The surgeon couple receives the Honorary Award of the Danish Medical Association 2023: They restore sight to people in the far corners of the world
Gøril and Jannik Boberg-Ans are not only married, they also share the same passion for ophthalmology. Over the course of their professional lives, they have each operated on around 25,000 eyes. Some of them in the remotest corners of the world, where they have been restoring sight to blind people for 20 years. Now they are being honored for this with the Honorary Award of the Danish Medical Association.
Honorary award for EuroEyes doctor and his wife
Gøril and Jannik Boberg-Ans received the 2023 Honorary Award from the Danish Medical Association for their efforts to restore sight to thousands of cataract patients in developing countries through their organization Save the Sight.
Gøril and Jannik Boberg-Ans are this year’s winners of the Medical Association’s Honorary Award. The reason is that for more than two decades they have traveled – often at their own expense – to perform cataract surgery on patients in Third World countries. For their work in founding the Save the Sight Association and for spreading a special surgical technique that makes it possible to help as many people as possible in primitive conditions. And last but not least, for opening a permanent eye clinic in Tanzania, which will also serve as an academy for other eye surgeons.
For this they receive the honorary award of the Danish Medical Association.
“I almost had a heart attack. It took us completely by surprise that someone noticed what we were doing,” says Jannik Boberg-Ans.
“It’s so significant. I can hardly believe it,” says Gøril Boberg-Ans.
“The Honorary Award gives our work a seal of approval. For the fact that what we are doing is right and important. When we see how big the task ahead of us is, we hope that this honorary award will also be beneficial in raising funds for the project,” says Jannik Boberg-Ans.
Like a rebirth
Gøril Boberg-Ans is 68 years old and Jannik Boberg-Ans is 66. He still works as an ophthalmic surgeon and medical director of the EuroEyes group of clinics, while she retired earlier this year as a consultant ophthalmic surgeon at Rigshospitalet – Glostrup. Both specialize in cataract surgery. This disease, also called cataract, is common all over the world. But while in countries like Denmark and Germany these opacities of the eye lens can be surgically removed, in third world countries cataract is the most common cause of blindness. Since there are often no eye surgery options there, cataract patients in poor countries usually have to forgo an operation that could restore their vision within minutes.
A fact that is even worse: in poor societies, when a family member goes blind, it affects the whole family.
“It is a great burden when one of the adults in the family is blind. The children don’t go to school because they have to take care of the blind person at home. If the blind person has an operation and regains his or her sight, the whole family benefits and the children can go back to school,” explains Jannik Boberg-Ans.
“It’s amazing that such a relatively small operation can mean so much to an entire family. That’s what drives us,” says Gøril Boberg-Ans.
The joy they experience from patients is almost palpable. Sometimes patients have traveled far to reach the couple’s mobile clinics. One example is the Nepalese son who carried his paralyzed and blind mother on his back for more than 24 hours to get her to the operating table. Or when patients from a village in the Dominican Republic were afraid to go for treatment because the witch doctor claimed the couple stole their eyes. When a few brave people returned to the community with their eyesight restored, the clinic was flooded with patients on the last day.
In both cases – as in so many others – the patients reacted by cheering, crying, clapping, and sometimes dancing out of sheer joy at being able to see again.
“We are so privileged to be able to make people happy. Giving people back their sight is like being born again. It’s a bit like what obstetricians must feel,” says Jannik Boberg-Ans.
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