Seva News


Dr. Neal Shorstein is one of Seva’s most dedicated volunteer ophthalmologists. Over the past 10 years, Dr. Shorstein has generously donated his time, traveling abroad regularly to lead surgical trainings in Nepal, Tibet and most recently in Myanmar. It is our pleasure to introduce Dr. Shorstein to you, our supporters, through the Q&A below.

Dr. Neal Shorstein

Dr. Shorstein, please tell our supporters a bit about your work.

I am an ophthalmologist at Kaiser Permanente in Walnut Creek, California. I've been in practice for 25 years and have done over 7,000 cataract surgeries. I am also Associate Chief of Quality at my medical center and a researcher. My research area is in cataract surgery and I have published ten recent papers in this area.

What made you decide to get involved in supporting Seva's programs?

I love contributing to Seva! I know that my donation goes directly to providing sight-restoring surgery and preventive care to people who need it the most. Not only is Seva a 4-star organization on Charity Navigator, but I see it in action when I volunteer.

You volunteer for Seva quite regularly. Tell us a bit about where you've traveled and how your service is helping to restore sight and strengthen our programs.

I have been teaching machine-assisted cataract surgery, called phacoemulsification, with Seva partner eye hospitals for the past ten years. As the eye hospitals grow in size and begin to deliver care to a wider variety of patients, training in phacoemulsification is requested to allow the local surgeons to expand their offerings to their patients.

Above: Tibetan Nun who traveled 3-days to have her sight restored.

My first two trips were to Lumbini, Nepal. How wonderful to be able to work so close to Buddha's birthplace. The high volume of cataract surgeries from the dedicated surgeons, working from early in the morning to late in the evening, was inspiring. Then, I spent the next three teaching trips in Eastern Tibet, developing a close relationship with several of the cataract surgeons over six years.

Is there a story that sticks out in your mind that you'd like to share?

I've traveled to Kham Eye Hospital in Eastern Tibet three times. One day, I met the incoming bus that brought the patients to the hospital for their surgery. This one older patient, a nun, had traveled for more than three days on the bus. She had dense cataracts, could not see very well at all and walked very tentatively with a stick for support and to guide her way. The next day, when we planned to do her surgery, things ran late as they sometimes do, and she was afraid that we weren't going to be able to do her surgery. When the Nursing Assistant finally brought her down to the operating theatre, she was visibly very relieved but at the same time a little nervous about the surgery. When the surgery was over, about 20 minutes later, she sat up with her patched eye and was obviously perplexed that her vision seemed to have gotten worse and not better after surgery. We reassured her that in the morning when we took off the patch, she would feel (and see) very differently. Sure enough, when we took the patch off the next morning, she let out a tremendous sigh which quickly formed into a beautiful smile. Before our eyes she became a different person, talkative and self-assured, which I imagine was more like herself before she became blind from the cataracts.

If you could share one thing with Seva's donors about the impact of their donations, what would it be?

Your (and my) dollars go directly to restoring sight to people who desperately need it. The cataracts that these patients have are not the usual cataracts that I see in the United States, but rather are advanced, causing profound vision loss so that even getting around one's house and taking care of basic needs becomes impossible.

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