First Cornea Transplants Performed in Grenada

Grenadians will receive corneal transplants through an initiative made possible by the Minister of Health, Mrs. Ann David-Antoine, and two graduates of SGUSOM, Robert Fucigna, MD, and Orazio Giliberti, MD. These cornea transplants are the latest developments in a well established history of service to the Grenadian people by the SGU’s School of Medicine. Cornea transplants are costly, sophisticated eye operations that average more than $50,000 (USD) per operation.

Dr. Giliberti is the first graduate of St. George’s School of Medicine to specialize in Ophthalmology. After completing his studies, Dr. Giliberti continued to maintain strong ties with the University, first as a Visiting Professor in the Clinical Skills Department, and since 1997, an Associate Dean of Clinical Studies. Screenings for cornea transplants began as early as 1983, beginning with members of the SGU community including staff and students. This program was formally instituted in 1995; however, until this new initiative, patients were required to travel to the United States where the operations were performed.

Today, Dr. Giliberti is the Associate Dean of Clinical Studies, US, and the Director of Ophthalmology at St. George’s University, a department which boasts of no less than thirty skilled ophthalmologists. He, as well, serves as the Director of Opthalmology at Seton Hall University. Two years ago, Dr. Giliberti embarked on a project to bring quality medical eye care to the people of Grenada. He teamed up with Grenadian eye specialist, Dr. Elliot McGuire, and together they conducted a total of fifty screenings, identifying candidates who would need this very specialized care. From these screenings, three candidates were chosen for the cornea transplants, have undergone this surgery, and are now at the Eye Ward. There remain about twenty persons in Grenada still in need of corneal surgery.

The deterioration of a person’s cornea can lead to the total loss of sight and can occur either as a genetic defect or as a result of infection. In the latter, the infection first needs to be treated. Then the damaged cornea tissue is replaced by a new graft. “It’s like a car that has a damaged windshield; the windshield is taken out and replaced with a new one, thus restoring better sight to the eye,” Dr. Fucigna explained.

As the project becomes established, Dr. Giliberti anticipates that local doctors will be trained to perform the procedure and that medicines and equipment will be provided so that such operations can become a standard part of health care in Grenada. Mr. Stephen Thomas, Director of the Hospital stated, “We should continue to harness the resources of SGU, making use of the services of the doctors, seminars, conferences and work together with them to provide better health care for the people of Grenada.”

Published on 04/21/2005