He has devoted his three-decades-long medical career to providing eye care to people in need in some of that country’s most hard-to-reach communities. Undeterred by challenging travel conditions to remote areas, an entrenched lack of government funding, and even waves of armed insurgencies, Dr. Patrick has demonstrated an unparalleled commitment to the people of Uganda.
He has established a highly-effective, widely-trusted eye care center that provides everything from eyeglasses to cataract surgery. Though Dr. Patrick is planning to begin his much-deserved retirement soon, the clinic is well-positioned to continue this important work.
ABOVE: Dr. Patrick conducts eye surgery using an operating microscope donated by Seva.
Dr. Patrick started working as a clinician at the government hospital in Lira, in northern Uganda, in the early ‘80s. He soon realized that people with vision problems were simply not receiving treatment. Patients with conditions as simple as conjunctivitis were referred for treatment in Kampala, 250 miles to the south. With most patients lacking the resources to travel, they went without treatment. In response to this situation, Dr. Patrick singlehandedly created an eye care clinic that now serves two million rural Ugandans.
By 1990, Dr. Patrick had finished his training and became the first eye care provider in the entire northern part of Uganda. “I came ready to help the community, to combat blindness,” he reminisced in a recent interview.
Starting out back in the early ‘90s, his team shared an operating theater with an HIV/AIDS clinic, but they had nowhere to accommodate their patients before and after surgery. A mango tree outside the hospital became their recovery room. Dr. Patrick remembers, “the eye pads and the dressing was done under the mango tree. The patients were sleeping under the tree, taking refuge from the rain under the tree.”
By 1995, creating awareness about the growing availability of eye care services in the region was still a challenge. Dr. Patrick mobilized patients through announcements on Radio Uganda, and he drove to different districts to reach people where they lived. To this day, he and his team travel to remote areas, identify patients with the help of community health workers, and bus them to and from the clinic for treatment. Seva has supported Dr. Patrick’s clinic since 2008 through the non-profit Kilimanjaro Centre for Community Ophthalmology.
Dr. Patrick admits he has “walked through bullets” at times in order to continue his work. Two major insurgencies have affected the area since he started serving. The people of northern Uganda suffered through this type of instability for twenty years. But they still needed eye care, so Dr. Patrick and his team kept traveling to serve them.
What has kept Dr. Patrick going through so many challenges? “When people get their sight restored, when [they] go back home happy, when they come to thank me, that’s a big motivation. When I go to communities, I’m recognized.”
Dr. Apio, a consulting ophthalmologist who has been Dr. Patrick’s partner at the eye clinic since 2012, calls him “Papa” and says he is a visionary. “I owe this department to Patrick. Everything was drafted on Patrick’s love.” Dr. Apio will carry on Dr. Patrick’s work after his retirement, and Seva looks forward to continuing the partnership.
ABOVE: Dr. Patrick conducts community outreach in Amolatar.
Read about one of Dr. Patrick's patients, Nelson Ogwal, in the story, Restoring Vision, and Independence, to a Local Leader.
See why Molly Atim's smile is so big and read the story, What a Difference New Glasses Can Make.
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