ST. GEORGE – For Dr. Snow Slade, a glaucoma specialist at the St. George Eye Center, helping people improve their vision is not only his career but a passion. It is a passion that not only dictates how he cares for his patients in Southern Utah but one he shares with people all over the world by bringing modern medical technology along with his knowledge and skills to impoverished nations.
Slade recently returned from Harare, Zimbabwe, where he partnered with LDS Charities, a humanitarian arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to bring various eyesight-related medical equipment to the University of Zimbabwe, including a glaucoma laser, and train medical staff how to operate the equipment.
While at the University of Zimbabwe, Slade met with about a dozen doctors and gave lectures, trained them on the equipment and treated patients alongside the doctors.
“There were probably maybe a dozen doctors that we trained,” Slade said, “and we set up a curriculum for them to be able to use that laser and then they’ll have a patient log – a treatment log – that will ensure, well hopefully ensure, that (it) is being used and it is being used appropriately. And hopefully we will get some good results with it.”
Because the equipment was donated to a medical facility at the University of Zimbabwe, Slade said that the skill transfer was kind of built in but added that the state of medicine in the country is still about 50 years behind what you would see in the United States.
Forces out of the control of medical professionals in Zimbabwe, particularly their system of government, Slade said, have made it hard for them to get patients in and treat them the way they would be able to if conditions in the country were better.
Some of the equipment being used was very antiquated, he said, equipment he had never seen used in the United States because it was way before his time.
“This brought them up to almost concurrent with what we are doing in the U.S., almost so,” Slade said of the equipment donation and training.
Harare is the capital and most populated city in Zimbabwe. It has an estimated population of 1.5 million. While the glaucoma laser will stay at the university, the one stipulation of the donation is that the doctors are asked to go out to the more remote and rural areas of the country and set up cataract camps, Slade said, to treat patients in those remote areas who have cataracts.
Slade’s trip will have a lasting impact on the state of medicine in Zimbabwe, he said, beyond the equipment and training that was given. It put the doctors in contact with someone from the United States; it gives them more opportunities to continue their training and see how ophthalmology should be. It also holds them accountable to maintain and properly use the equipment for the benefit of patients.
“It is helping them to help themselves,” Slade said. “That way it is a more lasting effect and hopefully those skills will stay.”
The gift of sight
Slade is a busy doctor and family man; yet he continues to give of his time and skills to help bring sight to people all over the world. It is a gift, he said, that brings him a great deal of personal satisfaction.
“You can literally take someone who is blind and make them see again and any level of vision that you can give them back, they are truly, truly grateful for.”
The return of sight, on any level, for many in these impoverished nations is a gift of hope, Slade said. It is giving them their life back.
“These were people who were completely destitute, couldn’t see, couldn’t cook, couldn’t take care of their basic needs,” Slade said, “and with a procedure … you can truly give someone their life back in every sense.”
Though the service is life-changing for the people receiving the procedure, Slade said it is equally life changing for him and advocates every person ought to give service of some kind.
“I think we should all have to serve, I think it should be required of every U.S. citizen to go out and serve in a third world country,” Slade said. “You go do that for two weeks, you’ll not come back the same person. All those little things that we complain about, that we gripe about, that we fight over in the news – they would go away. All these first-world problems aren’t as big of a problem as we think they are when we go out and see what real problems are in the world.”
About Dr. Snow Slade
Slade is board-certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology. He specializes in the treatment of glaucoma, a progressive blinding disease, as well as the treatment of cataracts and general geriatric ophthalmology.
His biography on the St. George Eye Center website describes his affiliations: “Dr. Slade is a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Glaucoma Society, and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery.”
His work has been published in several prestigious ophthalmic journals and Slade has served many humanitarian medical missions throughout the world.
Slade’s love for his career and his love for humanitarian work stem from the same thing – the impact of his efforts. He said:
“There is a satisfaction in helping those that can’t help themselves in that way. That is more striking when you go to a third world … you make a huge impact.”
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