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Chinese doctor brings vision to African patients

By Sun Yuanqing and Meng Jing (China Daily)

11:30, April 29, 2013

When Zhu Siquan developed a whole set of medical techniques for the treatment of late-stage cataract among Chinese patients in the 1990s, he did not expect that his endeavors would one day benefit patients in Africa.

As the principal doctor of the China-Africa Brightness Action that has cured about 2,000 cataract patients in Africa, Zhu said China is in an advantageous position to help Africa due to its unique development experiences.

"Western doctors have tried, but they have failed in Africa. Most of the patients in Africa are similar to the patients we treat in China. Most of them have hyper-mature cataract, and often with complications. Western physicians are adept in ultrasonic techniques, which is effective only in early-stage patients, but not for those in Africa," Zhu said.

Zhu, one of the top eye doctors from China, and his 30-member team have made three trips to Africa since 2011, covering destinations like Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia.

The campaign, launched by the Beijing-based Tongren Hospital and sponsored by Hainan Airlines, originally started in China's Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, where the strong sunlight results in millions of cataract patients. The non-governmental group later promoted it in Africa where the rate of cataract was similarly high and the medical condition was not much better.

There were fewer than 20 eye doctors in the whole of Zimbabwe, and each doctor was capable of doing three to four operations a day, Zhu said about his first trip to Africa.

"I was stunned. There wasn't even an ultraviolet radiator or disinfectant in the whole operation room. It was like the 1960s in China."

While it is rare to see patients losing eyesight now due to cataract in China, it was not the case during the 1960s and 70s, and is still the case in Africa, he said.

Zhu was first introduced to Western equipment in the 1990s, when Tongren Hospital imported them from the US. However, the equipment failed to the meet the demands of the late-stage Chinese cataract patients. Zhu had to discover a series of new applications that applied specifically to the Chinese patients at that time.

"The American professor who tutored me on the usage of the equipment was amazed when I demonstrated the techniques. They dubbed it as the 'Chinese kungfu'," Zhu said.

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