Chu leads team of eye surgeons to aid ChinaHe'll teach cataract surgery to doctors.
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:36 PM
"Jan Hurley hopes her Around the World pattern quilt will take her around the world. A medical office receptionist, Hurley is raffling the quilt to raise funds so she can accompany islander Dr. Franklin Chu to China, where he will lead a pioneering team performing cataract surgery.This is the first time a trip like this has been tried, so we don't know what to expect, Chu said.The operation that only takes 30 minutes in this country will take an hour and a half in China, because we're also teaching Chinese doctors to perform it.Chu's team will perform 25 operations in two weeks for Operation Eye Sight, a pilot program the Medical Services International nonprofit charity. MSI has sent medical teams to China, but this is the first opthamologic venture. Although state-of-the-art medicine is available to wealthy, urban Chinese, health care in the countryside can be primitive, Chu said. Some doctors must remove cataracts without a microscope, or operate with outmoded surgical tools, he said.Chu will modify his operating techniques to suit the equipment he finds at Huili County Hospital. That way, local doctors can continue operating when the American team leaves.Chu is leader of the group, comprised of one surgeon, a medical assistant, a business manager, a photojournalist and a translator. I was made team leader because I have the flexibility to teach and adapt surgical techniques from having already taught at university, he said. Chu could also double as translator if he had to, as Sichuan is Chu's ancestral home. That's what sparked my interest in the first place, Chu said, but I also feel like I'm at the stage of my career where I'm looking for my purpose after retirement. I was thinking of going to China as a 'medical missionary' anyway, and then this came up. Chu was also pulled in by his long-term friendship with the trip's organizer, Dr. George Chin. Chin will lead the first team, and Chu will follow. The teams will overlap for three days, so that the transition will be smooth. Hurley, who has been Chu's receptionist for eight years, hopes to keep medical records and help where she can.If she makes the trip - raffle tickets for the quilt are available by calling 842-2020 - it won't be their first trip to China; Chu and his whole staff went as tourists last year.That was the first time I got to travel abroad, Hurley said.I got so much from that trip, that this year I want to give something back. "