Daily Pilot: OWSP – Insightful Mission

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Newport Beach/Costa Mesa Daily Pilot

Monday, December 21, 1998

Insightful Mission

With the help of local businesses, Newport
Beach ophthalmologist trying to cure blindness around the
world

MICHAEL KING
Daily Pilot

Curing 20 million people of blindness sounds
like a formidable task, but a local doctor and several Newport
Beach businesses are leading the charge to do just that.

The One World Sight Project was founded
by Newport Beach ophthalmologist Richard Weiss nine years
ago with the belief that someone needed to lead the effort
to treat the almost 80% of worldwide cases of blindness that
are curable

Weiss said of the 42 million people who
are visually impaired worldwide, 20 million suffer from bilateral
cataracts, which can be cured with a 20-minute, $30 operation.

“This is a real problem,” Weiss
said. “There are more doctors in the San Francisco greater
metropolitan area than on the entire continent of Africa.”

Weiss’ effort has grown to include
consultants and advisers from the World Health Organization
and Volunteer Eye Surgeons Association. The program also has
the support of Stevie Wonder, who serves as a special adviser,
and South African President Nelson Mandela, a former patient
of Weiss.

Despite all the big names involved, Weiss
said One World Sight Project’s most valuable support
has come from Newport Beach businesses, which have donated
time and services to help the cause.

The help started in 1991, when the law firm
of O’Melveny & Myers worked pro bono to set up the
program as a nonprofit corporation. Gene Rhodes of Causey
and Rhodes followed up by providing the office space for the
group free of charge.

Now all of the accounting is performed pro
bono by KPMG Peat Marwick and the One World Sight Project
Web site is maintained free of charge. With the exception
of the Internet Company, all of the contributing businesses
are located in Newport Beach.

It’s really pretty amazing so many
people here are doing so much,,” Weiss said. “It’s
an international effort, but a lot of the work is done locally.”

While One World Sight Project has gained
about $75,000 in donations over the telephone and throughout
the Web site, the primary fund-raising effort will be a telethon
that its tentatively set for September 1999.

The goal of the telethon, which will be
held simultaneously in England, Germany, Japan and the United
States – is to raise $25 million to $75 million. The
goal is also to provide cataract surgery for 10,000 people
during the telethon.

“Restoring vision is just a miracle
to people in countries like India,” Weiss said. “I
can’t describe what it means to bring such an important
change in their life.