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Published On September 28, 2017

Second Opinion Fall 2017

Experts weigh in on the promise of curing blindness and hospital readiness after mass casualty events.

Hard Lessons Learned

Aftermath” (Spring 2017) presents a review of hospital readiness in the wake of terrorist events. As noted in the article, hospital preparedness has evolved since the attacks of 9/11. And hard lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina have led to broader community- and coalition-based approaches to disaster recovery. In 2016, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response released the 2017–2022 Health Care Preparedness and Response Capabilities document, which shows the value of interdisciplinary and regional integration in disaster response.

Full-scale interagency exercises are expensive and challenging to conduct. But harnessing the power of modern technology has the potential to support continuous training at a lower cost. A “Multi-User Virtual Environment,” for example, allows multiple agencies from different geographic locations to simultaneously practice for uncommon emergency situations in a safe, reproducible and flexible setting.

As the article reports, not all health facilities are at the same level of readiness to respond to terrorism and mass casualty events. But multiagency coalitions and the local community can help influence decision-makers in bringing about the necessary change to sustain health care and medical readiness efforts.

Jaishree Beedasy // Project Director, National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Columbia University, New York, N.Y.

Photons of Hope

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in the United States. In 2010, the disease affected more than 14% of white Americans age 80 and older. While the feature “The Blind Can See” (Spring 2017) examines macular degeneration therapies using stem cells, there is also a retinal prosthetic worth mentioning. The Implantable Miniature Telescope, which was approved by the FDA in 2014, has been shown to improve visual acuity and quality of life among those blinded by this common disorder.

The most coveted prize of ophthalmic surgeons is a cure for blindness. Such a medical feat, however, requires a complex orchestration of bioengineers, optoelectronic neuroengineers, computer scientists, geneticists and ophthalmologists. Now, thanks in large part to the National Eye Institute’s Audacious Goal Initiative, which funds research on restoring vision, curing blindness through collaborative translational research may be within reach by 2030.

Eyesight is a basic human right and everyone, whether afflicted by macular degeneration, glaucoma or inherited retinal disorders, deserves the highest quality of eye care.

Ophthalmology would be remiss, though, if the prevention of blindness is not tackled with the same zeal being used on the quest to cure it.

Patricia E. Bath // President, American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, Los Angeles, Calif.