Project Access Northwest extends its profound appreciation and best wishes to David H Barr, MD, who has been providing critical ophthalmology services to our patients at the Swedish Community Specialty Clinic.

Dr. Barr, who retired from his full-time medical practice at Eye Associates Northwest in 2015, has long believed in providing philanthropic care.

He has been on medical missions to Cambodia, Vietnam and countries in Africa. But then he focused his efforts much closer to home.

"Do you really need to fly across the ocean to give care when there is clearly need right here in Seattle? Why not just get involved in a project here?" he reflects. "There's some excitement and glamour traveling to Africa and treating eyes, but the need is right here."

Volunteering one day every other week at Swedish Community Specialty Clinic, Dr. Barr saw six or seven patients a month — many with pretty severe diabetic retinopathy.

"It builds up over the years, and if patients don't get the care they need, there is a real risk of blindness," Dr. Barr explains.

The Swedish Community Specialty Clinic — developed in partnership with Project Access Northwest — provides specialized medical and dental services at no cost to low-income underinsured and uninsured patients. Together, we help patients who are unable to receive specialized medical care because of their inability to pay for their medical expenses.

"It really fills a great need, because clearly the community clinics don't have specialty care. And this is a place they can send people to get it, so that's pretty important."

Wanted: More ophthalmology providers

When Dr. Barr steps away as a volunteer, he hopes other providers can step in to fill the void.

"It's a great thing to do," he encourages. "Everybody really should be doing it. It's fun to see the patients. They're very good people."

He suggests that ophthalmology practices make room to see these patients in need. Or perhaps retired providers could use a spare room at their former practices so that they can have access to all the latest equipment, including Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT).

"Ophthalmology is becoming more and more dependent on high-tech equipment… so I am thinking that developing ophthalmologists in the community who have their full equipment available to them when they see a patient really is the most efficient thing for the patient."

The OCT has become the standard of care for the assessment and treatment of most retinal diseases. It allows doctors to see a cross-section or 3D image of the retina and detect the early onset of a variety of eye conditions and eye diseases, such as macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetes.

New adventures, new volunteer opportunities

When Dr. Barr retired in 2015, he missed his work and soon returned on a part-time basis to his practice and also began serving as a volunteer provider for Project Access Northwest. This time, Dr. Barr is looking forward to many exciting travel adventures and more time with his three grandchildren. He will continue his volunteer efforts too, now as an adult tutor at the library, helping a mostly immigrant population improve their conversational English and study for the citizenship test.

We wish him well on his new adventures!