Paul G. Steinkuller, MD 2007 AAO Humanitarian Award
Paul G. Steinkuller, MD was nominated to receive the Outstanding Humanitarian Service Award by the American Association of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus.
Dr. Steinkuller has been practicing pediatric ophthalmology for over twenty-five years. Almost half of those twenty-five years have been spent caring for the underserved and underprivileged in Africa. From 1981 to 1983, Dr. Steinkuller worked for a US AID project - the "Kenya Rural Blindness Prevention Project"- which was part of a population-based ocular disease survey of twelve thousand people. His work on this project included examining inhabitants of rural villages in geographically distinct regions. He would camp out for a month at a time before returning to Nakuru to his wife Joan, a pediatrician, and their three children. This random cluster sampling study was, and still is, the largest such study ever done in sub-Saharan Africa. When not traveling, he treated patients in the clinic and operating room and taught ophthalmic assistants to do cataract surgery.
From 1985-1987, Dr. Steinkuller worked for another US AID project "Malawi Childhood Blindness and Mortality Prevention Project". During this time that he worked on this project Malawi children were found to be at the highest risk for vitamin A deficiency, with secondary blindness and death. Dr. Steinkuller worked with the local Ministry of Health and village authorities who were in charge of vitamin A distribution, diet, and farming. He also continued treating ophthalmology patients, medically and surgically.
From 1998-2004, Dr. Steinkuller worked for CBM (Christian Blind Mission), an international Christian medical organization. CBM's primary purpose is to improve the quality of life of the world's poorest persons with disabilities and those at risk of disability. CBM has been involved in more than a thousand supported projects in one hundred thirteen developing countries.
In the villages of Madagascar Dr. Steinkuller focused on reducing the extent of cataract blindness. He trained general physicians to do medical ophthalmology, IOL procedures and glaucoma surgery, reducing the load of blinding diseases in the general population. At the time, there were only twelve ophthalmologists for seventeen million people. Dr. Steinkuller trained Malagasy physicians, two at a time for a course of 18 months each. He trained five ophthalmologists, three of whom are now teaching ophthalmology in that country. His efforts will soon have doubled the number of ophthalmologists in that country. Most importantly, his training program has provided people in remote rural areas access to very high quality eye care. In 2004, Dr. Steinkuller received the Chevalier Award from the government of Madagascar for his excellence in training ophthalmology. Dr. Steinkuller’s wife, Joan Steinkuller, MD, also worked tirelessly with Paul.
Living and working in Africa was not without some risk. Dr. Steinkuller suffered from malaria several times. During his stay in Madagascar civil unrest erupted, with violence and gunfire lasting six months. Casualties came to their hospital. Their daily lives were disrupted and chaotic.
After returning from Africa, Dr. Steinkuller re-joined the faculty at the Baylor College of Medicine Department of Ophthalmology, training residents and fellows in pediatric ophthalmology. He has been recognized by the Department four times, receiving the Best Teacher Award in 1991, 1996, 1998, and 2007.
As one colleague stated, "Dr. Steinkuller is a superb clinician and surgeon; highly effective, accomplished educator; and compassionate, dedicated physician who is richly deserving of the award". z