Steamboat Springs eye doctor Mark Helm helps Dr Viet Lien prepare a lens implant used in cataract surgery. Helm called his trip to Vietnam to teach cataract surgery one of the most rewarding experiences of his medical career.

Courtesy/Terri Helm

Steamboat Springs eye doctor Mark Helm helps Dr Viet Lien prepare a lens implant used in cataract surgery. Helm called his trip to Vietnam to teach cataract surgery one of the most rewarding experiences of his medical career.

Steamboat Springs eye doctor reflects on teaching experience in Vietnam

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— Armed with a bucket of pig eyes and a high-tech machine, Steamboat Springs eye doctor Mark Helm spent some time in April showing a room full of aspiring Vietnamese doctors the intricacies of cataract surgery.

"When you're teaching other people, it makes you want to train yourself even more so you can be even more effective and have as many answers as you can for them," Helm said last week as he reflected on his recent trip to Vietnam to teach cataract surgeries.

Helm traveled to Hue, Vietnam, in April to attend the Hawaiian Eye Foundation's Imperial City Eye Meeting.

Started in 1984, the Eye Foundation has worked to teach eye doctors in the Pacific Basin.

The program Helm attended has doctors from around the country teaching advanced surgical techniques to Vietnamese ophtamalogists.

"From what I understand their skill level has blossomed since they've been going over there," Helm said. "There's such a tremendous yearning on these young doctors' part to see how we do it here, where healthcare really is the best in the world."

Helm called his trip one of the best experiences he's had in 22 years in medicine.

He was there to teach the surgical technique called phacoemulsification, the modern type of cataract surgery.

Doctors at the meeting use lectures and one-on-one wet lab sessions to teach the surgery. Pig eyes are used because they hold some similarity to human eyes.

Helm said the training program attracted a couple hundred doctors.

"Just to give them an inkling of my experience was more gratifying than I ever imagined it would be," Helm said. "You work with these kids and get to know them."

Helm said he now has three pen pals.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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