SEE International began in 1974 after its founder, Dr. Harry S. Brown, spent a year traveling the world with his family as a visiting ophthalmologist. In places like South Africa, India and Afghanistan Dr. Brown realized how badly the developing world needed volunteers to provide medical services to people who lacked access to quality care.
After completing his travels Dr. Brown moved to Santa Barbara where he founded SEE International and began a private practice. He worked with colleagues to develop an efficient system for deploying intensive, short-term surgical clinics to medically underserved populations worldwide.
SEE International deploys small surgical expeditions by recruiting, organizing and training hundreds of volunteer ophthalmologists. SEE coordinates between the the host clinic site, local authorities, volunteers and in-kind corporate donors to make the expedition a success. SEE International provides the equipment and donated supplies while volunteers cover their own time and costs.
Since 1974 SEE International has examined more than 3 million patients and performed 400,000 sight-restoring surgeries.
Working with its network of 600+ volunteer ophthalmologists, SEE International coordinates up to 130 expeditions each year, averaging out to more than two a week. Volunteers spend up to 5 days in this busy clinical setting, restoring sight for between 50-150 individuals suffering from cataracts or other treatable conditions. SEE supports volunteers through expedition planning, provisioning medical supplies, and maintaining the network of host and traveling ophthalmologists.
Volunteer surgeons provide immediate, needed relief from serious medical conditions. But they also strive to leave a sustainable impact after their departure by providing educational lectures and exchanging skills to help their host colleagues continue fighting the burden of blindness in their area. Teams also place donated equipment on permanent loan in some clinic sites to be used by local ophthalmologists after SEE teams have left.
- Cataracts cause moderate to severe vision loss in 52.8 million individuals, 99% of whom live in developing countries. SEE International's primary focuses is on sight-restoring cataract surgeries which only take 30 minutes and cost about $100 to fix the clouded lens. This surgery can transform the lives of people who resigned themselves to blindness decades ago.
- Children's eyes are sensitive and easily affected by a number of conditions common in the developing world: vitamin-A deficiencies, cataracts from rubella, corneal scarring from measles, retinopathy of prematurity from premature birth and simply lack of access to quality care. SEE International holds a number of pediatric-specific expeditions every year and combating childhood blindness is a high priority.