History of World Service

Department of Ophthalmology

Since 1962, the Department of Ophthalmology at Loyola University Medical Center has reached around the world to bring sight to those in great need. During a vacation trip, Ophthalmology Chairman Dr. James McDonald was touched by the plight of the people of Haiti, where eyecare was virtually nonexistent. In 1962, together with colleagues Dr. Arthur Light and Dr. Thomas Stamm, he founded the organization known as FOCUS (Foreign Ophthalmological Care from the United States). The first FOCUS volunteers served in Haiti and later in Guatemala. FOCUS then concentrated its efforts for more than 21 years at the Mercy Hospital Eye Center in Abak, Nigeria, about nine hours by car from Lagos. Endorsed by the Chicago Ophthalmological Society, FOCUS was headquartered at Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine under Dr. McDonald’s direction until his retirement in 1997. The organization is now under the direction of Dr. Marilyn Miller at the University of Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary in Chicago.

As department chair from 1971 to 1989, Dr. McDonald made service overseas a departmental priority. His work through FOCUS provided vital medical and surgical ophthalmic services in areas of extreme need by recruiting volunteer physicians, collecting donated medical supplies, and raising money to fund its work. His leadership and passion for overseas endeavors were carried forward in the work of other renowned faculty throughout the past 46 years.  Additionally, we are grateful to Dr. James E. McDonald for creating an endowment for the McDonald Lecture and the McDonald Resident Day, which occur annually.  The endowment also funds World Services trips for residents.  

Former faculty member and retinal specialist Dr. Richard Gieser has provided eyecare in such global settings as MongoliaChina and Nepal. He continues to live the mission through his recent work in the Sudan, teaching new techniques to local vitreo-retinal surgeons and residents. Since his retirement from Loyola, he continues to inspire new residents in the practice of outreach through the Richard Gieser MD World Service Lecture endowment. The inaugural Richard Gieser, MD lecture was presented on June 13, 2008 by May Khadem, MD, assistant professor of clinical ophthalmology at the Feinberg School of Medicine or Northwestern University and Executive Director of Health for Humanity, who presented the lecture “The Global Challenge of Blindness.”  DR. Gieser’s continued generosity has led to the Annual Global Health Symposia, a Loyola Ophthalmology tradition devoted to educating providers on best practices in global service. In addition to the keynote speaker, this unique forum invites all specialties interested in global eyecare to share mission experiences inspiring collaboration to address world need

In 1997, Dr. McDonald, and in 2002, Dr. Gieser were presented with the Humanitarian Award of the American Academy of Ophthalmology in recognition of their many years of medical service throughout the world.

With an eye toward our FOCUS roots, we recently have directed our global service efforts toward fostering a new relationship with ophthalmology in the central American country of Guatemala. Beginning in 2006, senior residents have traveled to Guatemala to offer ophthalmological services in remote underserved villages and towns including Flores, San Benito, Dolores, Santa Rita, Coban, Guatemala City, Joyabaj, Chichicastenango and the Peton region and more recently with Nisar Hospital in Antique. Listening to the words of the residents upon their return, the common experience was powerful in confirming one’s personal desire to pursue world service opportunities. On reflection, the residents were grateful to have and to share an international care experience.

The commitment to living the mission continues despite the challenges of the twenty-first century. Our faculty, staff, and residences continue serve before, during and after their tenure at Loyola. The DNA of Loyola is service and the remarkable work for our forefathers, current leaders, faculty. Staff, residents and alumni express this trait beautifully in their devotion to others here and abroad. 


Eileen Gable, OD
Assistant Professor and Director, Foreign Missions Program
Department of Ophthalmology
Loyola University Medical Center