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Missionary work an eye-opening experience Suncoast News staff report
Published:   |   Updated: March 12, 2013 at 01:37 PM

The plight of residents of Leticia, Colombia, snapped into focus for eye surgeon Carey Rowan during a missionary trip.

Those residents now have more than 2,500 pair of donated prescription eyeglasses, thanks to the more than 75 health care professionals who completed a 10-day mission with Medical Ministry International.

Rowan, who practices at the Rowan Eye Center in New Port Richey, was one of five doctors who traveled to Colombia to treat more than 600 patients a day. They performed more than 300 eye surgeries in one of the impoverished sections of the South American nation.

"It touches quite a few people," Rowan remarked during a phone interview. "They line up around the block. They sleep out all night to get in line."

Rowan is fluent in Spanish, making it much easier to communicate with patients in Colombia, where Spanish is the official language.

Some of the Colombians have never owned glasses, Rowan said.

Cataract surgery occupied much of the time of Rowan and the other ophthalmic surgeons.

Rowan learned the importance of volunteering at an early age from his father, Patrick J. Rowan, who founded the practice in 1982. The elder Rowan made it a priority to join medical mission trips, and his son would join his father on these trips as a child.

During his residency, Carey Rowan went on three separate medical mission trips – two to India, and one to the Honduras. In 2001, Rowan grew quite busy when he took over the practice.

Last year, Rowan opened the Eye Shop in Clearwater as an extension of the Rowan Eye Center. He also performs eye exams at the Clearwater shop. His wife, Pam, runs the retail store.

"This was my first medical mission in 12 years," Rowan commented in a press release.

"While it's definitely our goal to help other those in countries who badly need medical attention and help, we also focus on our patients at the Rowan Eye Center and the escalating vision problems here in the U.S."

Glaucoma affects more than 2.2 million Americans age 40 and older. Cataracts affect nearly 20.5 million Americans age 40 and older.