Record Number of Eye Surgeries will be Performed in Utah for Patients in Need

Salt Lake City, UT — On Saturday, March 28, local eye surgeons will provide more than 30 sight-restoring surgeries to low-income Utahns in need of care—a state record. The John A. Moran Eye Center is partnering with The Eye Institute of Utah to expand a model for providing high-quality, low-cost care that the University of Utah has been practicing since 2012. This effort is being funded in part by the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS) Foundation’s Operation Sight network.

In 2012, Moran Eye Center residents and University of Utah med students saw the need and proceeded to create “Charity Surgery Day,” a cost-efficient way of providing care to low-income, uninsured Utahns with treatable blinding conditions. Through this model, the operating room is run on a Saturday as it would be during the week. The difference is that physicians, nurses and other staff members volunteer their time, and patients are not billed for their care. Pharmaceutical and medical companies donate supplies, and generous donors cover other costs. Since 2013, Charity Surgery Days have been twice-yearly events at Moran. Cataract surgeries are the most common, but surgeons have removed growths (called pterygia), and even conducted corneal transplants.

“There are more people in Utah with treatable blindness than you would think, and for a person who is struggling financially, losing his or her vision can have a devastating effect. Often the patients who come to us through Charity Surgery Day have lost the ability to work, and are relying heavily on family members or friends,” says Randall J. Olson, M.D., Chair and CEO of the Moran Eye Center. “We’re committed to restoring sight to as many individuals as we possibly can, which is why we are thrilled to have the partnership of The Eye Institute of Utah and of the ASCRS Foundation.”

Moran began partnering with the ASCRS foundation on Charity Surgery Day in 2014, and is one of five founding members of the ASCRS Foundation’s Operation Sight program, whose mission is to provide a centralized approach for organizations and volunteer surgeons wishing to end cataract blindness in the U.S. Saturday’s Charity Surgery Day will mark the first time the event has taken place at multiple sites in Utah, with The Eye Institute of Utah handling about half of the cases.

Robert J. Cionni, Medical Director of The Eye Institute of Utah and the incoming President of the ASCRS said, “Too often, we take our eyesight for granted until our vision starts to fail. Most conditions that impair our vision are preventable or treatable. However, for many people in the U.S. and around the world, the cost of surgery makes treatment unattainable. We now have the unique opportunity to join forces with the ASCRS and the Moran Eye Center to treat patients in Utah who could not otherwise afford care. Operation Sight is intended to help those in our local community, but we also hope that it creates a replicable movement across the U.S. to help eradicate treatable vision loss.”

Curing treatable blindness in Utah provides a positive economic benefit to the state. Vision loss can play a major role in unemployment and even homelessness, as visual impairment makes finding and keeping a job difficult. Charity Surgery Day gives visually impaired members of the community a new lease on life, often allowing them to return to work and to better care for their families.

About the John A. Moran Eye Center

The John A. Moran Eye Center, part of University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics, is the premier center for ophthalmology in the Intermountain West and is the largest eye care facility between California and Michigan. With collaborators from around the world, research advancements at the center provide new diagnoses, novel treatments, and creative new procedures designed to cure blinding eye diseases. Moran specialists cover every field of vision care including conditions like age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, cornea, and external eye diseases. The Moran Eye Center offers the latest advances in LASIK and refractive surgery as well as a full range of optometry services, including contact lenses and eyeglasses.

About the Eye Institute of Utah

The Eye Institute of Utah was established in 1980 as one of the first office-based eye surgery centers in the region. The practice serves patients throughout Utah and the Intermountain West, including Wyoming, Nevada, and Idaho. With a team of distinguished eye surgeons, ophthalmologists, and optometrists, The Eye Institute of Utah is known as a leader in laser vision correction (LASIK), custom cataract surgery, and treatments for glaucoma, dry eye syndrome, and other eye and vision conditions. The practice also participates in a range of clinical research studies and is dedicated to the continued advancement of techniques in the fields of eye surgery and vision care.

About the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery Foundation

The ASCRS Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization, which works to support physician education and to provide humanitarian cataract surgery in the United States and the developing world. Through its programs and partnerships, the foundation works to maximize the benefits of modern ophthalmology and to treat thousands of needy patients, each year.


The Eye Institute of Utah
755 East 3900 South
Salt Lake City, UT 84107
(800) 760-4171