During his undergraduate studies at UW-Madison, in 1994, Dr. Harvey spent a semester of his college education in Santiago, Chile. It was there that Dr. Harvey decided to pursue ophthalmology. His experience in Santiago not only solidified his decision to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps to become an eye surgeon; it gave him the inspiration and motivation to make a difference in people’s lives both in the United States and abroad.
In January of 2009, Dr. Harvey was part of a team of Chippewa Valley area doctors who visited Vietnam to begin the process of creating a medical mission there. Allen Van Dong, a Vietnamese national who has resided in Eau Claire for almost 30 years, acted as a personal guide and translator for the team. After talks with local government officials, the group was granted permission to conduct its first medical mission in 2010.
In order to coordinate this effort, the group created a non-profit entity, AmeriNam Healing. The organization’s primary goals are to perform life-changing surgery on the treatable blind and deformed, to educate local ophthalmologists, and to create medical and surgical resources locally.
The first mission took place in January 0f 2010, with the AmeriNam team focused on cataract and oculoplastic surgery. Operating rooms and clinic spaces were made available to Dr. Harvey and the Wisconsin-based surgeons at the hospitals in Danang and Hue, with patients recruited by a local Vietnamese ophthalmologist. The team performed numerous surgeries and taught local residents new techniques during their stay. After AmeriNam’s surgical team returned to the United States, the local ophthalmologists provide complimentary post-operative care to the surgical patients.
In 2011, 2012 and 2014 Dr. Harvey led missions back to Vietnam and in the winter of 2013, Dr. Harvey and two additional ophthalmologists hosted one of the doctors from Vietnam for an educational observership in the United States. Dr. Nyguen Hai spent a month with oculoplastic surgeon Dr. Eric Happ in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; one month with Dr. Harvey learning about corneal diseases/surgeries here in the Chippewa Valley; and a third month in California and Oregon focusing on cataract surgery.
This observership was on incredible enrichment opportunity for Dr. Hai and his hosts. Dr. Hai stayed with the families of each of the doctors and taught them about Vietnamese culture through preparation of evening meals and many stories of his youth, education and life growing up in Vietnam.
During his residency at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), Dr. Harvey had the opportunity to participate in three ophthalmology missions to Juticalpa, Honduras. Juticalpa is a small economically- and medically-depressed town outside of the country’s capital.
Over the course of three missions, the team saw more than 900 patients and performed more than 200 surgeries. Multiple cataract, oculoplastic and strabismus procedures restored sight, and hope, to many people.