Chinese eye specialist tackles cataracts in Samoa

It was not just about trade and economic development when the 3rd China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum got underway in Apia.

The one-day regional summit has also brought back eye specialist Professor Chen Weirong of Zhongshan Ophthalmic Center – which is part of the Sun Yat-sen University in China – for her fifth visit to Samoa.

Her return to the country is supported by the government of Guangdong Province in China, and she is part of medical aid teams who have travelled to nations in the Pacific and Indian oceans as well as Africa since 2013.

Since her arrival in Samoa on Monday, patients have been lining up to receive free cataract surgery scheduled for October 21-23. 

“We did 19 confirmed patients for operation on Monday and 27 today so it was 46 altogether in total apart from more than 100 people that we have in the clinic,” she said.

Professor Chen hopes she can see more patients as the operation on cataract patients is leading to them seeing again after a successful operation. 

“Just like the 92-year-old lady I conducted operation on, Loligi Tauiliili joyfully kept crying after the operation,” she said.

Seeing Samoans get their sight back after being stricken by cataracts are the fruits of her hard work, she added.

“Coincided with Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum, I really feel the warm welcome from Samoa people, and I am grateful to provide medical service to them,” she said.

The first need she saw upon her arrival in Samoa is the number of poor patients who were affected by cataracts.

“So when I came here, it touched my heart and I think that I should help these people, because I am a doctor and I do not discriminate based on country,” she added.

But attending to the blind was not the only assistance Professor Chen and her team brought to Samoa, they will also donated a phacoemulsification machine valued at about 700,000 RMB for cataract surgery as well as to remedy common eye diseases. 

They have also extended an invitation to Samoan doctors to go to China for training.

Having visited the Pacific Islands over the years, Professor Chen said the high prevalence of diabetes and ultraviolet radiation in the region are the major factors behind the increase in cataracts cases. 

“So I will advise the people here not to eat too much and control the sugar intake and weight as it is very important because the people are so huge,” she said.

To mitigate the risks of being diagnosed with cataracts, Professor Chen said people in Samoa should control their diet, do more exercise and avoid sunshine by wearing sunglasses. 

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