Health In Sight Ministry of Roatan is a Christian-based medical outreach made up of professional and lay volunteers sharing in the goal of bringing improved medical and specialized eye care to the indigent population of Roatan Honduras.
The mission began in 2005 after a chance (or was it a divine) encounter with a local plumber, Lynchburg resident Ben Rosenthal. Dr. Darin Bowers and his wife Pam, who had been searching for an opportunity in medical missions, encountered Ben while doing some volunteer work at the Blue Ridge Pregnancy Center. Ben shared his experience in traveling to the small island of Roatan Honduras to provide, among many things, basic eye care. The fact he was a plumber didn’t stop Ben from asking a local optometrist to help find some old equipment to use along with some basic instruction on how to measure people for prescription and reading glasses. With the added help of the Lions Club, he acquired donated eyeglasses and could now help people in Roatan see. Yet he expressed his concerned that “what people really needed was skilled medical & surgical eye care” given that so many suffered from cataracts. It was surprising to find that this island, only 30 miles off the Honduras mainland and home to over 40,000 people, had no established eye care facility — and certainly no ophthalmologist. A large percentage of the population cannot even afford the cost to travel 30 miles by boat to the mainland to see an eye care professional let alone the cost of surgery. It was at this time that Dr. Bowers introduced himself to Ben as an ophthalmologist specializing in cataract surgery while his wife Pam, happened to be a registered nurse. It was also confirmation to the Bowers the need to pursue this as an opportunity to serve in the mission field.
The Bowers family, along with a team of trained and untrained volunteers, traveled to Roatan for the first time June 12, 2005 and spent a week performing eye screenings in the poorest areas of the island. Hundreds of people were screened for eye problems including cataracts, glaucoma, and retinal disease. As expected, there were a large number of patients who needed cataract surgery or who had the blinding yet untreated disease of glaucoma.
Dr. Bowers contacted numerous ophthalmic foreign mission groups to see if we could partner to bring needed eye care to Roatan. Despite request for help, no organization expressed an interest in establishing a new location to the already existent ones they were helping in other areas of the world. So it was that this mission began without the help of any organized medical mission group. After numerous phone calls, the help of three local churches and various supporters, the group was able to acquire a portable operating microscope and a surgical ultrasound device to remove cataracts in the most modern way. Alcon Corporation, a large supplier of ophthalmic supplies, proved to be a big help in donating much of the ancillary supplies needed for cataract surgery. The team was now ready to serve.
Our return trip in January 2006 became the first time ever that ophthalmic surgical care was brought to the island of Roatan. Using the facility of a very limited public government hospital, the team worked their first day from 7:30 am to nearly midnight while people waited patiently and without complaint. Despite some challenges and limitations of operating in substandard conditions, the team provided much-needed cataract surgery to ten patients. Although a far cry from the many needing the surgery, it was a start.
Since then, the team has traveled yearly and now provides services in a local clinic located in the community of Oakridge on Roatan Island. This clinic is fully equipped to provide medical eye exams for all ages as well as a fully equipped surgical suite. The ministry has grown to include other doctors from other areas of the United States to visit and share their skill. Among those serving has been optometrist Dr. Holton King form Georgia as well as ophthalmologists from South Carolina and Alabama. In addition, cooperative efforts have been established with two mainland Honduran ophthalmologists, Dr. Luis Danillo & Allecia Ponce, to further improve the quality and continuity of eye care to the indigent.
In early 2012 the Health In Sight team recognized the need to expand services and include general medical care on a regular basis. Too many patients were being seen with unmanaged diabetes, hypertension, and other treatable diseases. Now, Health In Sight has made it possible for the Oakridge Community Clinic to have a nurse three days a week and a physician, Dr. Agustin Gonzalez Batiz, twice a week. This is a first for the small community and allows all the access to good general health care even for those unable to pay anything.
The Health In Sight mission team is committed to improving general medical and eye care in the poorest region of Roatan by attracting other health care providers to join the effort. Those that frequently travel with the group include the Bowers’ three daughters, ophthalmic technician Debbie Anderson, and surgical scrub nurse Susan Barnett who, along with Pam Bowers, assists in the operating room. In addition, two families deserve special recognition for their part in helping to make this ministry possible. Keyto & June Cooper and Ben & Beverly Rosenthal are Lynchburg residents who have traveled to frequently over the years to help the people of Roatan. The community of Oakridge Roatan is Mr. Cooper’s birthplace and a reason for his desire to serve the people there. The area churches that have been supportive in the past include Timberlake Baptist, Rivermont Presbyterian, and Thomas Road Baptist.
Health In Sight Ministries
- Ben Rosenthal – President
- Darin Bowers, M.D. – Vice President
- Keyto Cooper – Secretary / Treasurer