Helping Grenadians See Better: SGU’s Physician Humanitarian Network Aiding Disease-Related Blindness

When ophthalmologist Fred Lambrou first came to Grenada in 2014 to visit his stepson, Weston, a medical student at St. George’s University, the issues facing many Grenadians was plain to see. Diabetes, afflicting approximately 30 percent of the country’s population, threatened to slowly rob their eyesight unless they received proper treatment.

Having learned of this, Dr. Lambrou and his wife, Pat, an ophthalmology nurse, jumped at the opportunity to serve the country that provided their son’s medical education. Since their first visit, they have provided free weeklong ophthalmology clinics in Grenada twice each year through SGU’s Physician Humanitarian Network (SGU PHN), leaving their comfortable lives to provide more than 150 free laser treatments to those suffering from the blinding effects of diabetes.

“I feel very blessed to be working here in Grenada,” said Dr. Lambrou, Retina Surgeon at Retina Associates PA in Jacksonville, FL. “The people have been wonderful, and I think we are making a difference and progressing forward.  I keep coming back because of the need and the people. The SGU PHN has been fabulous, and I think together we can make a big difference in the lives of the people of Grenada. Our goal is to eliminate blindness from diabetic retinopathy in Grenada.”

“Dr. Lambrou represents the spirit of the SGU Physician Humanitarian Network,” said Brendon La Grenade, Interim Vice Provost, Office of Institutional Advancement at SGU. “We are grateful to have them as associate alumni, as well as their son, Weston. To sum them up in one word—humanitarians.”

To further bolster ophthalmologic treatment in Grenada, the Lambrous organized the donation of the OcuLight laser system by IRIDEX Corporation, a device that generally targets the damaged eye tissue by treating leaking blood vessels directly and or eliminating abnormal blood vessels that have formed. More recently, they secured an EasyScan retinal camera that will lead to earlier diagnoses of conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, and glaucoma.

“With the EasyScan camera, retinal screenings are very simple. They don’t hurt the patient, there is no need to dilate the pupils, and the camera takes a good picture that I can use for earlier diagnoses of retinal conditions,” Dr. Lambrou said. “Patients tend not to go see their eye doctor until they’ve lost their vision, and by then it’s almost too late. We strongly encourage people who are diabetic to get their eyes checked, and hope that, with this new equipment, we can get patients to come in earlier so we can treat them earlier and help prevent blindness.”

The EasyScan retinal imaging device was secured through HealPros, a mobile telemedicine service company that addresses unmet needs of diabetes management programs and diagnostic services. The camera employs Scanning Laser Ophthalmoscope (SLO) technology, which makes use of an infrared and a green laser that show multiple layers of the retina. When viewed individually and combined, different types of deviations can be identified, serving as a perfect basis for accurate diagnoses. With EasyScan’s high contrast images, retinopathies become more easily detectable leading to earlier diagnosis of retinal conditions.

All told, Mr. La Grenade estimated that Dr. Lambrou has sourced and donated equipment in excess of US $30,000 to provide corrective procedures to the people of Grenada.

“After screening 30-40 patients during his vacation on his very first visit to Grenada, Dr. Lambrou began strategizing on how he could lend his expertise to assist the patients he saw and to expand service to others,” Mr. La Grenade said. “It was immediately clear to him that, with the high prevalence of diabetes on the island, early detection and some treatment options would be necessary if these individuals were to keep their sight.”

Lending his almost 30 years of retina expertise, Dr. Lambrou also invites the University’s basic sciences students to the clinics giving them a chance to both observe and use the ophthalmoscope—gaining valuable hands-on experience and an early opportunity to build their clinical skills.

“I would love to expand the clinical aspect of my visits because the SGU PHN has provided a great resource for clinical material for students to learn,” praised Dr. Lambrou. “Medical education in the US is changing. It’s now important to get more clinical experience to students in the first two years of school. This is a great facility for students to get some much-needed practice dealing with patients and using the ophthalmoscope.”