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For the Lions Club of Pago Pago, Eye Care means “ I Care”

The Lions Club of Pago Pago has much to smile about. During the holidays this year, they spent time doing what they do best: serving the community.


Each year for the past several years, the Lions have partnered with LBJ Medical Center, the Department of Health, and various doctors, nurses, technicians, and specialists from universities, medical centers and Stateside clinics, to give the population of American Samoa an extra dose of vision care, all rendered free of charge, with the goal to improve the quality of life and health in the Territory.


For the Lions Club, “Project Eye Care” could also be called “Project I Care”.


This year, under Lion President Tony Langkilde, the project was more ambitious than most, as the Lions set up tents and helped screen those who came by for help, for nearly two weeks. Previous clinics have been held for one week or less.


 A group of doctors and their support staff from Casey Eye Institute of Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) arrived on Friday, November 21 and left on Friday, December 5 for this year’s clinic. Leading the team was Dr. Mitch Brinks, an eye surgeon and former resident of American Samoa. Also included with this year’s group was Dr. Ben Siatu’u, newly returned from OHSU and Dr. Petaia-Steffany, an Optometrist who now lives here in the territory.


In the interim, and with the help of the LBJ Medical Center and volunteer Lions Club members, nearly 500 people were registered for care; of those, almost 400 were screened and seen by physicians.


Preliminary statistics show that 130 surgeries were performed, with 90 of those surgeries being for cataracts.


During the clinic, volunteers from the Casey Eye Institute and the floor nurses on several units, including the surgical ward where vision screening took place, assisted the Lions Club members.


Some 700 reading glasses were disbursed, and according to Dr. Ernest Oo, LBJ head of Ophthalmology, “there were no complaints, only compliments” for the efforts of the team.


Immediate Past President and current Lion Zone Chair Chris King told Samoa News, “This year, our club was definitely fortunate to partner with Dr. Brinks and the OHSU Team, along with LBJ to bring these much needed services to our community. The turnout and support was great!”


He added, “Everything went very well— in fact, our one critique would be having to tell people that the clinic was closed on the last day.  Although our club strives to provide the best possible service to our community, it would also help us tremendously to hear from our community where we can improve. You are welcome to call me at 258-5464.  My email is, or tell a Lion member. We are here to serve you.”


Club president Tony Langkilde echoed King’s words: “Our Project Eye Care would not have been as successful without the assistance from our very own local eye specialists, and nursing staff.  A big fa’amalo to Dr. Petaia-Steffany, Dr. Siatuu, Dr. Laititi, and Dr. Oo, LBJ Surgical Nurses and staff; and to everyone else who helped make this event a success. I am sure that the entire community joins me in expressing appreciation for the outstanding services provided during the two weeks of clinics.”


“The Lions Club of Pago Pago will continue to work towards providing eye care services for our community.  This is what we do. Special thanks and gratitude go out to the OHSU team, who even performed surgeries all day long on Thanksgiving Day,” said Langkilde.




Also of note, the OHSU team and Casey Eye Institute—in addition to the numerous hours of medical service rendered, including surgeries and vision screening— has donated to LBJ through the Lions Club a specialized piece of eye surgery equipment called a “Phaco” —short for “Phacoemulsifier” —worth $75,000.


Modern cataract surgery is made possible by the use of the phacoemulsifier, which breaks the cataract into tiny pieces and then suctions those pieces from the eye through a very small incision. Prior to the development of the phaco machine, the cataract was normally removed in one piece, requiring a larger incision, sutures, and more trauma to the eye. The phacoemulsification procedure is faster, usually requiring less than 15 minutes per eye.


The machine is scheduled to arrive in the territory in early 2015.