kenya a few years ago and a man started crying. His wife and two children were starving – he said ‘I am a tailor and I can no longer see to thread the needle.’ The glasses would change that.”
Dr. Curtis continues to transfer his knowledge to others while raising awareness about the global vision crisis to multiply himself to treat and reach more people who lack access to the vision services and eyeglasses they need to see clearly. His seminars are completed in one day, and the information shared has the power to impact so many more lives across the globe.
“The knowledge that you will learn in this one day can last a lifetime and help to change the lives of many people in impoverished communities,” he said.