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July 19, 1996 - Image 69

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1996-07-19

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Project ViSiti

t is not the trip to Israel that pulls
Dr. Jay Novetsky away from his
family and his thriving ophthal-
mology practice for weeks each year.
Nor is it the thrill he receives
when he successfully wheels
through customs a piece of equip-
ment that will give doctors in Israel
the ability to improve the eye care they
provide their patients.
Instead, it is the feeling he gets from
helping fellow Jews through Project Vi-
sion, a charitable organization that pro-
vides free eye care in Israel, Russia, Cuba
and Romania. _
"I can't explain the feeling," he said. "It
is so wonderful to have such an opportu-
nity. ”
Dr. Novetsky, along with partner Dr.
Larry Loewenthal and Atlanta ophthal-
mologist Steven Kutner, heads the orga-
nization that has grown from a small clinic
set up to help Israeli immigrants to a

sprawling multinational effort to aid Jews
with eye diseases.
In addition to performing free cataract
and eye surgery, the organization also
trains doctors to perform the latest tech-
niques in eye surgery and treatment —
procedures they may not learn for years
— that are commonplace in America. A
new effort for the group includes a mobile
eye clinic that serves about 1,000 Jew-
ish and Arab Israelis a month in Haifa
and the western Galilee region.
It is hardly unusual for doctors to per-
form their services for free or to travel to
remote corners of the Earth to help peo-
ple who otherwise would not receive qual-
ity medical care. Many a tent has been
pitched to serve as a makeshift examin-
ing room in small villages where a doctor
is about as normal a fixture as a crystal
chandelier in one of the native's huts.
In fact, several organizations in the
United States recruit doctors to serve for

Two local physicians are
improving eye-care services
overseas while helping
the blind to see.


months in war-torn and impoverished
countries. These organizations also beg
companies and individuals for equipment,
money and medicine to help the needy in
these countries, as well as in the United
The doctors devote months of their lives
they could be using to build a private prac-
tice in exchange for living in less than de-
sirable conditions and receiving a small
stipend that barely covers living expens-
es. Their reasons for this commitment
vary, said Derrick G. Wong, executive di-
rector of Doctors of the World.
"Many of them complain that managed
care keeps them from actually caring for
their patients," he said. "Many of them talk
of why they went to medical school and
how they got involved and sort of lost sight
of their reason for choosing the profession.

Drs. Jay Novetsky and Larry Loewenthal are
helping Jews overseas with Project Vision.


"But more of them have this notion that
medical care should also go to the people
who are the most under-served, that peo-
ple should not be denied care because of
where they live or what they can afford,"
Mr. Wong said.
Project Vision differentiates itself from
other efforts in that it mainly targets Jews,
in the way it has grown to reach masses
of people, in the number of countries in
which it has a presence and in the amount
of donations and gifts in kind it has been
able to attract in the five short years it has
been in operation. The effort has raised
over $1.5 million and, in addition to help-
ing the Jewish populations in the four
countries it currently serves, has plans to
expand to Ukraine in the coming year.
What is next?
"Who knows?' said Dr. Kutner. "Beyond
this is infinity."
The effort began in a small outdated
clinic in Israel. Dr. Kutner had been sent
to Israel as a consultant for the American
Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
(JDC) to help with the great influx of
Ethiopian and Russian immigrants that
were flooding the country. Many of the
new Israelis suffered from eye diseases or
blindness that resulted from long un-
treated eye conditions such as cataracts
or glaucoma.

PROJECT page 70


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