Northwoods ophthalmologist brings newest surgery techniques to Laos Submitted: 11/03/2016
WOODRUFF - Dr. Michel Gelinas estimates he's done more than 10,000 cataract surgeries in his life.

For Gelinas and his patients in Woodruff, Eagle River, and Park Falls, cataract surgery has become a routine, 10-minute procedure.

It's different in underdeveloped countries which Gelinas visits.

"It's hard work. It's not a vacation," said the ophthalmologist.

Gelinas has traveled to Peru, Honduras, and Haiti to perform cataract surgeries. He just got back from more than a week in the southeastern Asian nation of Laos.

"The number of doctors is very small," Gelinas said. "The number of problems is very large."

The country of seven million people has just 26 eye surgeons.

Generally, Gelinas cranks out as many surgeries as he can on a trip.

"My purpose in this trip was completely opposite," Gelinas said. "My goal was to teach these doctors how to do the type of surgery that we do in the United States."

That's tricky to accomplish sometimes. Lao doctors are generally working with equipment and procedures which are decades old.

"From a surgical standpoint, you're going to be outside of your comfort zone," Gelinas said. "You're going to be using equipment that's far inferior to what you're using in the United States. You have to be more creative. You have to be patient."

Gelinas did just two surgeries himself in Laos. Instead, he was proud to instruct doctors on how to do 28 more with more effective techniques.

"When you can take somebody who's literally blind and make them see again, that's an impact," he said. "That's a tremendous impact on those people's lives."

His team also brought new cataract surgery machines and equipment to clinics in the country.

Story By: Ben Meyer

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