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Harvard & MIT
(MD, magna cum laude);
PhD (laser physics)
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An effective and often overlooked measure to lessen our healthcare financial burden 

By Dr. Ming Wang

Harvard & MIT (MD, magna cum laude); PhD (laser physics)

Founder and chairman, Wang Foundation for Sight Restoration, a 501c(3) non-profit charity

Clinical associate professor of ophthalmology, University of Tennessee

International president, Shanghai Aier Eye Hospital

Director, Wang Vision Cataract and LASIK Center 

America is experiencing a financial crisis due to the mounting and exponentially growing costs of our healthcare. We need to provide adequate healthcare for all our citizens, especially the poor, but we seem to have no way of addressing the issue of how to pay for it, especially with the ever-increasing pace of development of new and more expensive medical treatment technologies. 

In every specialty of medicine, there is a gap between the high cost of the newest medical advances and the low affordability of these treatments by those who truly need them, yet are least able to pay for them. How do we bridge this gap when our financial resources are diminishing? As a physician who has been delivering care to patients for nearly 20 years, I feel that there is in fact an effective and often overlooked method to decrease our society’s healthcare financial burden, namely, charity medical care. 

In eye care, for example, a similar gap exists between the high cost of the newest and most advanced sight restoration surgeries and the low affordability for these surgeries by the blind patients who have lost their sight due to injury and disease. In 2003, we decided tackle this problem head-on by exploring the possibility of bridging this gap of need through a physician- and civilian-organized grassroots medical charitable effort. We established a 501c(3) non-profit foundation for sight restoration. The foundation helps indigent patients who have lost their sight undergo advanced and novel sight restoration surgeries free-of-charge. 

The premise of our foundation is very simple. Many people, including doctors, do want to help, to reduce the cost of healthcare in our country, but they need to know how to help. We need to establish a structure to make it possible for them to be able to help and contribute. Without one, it just simply won’t happen. Different people have different ways of helping, depending on their own specific areas of knowledge, expertise and available resources. The key here is to creatively build an organization with vision (no pun intended), so that it can productively engage and unite people together to channel their energies and resources towards a common goal, i.e., providing charity medical care for the poor and most needy, and at the same time, decrease our healthcare financial burden of our country. 

Our solution to the problem of finding resources to provide such charity medical care consists of three parts:

  1. Recruit a group of physicians who are committed to providing free medical care to foundation patients.
  2. Enlist the help from pharmaceutical and medical instrument companies who are willing to support this effort by providing free medical supplies.
  3. Organize a board of a group of philanthropically-minded civilians who are not only committed to donating and supporting the foundation themselves, but also are willing to reach out via their social circles of influence to engage and involve the society at large, for the cause of sight restoration for the poor.

To date, we have recruited 22 eye doctors into the foundation’s medical council, all committed to providing free medical care to foundation patients triaged to them in their respective areas of specialty. A dozen or so medical instrument and drug companies have been enlisted as well, and have provided consistent support to the foundation over the years. We have built a solid and well-respected board of directors for the foundation, consisting of 29 community and business leaders and philanthropists, all of whom have not only constantly donated and supported the foundation, but also have reached out and encouraged a larger segment of society to get involved. Each year, the foundation organizes an annual gala, the EyeBall, which utilizes the excitement and beauty of classical ballroom dance and music to bring people together from all walks of life and all professions, to experience the beauty that sight allows, to meet blind patients who truly need help so they can eventually experience this beauty as well, to feel a renewed appreciation of the God-given gift of sight, and to realize how much we need to help those who have lost it. This year’s gala, the 5th Annual EyeBall, was on Saturday, October 3 at 5:30pm at the Opryland Hotel, and is expected to draw over 800 attendees, with the world mambo champions donating their show! 

The foundation has funded research and development of new sight restoration technologies as well. The foundation doctors published a paper in the world renowned journal Nature”, hold several US patents for inventions of new biotechnologies to restore sight, published four major textbooks in the field, and performed the world’s first laser-assisted artificial cornea implantation. To date, the foundation has helped patients from over 40 states in the US and 55 countries worldwide, with all sight restoration surgeries performed free-of-charge. 

Charity medical care, when it is creatively envisioned and properly organized, can truly galvanize people from all sectors of our society for one common and noble goal. Such an organization provides a structure for everyone to be able to contribute and help, no matter what each person’s area of expertise is, or how small his/her contribution might be. As we have experienced, such a grassroots civilian- and physician- organized effort can indeed effectively help provide charity medical care for the most needy who are least able to pay. And in the process, it can help lessen the financial burden of our society’s healthcare system. 

About the article author Dr. Ming Wang: Ming Wang, MD, PhD, is the founder and chairman of Wang Foundation for Sight Restoration, a 501c(3) non-profit charity and the founding president of our state’s first Chinese chamber of commerce, the Tennessee Chinese Chamber of Commerce, a Harvard and MIT graduate (MD, magna cum laude), and an internationally renowned LASIK eye surgeon. Tennessee is currently ranked #1 in the US in the growth rate of export to China. The mission of the Tennessee Chinese Chamber of Commerce is to help our state continue its growth in export to China. Dr. Wang is a co-owner and medical director of the largest private eye hospital group in China today (which holds 10% of China’s eye care market), with most of its medical instruments imported from the US. As an eye surgeon, Dr. Wang has performed over 55,000 LASIK procedures (including on over 4,000 doctors) and is one of the designated LASIK surgeons for ABC’s national hit reality TV show “Extreme Makeover”. During the Cultural Revolution in China in the 1970s, a teenage Ming played a Chinese musical instrument called the er-hu in an effort to escape being deported to a remote part of the country where he would be condemned to a life of poverty and hard labor, a devastating fate that fell upon 20 million youth in China. Dr. Wang has come a long way from the penniless young man he was when he arrived in the US in 1982, and is now one of the few LASIK surgeons in the world who holds a doctorate degree in laser physics. He published a paper in the world renowned journal Nature, holds several US patents for his inventions of new biotechnologies to restore sight, and performed the world’s first laser-assisted artificial cornea implantation. Dr. Wang established the Wang Foundation for Sight Restoration, a 501c(3) charity foundation which has helped blind patients from over 40 states in the US and over 55 countries worldwide, with all sight restoration surgeries performed free of charge. Dr. Wang can be reached at: Ming Wang, MD, PhD, Wang Foundation for Sight Restoration, 1801 West End Ave, Ste 1150, Nashville, TN, 37203, 615-321-8881, drwang@wangvisioninstitute.com, www.wangfoundation.com.

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Dr. Ming Wang, Eye Surgeon, provides laser vision correction, 3D LASIK, laser cataract and many advanced laser eye surgeries to patients in the Nashville, TN area
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