Eye surgeon Carey T. Rowan is devoting the next two weeks to a mission of mercy in the Amazon region of Colombia.
Rowan, who operates the Rowan Eye Center in New Port Richey, will join a team of 75 health care professionals on the journey to one of the most impoverished areas in the South American nation.
As one of five surgeons, Rowan expects to see 500 to 800 patients a day.
"It touches quite a few people," he said. "They line up around the block. They sleep out all night to get in line."
Rowan is fluent in Spanish, making it much easier to communicate with Colombian patients.
The team Rowan is traveling with from Medical Ministry International, based in Allen, Texas, expects to distribute about 3,000 free eyeglasses during the trip. Some of the Colombians have never owned glasses, Rowan said.
Cataract surgery will occupy most of the eye surgeons' time. "There's plenty of work to be done," Rowan said.
Colombians with cataracts typically "can't see food on a plate" and need help getting around the house or town, Rowan said.
Cataracts, or the clouding of the lens inside the eye, remain the leading cause of blindness, Rowan said.
The condition is reversible, however, even if the patient has gone blind. Patients in Colombia will get lens implants.
In addition to treating adults, the doctors will aid children with crossed eyes or eye infections.
Rowan will travel with the MMI Amazon Project team to its base at Leticia, the southernmost city in Colombia.
The doctors typically pay their own expenses, which amounts to about $1,850 over two weeks, according to the MMI website.
Surgical companies donate equipment and supplies, Rowan said.
Rowan learned the spirit of charity from his father, Patrick J. Rowan, who founded the Rowan Eye Center in 1982. The practice is at 5305 Grand Blvd. in downtown New Port Richey.
After extensive training in New York City and Baltimore, Carey Rowan took over the practice in 2001.
A board certified ophthalmologist, Rowan specializes in cataract and refractive surgery, oculoplastic surgery and the treatment of glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and other conditions.