Seva staff and volunteers have long recognized the work of Dr. David Heiden, founder and Medical Director of Seva’s AIDS Eye Initiative, as the epitome of selfless service. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recently agreed with this assessment by awarding Dr. Heiden its 2018 Outstanding Humanitarian Service Award, which recognizes ophthalmologists who have made exemplary humanitarian contributions in their field.
Dr. Heiden received this award in recognition of his work to bring state-of-the-art blindness prevention techniques to HIV/AIDS patients in politically unstable and poverty-stricken environments across the globe. He pioneered the practice of training primary care providers for AIDS patients how to use eye exams to diagnose and treat Cytomegalovirus (CMV) retinitis, a disease that can increase AIDS-related mortality and lead to sudden, irreversible blindness if left untreated.
Because of his work, Seva successfully launched a systematic effort to prevent avoidable blindness as a complication from AIDS in developing countries, including in China, India, Myanmar, Russia, and Ukraine.
“Receiving this award is certainly a wonderful thing, but having the opportunity to do work that I love is the real prize,” said Dr. Heiden. “That’s a prize that Seva has already given me many times over. In addition to the funding, the professional connections, and the myriad crucial tasks Seva has provided for this project, the enthusiasm and interest that’s in the air at Seva always fills my head with new ideas and always motivates me.”
The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. With 32,000 members around the globe, the organization aims to “protect sight and empower lives by serving as an advocate for patients and the public, leading ophthalmic education, and advancing the profession of ophthalmology.” The annual Outstanding Humanitarian Service Award “recognizes Academy members for contributions in charitable activities, care of the indigent and community service performed above and beyond the typical duties of an ophthalmologist.” The awardee’s service generally has involved personal sacrifice and has extended over a period of several years.