Africa OFFICE HALLOWEENWhen someone uses their well-earned time off to share their talents with those in need, you know they must have a true passion for what they do. John Pajka, MD, an Ohio State Ophthalmology alumnus practicing in Lima, Ohio, spends his vacation time bringing eye care to those in need across the world.

“People ask me why I do this mission thing so much,” Pajka said. "I frequently find myself quoting former Chairman Dr. Havener: ‘Find a job you love and you don’t have to work anymore.’ Ever since my residency at The Ohio State University, my wife Linda and I wanted to do some sort of mission work.”

Since then, they have traveled all over the world from Africa to South America, bringing ophthalmic care to thousands. 

"A simple cataract operation doesn’t just restore their sight, it changes and restores their lives, and gives hope where often there was none.” 

Pajka with patientPajka is tireless in his dedication to restoring sight. On a recent trip, Pajka visited the remote region of Bushenyi, Uganda located in equatorial Africa. Bushenyi lacks the resources and infrastructure to provide, in some cases, even the most basic health care.

“Most of the people we operate on have been blind from cataracts for years, not seeing loved ones, not able to see to feed themselves, let alone to work," Pajka said. "They have become totally dependent on family or neighbors for everything. A simple cataract operation doesn’t just restore their sight, it changes and restores their lives, and gives hope where often there was none.”

While as many as 420,000 people in Uganda are blind, the country has only 39 ophthalmologists, mostly in urban areas. With such a desperate need, doctors like Dr. Pajka are making a difference not only in individual lives, but for entire communities.

“There are few procedures in medicine where we can make such a profound impact on so many people’s lives in so short a time,” Pajka said. “I feel very fortunate to be able to do this, giving back, paying forward. I have a great job and missions like this help remind me why I went into medicine, to help people. There is nothing like it."

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