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Forging New Partnerships on the Silk Road

Published: 05.06.2018

Story: Chaoju Eye Hospital /Image: Drew Keys presents Steve Zhang with a copy of the IAPB Vision Atlas

Amidst the traditional Mongolian style roofs and towering minarets of Hohhot’s Muslim Quarter sits Chaoju Eye Hospital. Hohhot is the capital of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region – a huge swathe of desert and grasslands that shares history and culture with its northern neighbour: Mongolia. Steve Zhang, the CEO of Chaoju and my host for this visit, explains that when his father, Zhang Chaoju, founded Chaoju Group in neighbouring Baotou thirty years ago, his vision was to bring ophthalmology to this relatively isolated and underdeveloped region of the country.


Today it’s easy to see the vision being realised. Chaouju Group has state of the art hospitals  – addressing the increasing burdens of cataract, DR and Myopia – in a number of provinces across China. But more importantly, the hospitals’ cataract teams still work to bring services to the rural population. The numbers of patients seen are very large; in the seven Chaoju hospitals in Inner Mongolia, half a million patients are seen annually and 20,000 cataract surgeries conducted.


We attend the Belt and Road Brightness Journey Prevention of Blindness Forum and learn about the numerous successful programmes that Chaoju eye health teams are involved in. Of particular interest is the close collaboration between Chaoju and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Society (ICRC) of Inner Mongolia. Steve credits much of Chaoju’s outreach success to the wise stewardship or the ICRC and Chairwoman Wong. It’s a unique partnership; one I am yet to come across elsewhere in the region. Red Cross field teams conduct medical outreach to remote parts of the province. Whilst servicing the community with medical visits they make lists of cataract patients. This is often in remote parts of the province, which would otherwise be challenged to find means of identifying and pre-screening the population. Once the Red Cross teams provide the lists, the Chaoju teams follow with surgical intervention.


When Madam Wong presents, her passion is evident. She tells us that her dream is to see knowledge brought to the people through a school-screening programme. Particularly, she would like children to learn early about the importance of eye health, about myopia and the ways to protect their eyes. She talks of her desire to expand the Red Cross programme north of the border into Mongolia. Also presenting is Dr Chimgee Chuluungkuu, President of the Mongolia Ophthalmology Society. She warmly welcomes the idea of greater trans-border collaboration and outlines some of the difficulties faced in her vast and lightly-populated homeland.

当王会长演讲时,她对这一事业的激情显而易见。她告诉我们,她的梦想是通过学校筛选计划进行宣传教育,将知识带给人们。她特别强调,希望孩子们能够早日了解眼睛健康的重要性,学习关于近视的知识和保护眼睛的方法。她还谈到,希望将红十字会计划扩展到边界以北的蒙古国。蒙古国眼科协会主席Chimgee Chuluunkhuu博士也发表了演讲,她热烈欢迎加强跨界合作的想法,并概述了她广阔而人口稀少的家园所面临的挑战。

Steve Zhang is delighted as we adjourn – the presentations have attracted much needed media attention and all advocacy support is appreciated. ICRC, Chaoju, IAPB, Mongolian Ophthalmology Society… new friendships forged, new partnerships developed. All in the name of eye health in this land astride the Silk Road. Zhang Chaoju’s vision is coming to fruition.

论坛结束后,Steve 张很高兴——这些演讲获得了大量的媒体关注,所有的宣传都有着宝贵的价值。在这片跨越丝绸之路的土地上,以促进眼部健康为共同目标,国际红十字委员会(ICRC),朝聚眼科集团,国际防盲协会(IAPB),蒙古国眼科协会(MOS)……建立了新的友谊,发展了新的伙伴关系。张朝聚的愿景即将实现。

Image on top:  Drew Keys presents Steve Zhang with a copy of the IAPB Vision Atlas