There’s a difference between success and significance. This is a concept Dr. Charles Davis took to heart when he read Bob Buford’s 2008 book “Halftime: Moving from Success to Significance.” I’ve been really blessed with an amazing practice, staff and family,” Davis said, “but I felt like I needed to return some of that blessing back to those less fortunate than me.”
This desire compelled Dr. Davis to find a way to use his surgical skills and expertise to give the gift of clearer vision to those who otherwise would never have the access to care.
Mozambique and Haiti
Dr. Davis and his wife first traveled abroad in 2007 to Mozambique with a group from The Chapel of Akron. “Even though we couldn’t do any eye surgery in Mozambique, handing out glasses hanged a lot of lives,” Davis said. He returned to Mozambique in 2008 and 2010 and continued to distribute glasses to those who had no other way to obtain them. It was on that last trip that the decision was made to find a way to do cataract surgery and take the mission trips to the next level.
In January 2016, Dr. Davis traveled to Haiti and performed the first cataract surgery on foreign soil in his career. “All said and done, I removed 36 cataracts or so in Haiti,” Davis explained, “that was my first time seeing cataracts so severe that they blinded the patients.”
Lisa Stephens, Director of The Center for Surgery, was also part of the Haiti trip. “I cried a lot in Haiti,” she said. “Those people needed so much that giving them vision didn’t seem like enough.”
After Haiti, the Davis team knew they needed to continue to go to underprivileged countries to cure blindness caused by cataracts and restore sight.
Today, Dr. Davis, his wife, and his team make regular trips to Jamaica to perform cataract surgery. “Jamaica offers us opportunities we simply didn’t have in Haiti,” Davis said. “We have amazing doctors there that we work with and a facility that has the equipment we need. It even has wifi!”
Many of the Jamaicans Dr. Davis sees have cataracts so severe they are left blind in one or both eyes as a result. “You should see the cataracts there,” he explained. “They’re massive – and dark brown in color. That type of cataract is so rare in the States.”
The Davis team keeps going back to Jamaica because of the great need and the joy in seeing patients with restored sight and new opportunity in life. “We’re actually curing blindness in a lot of cases, and that feels pretty good,” Stephens said. “Once patients can see, they can go get jobs and help to support their families again. It’s a ripple effect.”
Patients often return on subsequent trips for surgery on their other eye and bring with them a whole new demeanor. “One guy, Thunder, was completely blind and was very difficult to operate on the first time – even after sedation we had to hold him still,” Stephens continued. “We removed his first cataract, and he came back the next trip a changed man. It was truly amazing! The gift of sight had given him a new life.”
Jamaica allows Dr. Davis to take success to significance by using his skills and generosity to benefit some of the poorest people. “I’m so happy I’m able to make a difference in these people’s lives,” Davis said. “That’s what really matters.”
Local Mission Work
In addition to his frequent trips to Jamaica, Dr. Davis also gives back locally. “Sometimes your mission field is right in front of you,” he said. “In 2010, I removed a cataract for an Amish man from my in-law’s hometown. Word spread about the fair price I was able to offer the Amish community, who generally do not have health or vision insurance. They will come from places as far as New York, Utah, and Washington!”
Dr. Davis has long maintained that doing the right thing for his patients is his number one rule. He understands that every patient is unique and feels that someone’s financial situation shouldn’t determine their ability to see.
Dr. Davis’ medical mission work is just as important as his regular work in Northeast Ohio. “When your gift, passion, and profession all line up, you can do some amazing things,” Davis said. “I’m blessed to be in a position where I can give back in a meaningful way.”