Missions Trip Photos


Dr. Curtis examining the anterior portion of the eye of an Indian woman
Dr. Curtis using the refraction kit to examine a patient's eyes.
Dr. Curtis examining a patient

HAITI 2017

Mission volunteer examining the eyes of a young girl.

Video Transcript

For a fully keyboard-accessible alternative to this video, view it in Chrome or on any Android or iOS device, view it in Firefox with the YouTube ALL HTML5 add-on installed, or disable Flash in Internet Explorer.

Watch this video on Youtube

[Dr. David Curtis sitting under a tree in Peru]

I'm David Curtis. I've been an eye doctor, an optometrist in North Carolina for the past 39 years. In the early 1990s, I really felt the call to go on missions trips to do an eye clinics in third world countries. Now I resisted it for several years. Finally in 1990, I went with Tom Cox Ministries to India and came back really blown away by what an incredible need there is for Eye Care in third world countries and what a great evangelism tool it is.

Obviously, I'm prejudiced, but in my opinion eye care has some significant advantages over a medical clinic. First advantage is there's very little risk to do any damage. if you're passing out strong medications to patients, you really don't know if there's any allergy issues to deal with or not, so I think it's a lot safer from a medical perspective. The second advantage is the instant gratification. In a medical clinic, someone comes in sick and you give the medication and hopefully they'll feel better in a few days. With the Vision Clinic, one minute the patient cannot see, the next minute they can. There is a much more dramatic impact that makes people more responsive to the gospel.

When I put on my first mission trip, I thought that, you know, I've been a doctor for 30 years, this won't be any problem. Well it turned out to be a huge problem, because I didn't have any of the instruments that I was used to dealing with and people out in a village have no electricity. So things did not go very well in that first trip, so I started trying to come up with the system that would work out under a tree in a village with no electricity and came up with the refraction kit that I use. The kit is pretty accurate, pretty fast and works pretty well. It's just a very simplified version of the phoropter, which is the instrument your doctor uses.

I decided to name my seminar ‘Eye Doc in a Box’ and a friend told me that was really a great name for the seminar since that’s what I would be when I died. Well, I hadn’t thought about it like that. [laughs]

I started teaching seminars about 5 years ago and I have now trained about 700 Layman to do eye clinics and I know of about 300,000 patients that they have treated, so the numbers are starting to grow a little bit. I started going on a lot more medical missions trips and was about to get into financial crumbles because I was gone so much, So I came up with a 10-year plan and in 2001 I opened a second office in a nearby town and I ran both of them for 2 years. In 2003 I hired another optometrist. In 2005, I made him partner and in 2007 I hired a third optometrist. In 2009 I just sold out to them and went to work for them and that freed me up to going on a lot more missions trips. I started going on about five trips a year.

We're in Peru right now for Heal Peru [words on screen 56th Mission Trip, Trujillo, Peru] as this is being recorded. This is my 56th trip. I try to take about 2000 pairs of used eyeglasses on a trip and treat about 1000 people. We have about, I just checked, about 1900 pairs of glasses and we will try to treat about 1000 patients on this trip.
But obviously, I can’t scratch the surface personally, so I conduct these seminars to train people who can kind of take my place, because I am involved in politics - I and in the state senate in North Carolina, so I’m tied up in the legislature for a good part of the year now. So I can’t go on 5 trips right now. The Eye Doc in a Box Seminar is basically an 8-hour seminar where I train laymen to do clinics in third world countries. It's totally designed for laymen, so I'm looking for financial planners and lawyers and plumbers and electricians or managers, and it's basically designed so for the person who has no medical knowledge whatsoever. Basically anybody can do this.

Typically someone wants to go on a mission trip to the third world country and wants to do eye care, often when they do a medical clinic. Somewhere the folks there ask them to do an eye clinic the next time they come. Typically they'll call me saying we're going to this third world country in 4 months and I'm interested in doing an eye clinic there so we can make arrangements to set a date for the seminar. I typically fly into their area on a Friday night and do the seminar from about 9:00 to 3:30 on a Saturday. Saturday night I fly back home. I ask the folks to pay for my airfare and a place to stay on Friday night and then the cost of the seminar is $75 per person.

