Ending Preventable Blindness: reinventing cataract surgery | Jeffrey Levenson

In TEDxTalks by Mark Sylvester5 Comments

It is now within our power to eliminate the scourge of preventable blindness from the world.

Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the world. Most of that blindness is concentrated among the world’s poorest people who are unable to afford curative surgery. This talk tells the story of how innovative doctors have creatively deconstructed and reinvented cataract surgery making it faster, much less expensive, and finally accessible to the world’s poor and blind. Jeffrey H Levenson MD is the Chief Medical Officer of SEE International (www.SEEIntl.org), a Santa Barbara nonprofit dedicated to the elimination of preventable blindness in the world.

A graduate of Princeton University and the University of Florida College of Medicine, Dr. Levenson practices comprehensive ophthalmology at Levenson Eye Associates (www.LevensonEye.com) in Jacksonville, Florida, where he specializes in cataract surgery.

Eight years ago his life turned on a dime when, having done perhaps 15,000 cataract surgeries, he rapidly started losing his vision to cataracts. His sight restored, he now travels extensively to Central and South America, enabling low-cost manual cataract surgery techniques among doctors caring for the world’s poorest, blindest people.

A Fellow of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, he’s also an avid bicyclist and runner, and the father of three children.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx


  1. Dear Dr Levenson

    I am an Optometrist in Johannesburg South Africa and am inspired by the work you do. Besides my regular clinical Optometric work, I also work extensively in disadvantaged communities where access to Optometric is close to non-existant. We supply schoolchildren with glasses through our NPO, and see the elderly who of course often present with advanced cataracts, Glaucoma, etc.

    Do you think the methods of cataract extraction could be replicated here? Any advice from the work you are doing in poor communities that we may benefit from?

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Thank you

    Jonathan Brand +27 82 990-0735

  2. Jonathan, thanks for your note. I’m the Chief Medical Officer of SEE Interntional (www.SEEIntl.org), and we’re looking for dedicated and reliable partners like you with whom to collaborate. Send me an e-mail, and let’s see if we can work something out!

  3. I just want to say how proud I am of you and sorry that as an internist I do not have the skill to provide such a definitive surgery to so many people with a dramatic result. I also happen to be your neighbor and a patient of your practice whose cataracts were removed by one of your partners. God bless Mike Mass MD

  4. Mike, as you know (and as my wife and daughter, both internists) tell me every day, internists are the real heroes, primarily responsible for the 20% reduction in cardiovascular disease and stroke we’ve seen over the last ten years. Not as dramatic, perhaps, as cataract surgery, but profoundly important. Thanks for the kind thoughts!

  5. Dr. Levenson, I loved your presentation in Santa Barbara.

    One of your Jacksonville patients

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