McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Jenny Yu, MD, Vice Chair of Clinical Operations for the Department of Ophthalmology, UPMC Eye Center, a member on the Orbital, Oculoplastic, and Aesthetic Surgery Service, and an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology, University of Pittsburgh, is a co-founder of Project Theia along with Katie Duncan, MD, MDEyecare LLC. Founded in 2017, Project Theia is a non-profit organization named after the Greek goddess of sight and heavenly light and is focused on
- Providing free medical and surgical care to the under-served global community within the scope of oculoplastic, reconstructive, orbital and facial surgery.
- Educating surgeons in under-served global communities extending best practices for oculoplastic, reconstructive, orbital and facial surgery. The education component of Project Theia’s work serves to create a sustainable model for continued quality care in these regions.
- Connecting industry with these developing countries to provide the necessary tools, devices, and equipment for the ongoing delivery of quality care.
Both Drs. Yu and Duncan are fellowship trained oculoplastic surgeons who are experienced in trauma and reconstructive surgeries. The Project Theia team also includes other facial plastic surgeons, ophthalmic surgeons, nurses, and anesthetists. For each country of service, the members of the team will vary based on the local needs. To date, some of the countries Project Theia has travelled to include Ghana, India, and Mexico.
Recently, a 1980s’ themed dance party was held in Pittsburgh to raise awareness and funds for Project Theia. The event raised more than $30,000.
“We wanted to create something that could fill a niche. When a child, for example, is born with a drooping eyelid at birth and it is not taken care of, they can lose vision permanently because of that. We have the ability to change that outcome, and we felt an obligation to do so,” said Dr. Duncan.
Added Dr. Yu: “We’ve traveled to India, Mexico, Kenya and more. It is so gratifying to be able to help people live their best lives. It’s what keeps us motivated to continue.”