In a tiny town in Honduras, hundreds lined up and settled in to wait for the chance to see again.
Villagers in the small province were waiting to see doctors from all over the world who had come to give eye exams, distribute glasses and perform surgery on those who needed it. Among them was Dr. Lawrence Stewart, an ophthalmologist with Eye Physicians of Central New York at North Medical Center on Taft Road. Stewart participated in the mission, performing surgeries to remove cataracts and more with the assistance of his office administrator, Colleen Richberg.
"I'm a member of an eye care group in the U.S. that provides services to indigent patients," Stewart said. "We collaborate with a number of international groups, and there's a high need for surgical services across the world."
Stewart made his first journey to Latin America to perform eye surgeries last year, traveling to Argentina after hearing about the program from patient Clayton Koontz. He said the impulse to help in foreign countries was a natural one.
"Medicine is a helping profession," Stewart said. "I'm just looking a little farther afield."
Stewart began practicing medicine 20 years ago after completing medical school at SUNY Upstate. But his dreams didn't always include ophthalmology.
"I was originally going to be a family practitioner," Stewart said. "But during my last rotation in med school, I worked with an eye surgeon and just fell in love with it. It's a real thrill to be able to let people see again."
Stewart has long been interested in helping people. He recently traveled to the Gulf Coast with his son and two more father-son teams as part of Operation Southern Comfort, an organization founded by Liverpool resident Norm Andrzejewski that is working to rebuild Louisiana and Mississippi after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.