Dr Rutgard and new sighted patient

iSight Missions chief, Dr. Rutgard holds an elated patient with newly-restored vision.

Dear Dr. Jeff,

As I’m sitting on the plane ride home, reflecting on the past week, I’m overflowing with gratitude. Thanks to you, I have spent seven of the most rewarding days of my life meeting and taking care of the wonderful people of Cotui. I am reminded of how blessed we are in the States, regardless of politics and the issues with health insurance at home, we met people in Cotui who had been blinded by cataracts for twenty years and had probably never seen an eye surgeon before. Watching you perform surgery after surgery was such an incredible experience!  I did not know anything about cataract surgery before this trip and it was such a pleasure to observe your skill.  Thank you for patiently explaining each part of the surgery and really teaching me so much about the unique way you have found to do this sight-giving surgery with limited tools all over the world, where you can’t even rely on the lights to stay on!  Your composure during the surgeries you only had a pen light and a few tools was a gift to observe.
I had my own favorite patients during the week, and I loved watching you interact with all the patients in the morning every day.  The compassion you showed each and every one of them, I will remember always.  You showed even the ornery patients such kindness and you were an example to all of us on the trip.I can still feel Graciela’s strong, tight hug of thanks. For such a tiny, old woman, she was so strong. She could not stop thanking us, and calling us angels from heaven! She was pacing up and down the halls before her surgery and we were worried she might not lay still when you were operating. But as soon as Maruja told her to lay still, she did not move a single muscle. I was so proud of her!


Magnolia was another of my favorites.  She was 80 and older than Graciela, but looked much younger.  We told her she has a beautiful name and she smiled and replied, “we are friends now, so you have to call me on the phone and keep in touch!” I could write pages about all the wonderful and kind people we met.  It was such a joy to meet them and I’ll never forget their smiles and how hard they clapped for us when we arrived at the hospital in the mornings.  With such adoration shown to you, I was impressed to see your humility with every patient- always giving the glory to God rather than yourself.  That was the most precious lesson of all.
I’m so thankful you gave me this opportunity, and this was my first real chance to get a taste of Nursing.  I loved this work and feel so sure Nursing school is the right path for me.  Medical Missions are now so close to my heart, and I hope this trip will be the first of many!  Thank you for seeing my potential and letting me help with all aspects of prepping the patients.  Assisting you in surgery was incredible and I felt so lucky to support you in this way.  I can see why you go on so many of these trips; it’s easy to get caught up with things in life that don’t matter very much, but trips like this bring so much clarity and gratitude.
Thank you for everything, Dr. Jeff, and I can’t wait for the next one!
Allie Moser

Tecate, Mexico 4/26/2014

Tecate iSight Missions 2014

Orderly and patient, the line of people were so grateful.  We were so happy to serve.

Orderly and patient, the line of people were so grateful. We were so happy to serve.

Dear Dr. Rutgard,
Let me begin by saying: I truly believe I learned more about the meaning of ‘community service’ in my single day in Tecate than I have in quite a long time, and I would like to thank you for allowing me to be a part of the trip. I was exposed to a working environment and a group of people which I have had very little exposure to, and I found it both fascinating and rewarding.

Since I speak very little Spanish, I didn’t have the opportunity to converse extensively with many people. I did, however, speak with a young boy during one of my spare minutes– children tend to overlook my grammatical errors– who told me he just wanted to go home and play (he seemed to overlook that his eyesight was less than ideal). All of the patients also showed the most amazing persistence. The other people whom I spoke with had worked to the very last minute until their eyesight was simply too poor to continue. Even as I was seating people in front of the eye chart, I was shocked by how independent many of the people were, considering how poor their eyesight was. The strength of character I witnessed was indescribable.
This trip definitely restored my faith in humanity more than I had anticipated. It was a great thing to see such love and compassion, both from the doctors and volunteers, but also the patients. There was a loving wife, standing by her wheelchair-bound, blind husband and never leaving his side, the couple eventually falling asleep on each other’s shoulders. Then there was the fun. There was the man who pretended to cry, and that the eye drops I gave him were tears. There was the nearly-blind woman who joked that my eyesight was worse than hers when she noticed I struggled to read the eye chart.
Meanwhile, you and the other volunteers restored these people’s sight and asked nothing in return– no material/financial compensation, fame, or glory. In our reward-based culture, it was amazing to see people who asked for nothing in return for their efforts. I can now see, however, that true community service is not about recognition, but rather serving a cause that you believe in. In the clinic, I could see this in the way that you treated each patient as an individual human being with unique cares and fears.
As far as helping out in the clinic goes, I learned so much about cataracts, blindness, patient care, and general logistics of working in a clinic. There is certainly a benefit to being thrown into a situation where you are needed. There was always something to do, whether it was leading patients where they needed to go, preparing anesthetic, or in my case, soaking in the surroundings and attempting to mentally translate the voices around me. I was also able to observe two of the cataract surgeries, which were incredibly interesting to see (and it helped that I’m not squeamish).
All in all, I feel that I contributed to the team, and was in a way helping the entire trip run a little bit more smoothly. I can’t thank you enough for inviting me to participate, and I would definitely be interested in doing a similar trip again, simply because I cannot think of a single better way which I could spend my time.
Riana Hunter
Senior at High Tech High School

