Health x Wellness

#Choosetochallenge: Spreading the importance of eye health

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Dr Claudine Pang shares her mission to make the world a better place by spreading awareness and educating communities about the importance of eye health

2020 has challenged humanity in an unprecedented manner. While it was a year that many struggled to keep their lives together, it was also a time where we witnessed the emergence of many local unsung heroes, igniting a ray of optimism.

Dr Claudine Pang, an ophthalmologist and eye surgeon talks to the Active Age about her passion to make eye care and eye health more accessible for underprivileged communities.

the Active Age (AA): Tell us about yourself, your purpose and your journey so far from your own perspective.

Dr. Claudine Pang (CP): I’m an ophthalmologist and eye surgeon with a passion to make eye care more accessible for underprivileged communities.

Since a young age, I was drawn towards humanitarian vocations. I enjoyed volunteering my time to do social work as a teenager so I decided that pursuing a medical degree would be the best way to help and heal others, and it was also the most useful skill that could take me to needy countries across the world to save lives.

I was drawn to ophthalmology because the eyes are a window to our body’s health and I can tell whether someone has hypertension, diabetes etc from looking into the eyes. I also love that I am able to restore vision and sight, one of the most vital senses we need in order to live. I feel it’s a great deal of responsibility yet privilege to be someone’s eye surgeon.

I established my own private practice, Asia Retina Eye Surgery Centre, so that I could have the freedom to focus on humanitarian efforts. Which was why I created Eye Quotient and Eye Care Without Borders to progressively bring eye care to more communities, especially those who could not afford it.

AA: What was the background and inspiration behind Eye Quotient and Eye Care Without Borders?

CP: We were taught from a young age that we should see the dentist at least twice yearly to clean our teeth and keep our teeth healthy, but strangely we were never taught that we need to get regular eye checks annually. Just because we can see, we assume there is nothing wrong with our eyes.

But the truth is, many eye conditions can be silent and does not affect our central vision until too late. If detected earlier from annual eye screening, eye conditions such as glaucoma, retinal tears can be treated easily.

For this reason, I started Eye Quotient (EyeQ), a social enterprise helmed by optometrists who bring mobile eye screenings directly into corporate companies, to do comprehensive eye checks detecting silent eye diseases for their employees conveniently at their workplace. This service is especially apt for employees who use computers and are afflicted by digital eye strain, which is present in 70% of computer users. EyeQ aims to spread awareness and educate communities about the importance of eye health.

In private practice, I treat many people who are privileged enough to afford quality eye care. Yet, I still want to be able to treat people who cannot afford any form of eye care at all.

With Eye Care Without Borders, we reach out to the underprivileged communities in Singapore to offer them free eye care on a regular basis and provide free spectacles to them if they require. Our beneficiaries include the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Singapore, whose members are wheelchair bound and cannot fit into regular eye rooms so we bring mobile eye clinic to them; and Beyond Social Services, whose beneficiaries belong to the lowest-income families in Singapore.

AA: How has the pandemic changed or shaped your perspective towards delivery of your purpose?

CP: During COVID, as we were not able to conduct eye screening, we initiated “iCare Joypack” campaign, where we worked together with Foodbank to raise funds and gift 100 low-income families each a food and essential item care pack with a month worth of food. The carepack contained 20 items including rice, oil, eggs, garlic, onions, potatoes, biscuits, cereal, coffee, milo, milk, apple juice, instant noodles, canned sardines, handwash, bodywash, dishwashing liquid and multi-purpose cleaner. The carepack also included halal CNY goodies sponsored by D’bun to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

eye health

Currently, we hope to be able to continue spreading awareness of the importance of eye health to communities and continue to provide free eye care and free spectacles to the communities who have no access to eye care and need it the most.

Eye Care Without Borders is supporting Project Eye Care Schoolbag, an initiative aimed at reducing childhood myopia in Singapore by imparting good eye habits to prevent or delay the onset of myopia through fun activities such as puzzle fixing and comic book reading.

eye health

Other than distributing 1000 schoolbags containing comics and puzzles to the children of low-income families, we will be organising free eye screening for them with the intention to provide them with free spectacles.

AA: Tell us more about the Asia Retina mobile app.

CP: The Asia Retina App is a quick and easy tool for users to identify any defects in their vision by doing in-built self-tests on their mobile. The app also helps our patients to store all the details of their eye condition in their profiles and even helps to remind them to instill their eyedrops with phone alerts. The idea of the app was to raise awareness of retinal conditions and keep patients well-aware of their own conditions.

AA: Tell us more about your upcoming eyecare books, can we get a peek into what that project looks like?

CP: We are launching an eye health book talking about all the common eye symptoms and eye conditions that people would be interested to learn more about so that they can be informed about their own eye concerns.

It would be an informative, illustrative, succinct and easy-to-read for the general public. Proceeds from the sale of the book would go towards our charitable efforts.

eye health
eye health

All pictures and book preview provided by Dr. Claudine Pang. More information about Claudine and her projects can be found on her website.