Alfonso Ventura
Director General
APEC
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View from the Top

Fighting Blindness Through Constant Investment

Mon, 06/10/2019 - 12:52

Q: How have APEC’s operations evolved in Mexico?
A: We are a nonprofit, privately-run organization focused on eye care. Our mission is to help those who have limited resources to gain access to the best treatments. We founded APEC, Hospital de la Ceguera in Mexico City 101 years ago and its operations can be divided according to three pillars. The first is clinical care. We offer approximately 230,000 consultations a year, conduct 160,000 diagnostic studies and complete 11,000 surgeries. We seek to have the most advanced technology. Our second pillar is education. We are a teaching hospital, meaning we are a place where the next generation of ophthalmologists is trained in 13 different specializations. The last pillar is research. We have a center where we work to develop the science of visual health and contribute to new technological development. Combining these three pillars, we are an institution by society for society with a mission to improve visual health in this country.
Q: What is the course structure as a teaching hospital and what role is technology playing?
A: We teach three years of ophthalmology, followed by one or two years of specialization in a particular area. Our training focuses on providing students with the skills to diagnose and treat patients effectively. Over their five-year experience, we hope students develop strong social values and implement them in their own career. Because of our long history, a large percentage of ophthalmologists in this country received training at our hospital. Many still have strong ties to us and many have continued to work at our hospital.
We invest in the newest technology to give our doctors the best tools. We now have the ability to use 3D visualization technology for retina operations. We are also looking at data analytics and artificial intelligence to improve our diagnostic process. Knowledge in healthcare is constantly changing, so we must be mindful of what is happening around us and seek proper partnerships. We have exchange programs with world-class institutions, such as the Florida-based Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, to foster a continuous exchange of expertise.
Q: How would you describe the general status of visual health in Mexico?
A: There is still a lot to do in terms of visual health in Mexico. One condition closely linked to blindness is diabetes, which is a growing problem in our population. Our biggest priority is to give as many people as possible access to eye care and treatment. About eight out of 10 people could have their eyesight problems resolved if they went to see an ophthalmologist.
Cataracts are the primary cause of reversible blindness in this country. Two years ago, to mark our 100-year anniversary, we took action to drastically reduce the costs of our cataract treatments. We reinforced this effort through a campaign called Adiós Catarata (Goodbye Cataract), which set specific targets regarding the number of surgeries we want to do. We have also decided to open new clinics for the first time in our history to bring care closer to our patients. We are starting in Mexico City and gradually moving on to other states. We also have been working with partners to make 2020 the year in which every Mexican goes to the ophthalmologist at least once.
Q: What are APEC’s main goals for 2019-2020?
A: We are working on opening the first pediatric clinic for retinal treatment in Latin America at our hospital. This will ensure that 2,000 children a year receive treatment to cure their blindness from doctors who went abroad to receive special training. The second goal is to open our first clinics in new locations to cover each area in Mexico City. Our mission will always be to provide the best ophthalmological care to people with the fewest resources. This will require continuous investment to make our treatments accessible and keep them at the highest standards.