iSight Missions -Vietnam

Dr. Jeff,

iSight Missions sharing good will around Vietnam.

iSight Missions sharing good will around Vietnam.

I so appreciated your kindness on the trip.  I hope to go on other missions in the future.   Knute and I will check out the Imprimis.


iSight Missions Vietnam trip was a resounding success.  Thanks to all who assisted on this mission to cure blindness and train future healers.

Restoring sight to God's children is like no other calling.  We are blessed everyday!

Restoring sight to God’s children is like no other calling. We are blessed everyday!


iSight Missions has done it again, finishing up on a Palau surgical excursion in which over a hundred locals were cured of blindness.  Leading the expedition was Dr. Jeff Rutgard of La Jolla, CA.  Accompanying the surgical staff was iSight Missions Nurse Corinne Spencer.  Corinne displayed her joy that a box of surgical crescents arrived just in tme for surgery.  These instruments were special ordered by Tasha (in procurement) when realizing these important surgical instruments did not make it with the rest of the necessary surgical supplies. Such instruments routinely cost about $25 each and are necessary for each surgery and we needed about 75 of them in order to do the surgeries we had planned.  Prayers were answered and Corinne cannot stop smiling.

Corinne Spencer

Brown raison is actually a cataract and demonstrates the brown/black density that cataracts become when there is no one to remove them and eventually they lead to total blindness for the person.  The next photo reveals a white cataract which we had many on this trip as well.  The white cataracts are blinding cataracts as well and are very common in most every country in which Dr. Jeff volunteers his surgical skills.  For the patients its like trying to look through a white painted wall. Nothing can be seen.
ISight Missions Dr


Corinne and Dr. Rutgard “unblind” another local from Palau.  A very successful trip with almost a hundred blind patients served, dozens more examined and prepped for the next visit by iSight Missions.

Gene Therapy Improves Vision Loss

Gene Therapy Improves Eyesight In Patients With Vision Loss

iSight Missions new therapy

A new innovative procedure may be able to treat a rare form of progressive blindness, Fox News reported.

Surgeons at Oxford University treated six patients with choroideremia with a gene therapy technique that can hinder or slow down the visual degeneration caused by the disease. Choroideremia is a disease that causes the light-detecting cells at the back of the eye gradually dying, BBC News reported.

“Gene therapy is exciting; it’s a new type of medicine,” lead author Robert MacLaren, a professor at the University of Oxford, told Fox News.  “And what we’re doing is it on a very small scale, because we’re looking at a very straightforward gene to replace.”

The therapy helped restore some of the sight patients have lost over the years. The treatment involves injecting the eye of the patient with a “vital gene that is either missing or defective in their genetic code,” Fox News reported.

The rare eye disease is caused by a mutation in the CHM gene on the X chromosome and cause progressive blindness due to the deterioration of the “choroid, retinal pigment epithelium and retina.” Patients with this disease usually start their lives with perfect vision and begin to experience problems with light sensitivity and peripheral vision later in life.

“It’s like looking down through a telescope at a small central island of vision,” MacLaren said, explain the disorder.  “And by the time they’re in their 40s and 50s, they lose vision completely.”

To treat the disease, researchers genetically altered an adeno-associated virus (AAV), so that it carried a corrective copy of the CHM gene. They then injected it into the retinas of six patients whom were experiencing different stages of the disease

After the treatment, the two patients who had begun to suffer vision loss showed substantial improvements in their sight.

