Dr. Edward J. Holland, Chairman of the Medical Advisory Board of the Eye Bank Association of America, joined the Armenian EyeCare Project and performed the first cornea transplant surgery in Armenia on the Mobile Eye Hospital.
“I always try to do some things to give back to the public,” explained Dr. Holland, Director of Cornea and External Diseases at the Cincinnati Eye Institute. “I try to make one or two medical missions per year.”
Dr. Holland has a global reputation for his expertise in the cornea and external disease field. He is frequently invited to lecture at national and international meetings, serves as Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Cincinnati, and has directed one of the most prestigious training programs for specialists in corneal and refractive surgery.
Also the author of more than 100 articles in peer review journals, Dr. Holland has edited “Cornea,” the most widely read textbook on corneal disease and surgery and, as the recipient of numerous honors, has been listed in the publication, “Best Doctors in America.”
Given his hectic schedule, Dr. Holland had not planned to travel to Armenia. Initially, he intended to help Dr. Roger Ohanesian, AECP’s president, with contacts for establishing an eye bank in Armenia. However, Dr. Ohanesian’s “dedication, drive and energy to bringing eye care to Armenia” convinced Dr. Holland to do more.
Consequently, Dr. Holland traveled to Armenia with other AECP physicians at his own expense. He gave a presentation at the AECP Congress about the American eye bank experience and the need for eye banks in Armenia. Dr. Holland also donated his time and performed the first cornea transplant surgery in the Mobile Eye Hospital.
He is passionate about educating the public on the “tremendous need” for eye banks and the importance of being a donor.
“If there are more corneas, then we can have more surgeries,” he said.
To get more corneas, “We have to get the public interested in transplantation and the benefits of the gift of life. Once the enormous educational endeavor is complete, then we can build the buildings and train the physicians. It always starts with public education.”
Dr. Holland learned a lot during his first trip to Armenia, especially about the vast need for corneal surgery. The number of people examined in one day that needed surgery would require months of the physician’s time.
“It’s frustrating,” he says. “We have professional commitments to our patients back home and to our families. You think you’ve made a difference after you’ve traveled to another country. But there’s so much work to be done.”
That work included the first cornea transplant surgery in the AECP’s Mobile Eye Hospital, where Dr. Holland restored sight to a young patient.
“I was very impressed with the Mobile Eye Hospital,” Dr. Holland recalls. “It has outstanding equipment and well-trained nurses. The surgery was not as challenging as you would think. In fact, it went without a problem.”
Dr. Holland was equally impressed by the support of villagers in Etchmiadsin, the patient’s hometown. Crowds arrived to cheer on the endeavor and the patient was “very excited” about the surgery.
“The Armenian people are wonderful and very appreciative,” the esteemed doctor says. “I enjoyed the people very much. Everyone was very hospitable.”
Growing up in a family of eight brothers and sisters, Dr. Holland said he knew how to survive under tough circumstances. His own family includes wife, Lynette, a certified ophthalmic technician, daughter Kelsey and son Colson.
Dr. Holland’s father, John, is also an ophthalmologist. “He told me I’d be an ophthalmologist,” the younger Dr. Holland recalls with a laugh. “I’ve never regretted the decision.”
Despite the grueling hours and the challenging work, Dr. Holland says he gets a lot more out of his job than he puts into it: “For people who cannot see, to restore their vision is a wonderful thing.”