Eye grant targets Middle East children

December 09, 1992|By Robert Ruby | Robert Ruby,Staff Writer

To improve the detection and treatment of children's eye diseases in the Middle East, a Baltimore philanthropy has awarded $2.3 million to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore's Sinai Hospital and two medical institutions Israel.

The grant by the Zanvyl and Isabelle Krieger Fund is intended to improve pediatric ophthalmology throughout the Middle East, where relatively large numbers of children suffer from eye diseases, according to a panel of specialists who announced the grant yesterday.

A significant number of children are afflicted with inherited disorders, many of them serious, that result from the widespread practice of intermarriage, said Dr. Morton Goldberg, director of Hopkins' Wilmer Eye Institute.

He said eye problems frequently found in the Middle East include childhood glaucoma, which is a more serious disease than glaucoma in adults; cancer of the retina; a large number of diseases associated with diabetes; and strabismus, or cases of crossed eyes or walleyes caused by imbalance in the eye muscles. If untreated, strabismus can lead to partial blindness.

The grant will, in part, provide one-year fellowships to Israeli eye specialists to receive advanced training at the Wilmer Institute and Sinai's Krieger Eye Institute.

"There are special areas of medicine that are not developed in Israel, and pediatric ophthalmology is one of them," said Dr. Yehuda Danon, director of the Children's Medical Center of Israel.

The grant is also to pay for physicians from the two Baltimore institutions to lecture in Israel and for training eventually to be offered to eye specialists from Arab countries. Part of the grant will endow the position of chief of ophthalmology at a major Israeli hospital, the Beilinson Medical Center.

About 30 percent of the patients at the Children's Medical Center, located in a suburb of Tel Aviv, are Palestinians from the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, or from the area of southern Lebanon controlled by Israel, according to Dr. Danon. The center has treated several patients from other Arab countries as well as Iranians, he said.

No more than one Israeli eye specialist is likely to be awarded a fellowship in any given year. The Wilmer Institute has three people studying the "sub-specialty" of pediatric eye care, and the fellowship winner would become a fourth.

"We've already made it clear we want someone special," Dr. Goldberg said. "We intend to make this person an international star."

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