As a world-class mountaineer and the fourth person to ever climb the Seven Summits, the tallest mountain on each of the seven continents, Dr. Geoff Tabin has made a life of reaching new heights.

Nepalese man after surgery. Photo: Ace Kvale

Sharing the view

Even so, he’s most proud of his humanitarian efforts. An ophthalmic surgeon and co-founder—along with world-renowned eye surgeon Dr. Sanduk Ruit—of the Himalayan Cataract Project, Dr. Tabin has a significant role in curing blindness across the globe.

Over 39 million people worldwide have unnecessary blindness, half due to cataract, blurriness, which can be treated surgically. Most of these people live in the developing world and have poor nutrition and limited eye care. The World Health Organization (WHO) says sight restoration with cataract surgery is one of the most cost-effective health care interventions.

Life-changing moment

Dr. Tabin’s passion for eye care started during his time practicing general medicine in Nepal, where he saw cataract surgery on a woman who could barely distinguish light from dark. After the surgery, the woman saw her grandchildren for the first time.

“That moment changed my life,” says Dr. Tabin. “As I looked at the tears of joy running down her face, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to restore sight.”

Since its start in 1995, the Himalayan Cataract Project has provided over 450,000 ophthalmic surgeries in the developing world. Dr. Tabin has been present at thousands of those surgeries. “In the developing world, blindness can be a death sentence,” says Dr. Tabin. “We can change this.”

A joyful woman in Nepal shares a smile after her eye patch is removed and she sees that she is no longer blind in her right eye. Photo: Ace Kvale
 

Patients celebrate the restoration of sight at a high-volume cataract campaign in Harar, Ethiopia. Photo: Amanda Conde
 

Nine-year-old Tume Aido of Negelle, Ethiopia was able to return to school after her cataract surgery. Photo: Stefano Levi

Surgical outreach

Through the Himalayan Cataract Project’s cataract surgical outreach campaign, patients are treated at makeshift operating rooms in locations like Myanmar, northern Ghana and Ethiopia. The operating rooms are always busy and crowds of patients and their families are waiting to be seen.

“We will quite often operate from sunup to sundown,” says Dr. Tabin, who likes listening to jazz music while he’s doing surgery. “Although the days can be long, I honestly can’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else. 

Dr. Tabin knows the surgery will be momentous for each cataract patient. “I can’t help but think about who this person will be tomorrow,” he says. “They will no longer be burdened by unnecessary blindness. Tomorrow, they will not just regain their sight; they will regain their life.”

A mother holds her child as she waits outside the Quiha Zonal Hospital operating rom in Ethiopia. Photo: Claire Wiley
 

An Ethiopian farmer rejoices after his eye patch is removed. He was one of hundres who regained sight in just 24 hours after surgery. Photo: Claire Wiley
 

Dr. Geoff Tabin celebrates a day of successful surgeries with patients in Nepal. Photo: Ace Kvale