The seminar basically consists of going through that manual. [Image of binder/manual.] I ask the student to take notes in the manual and use it as a reference guide and take it with them when they go on the mission trip. Any question that comes up should be answered in the manual. The refraction kit that I designed looks like this [unwrapping a red cloth envelope and Dr. Curtis pulls out the refraction tools, devices that a patient will look through so their vision can be diagnosed.] It basically consists of four flippers of various powers, [holding them up] so four flippers like this. The unit of measure for glasses is the diopter, Like a yard is a measure of length, a diopter is a measure of strength of a pair of glasses. With these four flippers you can go from + 9.50 diopters to -9.50 diopters and most people who need glasses will need glasses that are 1.00, 2.00 or 3.00 diopters in strength. So this will cover 99% of the patients that you'll see on a mission trip. So in my opinion and all you need to do an eye clinic is a flashlight and this refraction kit. You can only do so much with no electricity out in a village.So I don't check eye pressure because I can't treat it and I don't look at the back of the eye because I can't treat that. All I worry about is what I can see with the flashlight which is the tough anterior third of the eye and then I try to see if I can help them see better with glasses. So that's all I really do and that's why a layman can do this. You don't need to worry about using an ophthalmoscope to look at the back of the eye, you don't need to worry about checking pressure. All you do is just look at the eye with the flashlight, checking for acute infections and cataracts and then do the refraction test to determine what prescription the patient needs.

The patient comes in and I have an examination form that's filled out with their name and address and their chief eye complaint and do the refraction test and write the prescription that the patient needs on the form. They take that form to the optical area where I have all the glasses sorted out by power and the person doing the dispensing helps them. If I decide the patient needs a plus two pair of glasses to read with, the chief complaint of their vision, then they pull out a bag or freezer bag with 10 pairs of glasses sorted by strength. And then they try to find a frame that fits their face so it's big enough and not too small for it .

The reason there's such an incredible need for eye care is that there's only one way to avoid needing eye care in your lifetime. The only way you can avoid needing eye care in a lifetime is to die young. If you live a normal life span, 100% of the people will need eye care, so that's why there's such an incredible need. In the US there's one eye doctor for about nine
thousand population and in some countries in Africa there's one eye doctor for 100,000 population and all those doctors are concentrated in the big cities. Outside the big cities there is virtually no eye care given so the need is just absolutely incredible. There's tens of millions of people without functional vision now that just need a pair of glasses. They don't need retina surgery or some really sophisticated, difficult procedure. They just need a pair of glasses.

I can tell you lots and lots of stories about experiences I've had. I was at the Shindy Baptist Church in Mombasa Kenya and this man walked in and sat down and just started weeping, tears just rolling off his face and we asked him what was wrong. He said I've got a wife and two children and they're starving to death. I'm a tailor and I can no longer see the thread of a needle so I can't earn money and feed my family. we gave him a pair of glasses and hopefully he is still feeding his family today. I was in India out in a village and all of these women came in to ask for reading glasses and finally I asked my interpreter what's going on, can these women read? He said no, everyone here is illiterate. He tells me this lady had a problem 3 months ago. She said her young son ate some rice with a little rock in it and he bit down on the rock and snapped off a tooth and it abscessed and then he died. So they want to make sure they get rocks out of the rice before they feed their children. Even if you're illiterate you will still need glasses to see up close past the age of about 40 or 45 years old so that's why they're such an incredible need for eye care.

I'm really excited about my seminar, as I said, I'm am serving in the senate in North Carolina so I can't go on 5 mission trips anymore, so I want to find as many people as possible to use my system and refraction kit. Please call me. I'd love to talk to you about answering questions you've got and if you proceed, we can schedule a seminar at your church. If you're interested in getting any questions answered about the seminar then email me at dlcurtis1895@gmail.com - or call 704.483.3762. I will either call you or respond to you by email answering any questions you've got and be happy to talk to you and would love to come to your area. As I said, I really basically, mainly want to just spread the word among the area churches and body interested in foreign missions in third world countries doing an eye clinic. It's really a very effective evangelism- it definitely draws a crowd because in lots of third world countries, a lack of an eye examination and a pair of glasses cost a lot of wages, so it's really a big deal.

The one question that everybody always asks is well once I take the seminar what else do I need? Well you basically need two things. You need the refraction kit and a flashlight and then you need glasses. You can get the drug store plus glasses fairly inexpensively. The negative is they are much more difficult to get. Mainly what I use are prescription glasses that churches donate and the Lions Club donates glasses to me and I go through them and pick out the ones that are usable based on various criteria which I cover in the seminar. Unfortunately, you can only use about 30%. So if you have a hundred pairs of glasses you can only use about 30 of them. But I do supply glasses to my students that take the seminar and decide to go on a trip. I can supply you with glasses and the refraction kit .

Thank you. [Video footage of Dr. Curtis performing eye clinics on mission trips, people smiling, people waiting in line.]

[Dr. David Curtis. dlcurtis1895@gmail.com]