“Now that we know the virus is doing what it should do, we need to follow the patients up and see if the improvement is correlated with the stopping of degeneration,” MacLaren said.  “…We’re hoping to help more people with this disease, because it’s a terrible diagnosis to have.”

MacLaren added that the success of the gene therapy could pave the way for the use of gene therapy on other conditions that cause vision loss.

Dr. Jeff Rutgard of iSight Missions and many other specialized physicians are watching this new development closely.

El Fuerte, Mexico





Dr. Jeff Rutgard, Dr. Brad Sadler, Surgical Physician Assistants: Jody and Emily and Surgical Room Assistants Tamara and Jen, Medical Pilot who flew the team down to El Fuerte- Pilot Ray…



In Pink, Maria Isabel Aja-Villasenor with Dr. Brad Sadler, just behind.

In Pink, Maria Isabel Aja-Villasenor with Dr. Brad Sadler, just behind.

Isight Missions El Fuerte, MX
Dear Dr. Jeff,
It’s an honor to have you and your team come. We know that with you all of our patients have the best chance for a successful surgery. Wish you could have been there on Sunday morning to see the happiness and joy these patients experienced. The Tahaumara woman in the wheelchair who was totally blind, when I took her patch off she could not believe that she was seeing. She started by looking at my face and then proceeded to stare at her shield and was speaking in her dialect to me and smiling and crying at the same time. It was joyous for everyone in the room.

Another real blind patient was a man who had not seen for so long. Also when his patch came off he could not believe it for it had been so long he was afraid to open his eyes. We immediately brought his wife in and they both stared at each other and he told her she was as pretty as she was when he last saw her. All the patients were very happy.

We have seen good surgeons that acted like prima donnas that were demanding and rude to our people but you are always so gracious , mellow and humble and we greatly appreciate that because you know I am here to make your experience the best it can be. Happy that you will be joining us yearly and maybe twice.

God bless you and your team – we all do this as the deciples of Jesus.

Jeff, these patients {that you operated on this past week} came from the Copper Canyon which is in Chihuahua, a 7 hour train ride through the high Sierras. They are     one of the few tribes that are indigenous of Mexico and do not speak Spanish. The Raramuri are the Native American people of Northwestern Mexico. Sierra Madre Occidental is now called “Sierra Tarahumara” because of their presence. There are only about 50,000 -70,000 natives. They actually live in caves within the mountains.
The language is of the Uto-Aztecan family.  Although it is in decline under pressure from the Spanish, it is still widely spoken.  I have been up to that area and they still dress in their original costume….

Any way, we will all keep working at this, one patient at a time, hoping to make their lives a little better.  Take care and we will be in touch soon. We are very lucky and happy to have crossed paths.

Maria Isabel Aja-Villasenor  – El Fuerte, Sinaloa, Mexico

Gift of Sight Walkathon 2013 – Lake Elizabeth – Fremont, CA

Jay Bisen of Fremont, CA attends Dr. Rutgard in surgery.

Jay Bisen of Fremont, CA attends Dr. Rutgard in surgery.

Bharat Bisen and sons, Yash and Jay Bisen are putting on the first Gift of Sight Walkathon 2013 at Lake Elizabeth in Fremont, California.  The exact date and time to be set shortly.  Yash and Jay participated in a recent iSight Mission to Mexico and came back convinced that curing the blind was a most noble undertaking.  Yash, a junior in High School and Jay, a Freshman, are organizing as of this posting.

Yash Bisen of Fremont, CA assists Dr. Rutgard during an eye exam during an iSight Mission.

Yash Bisen of Fremont, CA assists Dr. Rutgard during an eye exam during an iSight Mission.

FIJI TIMES – Blind at Birth

Blind at birth

Serafina Silaitoga
Friday, November 16, 2012

iSight Missions in Taveuni

iSight Missions in Taveuni

Volunteers look after eye patients at the Taveuni Hospital. Picture: SERAFINA SILAITOGA

ONE child out of 50,000 is born with congenital cataract in Fiji, says world-renown American surgeon, Prof Doctor Jeff Rutgard.

And the most likely cause in such cases, he said, was because mothers were not vaccinated to prevent rubella and mumps during their childhood days.

Dr Rutgard said if women who were able to bear children failed to receive the vaccination during their childhood days, there was a chance of their babies suffering congenital cataract from birth.  FULL STORY