Programs with Hawaiian Eye Foundation

Volunteer Faculty

We are so fortunate to have amazing, highly skilled, professional volunteers join our mission expeditions and training conferences. They have freely given of their time and talent to make a difference in the lives of those we serve. We are so grateful for their dedication and devotion to eye care around the world!



Dr. Rutgard was educated in Illinois, California and Iowa in the USA, where he was recognized for excellence in scholarship and conducted highly acclaimed research in the areas of immunology, cancer and ophthalmology. Dr. Rutgard is a guest lecturer for Medical Colleges, Medical Societies, Universities, Schools, Churches, and Humanitarian Organizations. He is a clinical instructor for small incision cataract surgery internationally, and he has educated more than a thousand ophthalmologists worldwide. For the past 19 years, Dr. Rutgard has devoted his entire practice of medicine to humanitarian missions. He is the Medical Director of iSight Missions and the Hawaiian Eye Foundation. He volunteers his time with several other humanitarian foundations as well, including SEE International, to serve the poor and help end needless blindness. He has been on over 225 missions; performed over 145,000 charity patient exams; and has personally done over 15,000 surgeries. He has performed MORE humanitarian eye surgeries, in MORE countries, than ANY other American Ophthalmologist.


Vietnamese American Ophthalmology Symposium (VAOS) is a partnership between HEF and American Eye Center VietNam to provide subspecialty training programs, primarily in Ho Chi Minh (HCMC), and Hue, VietNam, that began in 2011. The mission of VAOS is “To promote and improve specialty eye care in VietNam through cooperative medical education between American and Vietnamese ophthalmologists.

Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in VietNam. There are about 400 ophthalmologists concentrated in the city, serving about 10 million urban inhabitants and also drawing patients from the entire South of VietNam/Mekong Delta, Cambodia and Laos.

Continuing medical educational opportunities in VN for ophthalmologists are limited. Since many Vietnamese eye doctors do not have the ability to go abroad for further medical education, VAOS plays an important role in bringing advanced medical education to them.

Dr. Philip Custer, Dr. Nam-Tran Pham, and Dr. Kim Hakin

Dr. Philip Custer, Dr. Nam-Tran Pham, and Dr. Kim Hakin

As the Founder and VAOS program director in VietNam, Dr. Nam-Tran Pham is uniquely positioned as the bridge between the US and Vietnamese partners. Dr. Pham was born in VietNam but lived in the US for 30 years prior to returning to VietNam to work in 2008. She attended Georgetown Medical School and finished ophthalmology residency training in Washington D.C. Dr. Pham is Board-certified through the American Board of Ophthalmology.Dr. Pham has been the Chief of Laser Surgery at the Franco-Vietnamese Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, and is currently the CEO/Medical Director at the American Eye Center VN. She is an active member in the Society of Ophthalmology of Ho Chi Minh City and a volunteer surgeon for Surgical Eye Expeditions providing charity cataract surgeries.

Oculoplastics: March 2018

Volunteer oculoplastic surgeons Dr. Kim Hakin and Dr. Philip Custer provided training for 32 doctors and residents in mid-March.

Dr. Hakin is a consultant specializing in Ophthalmic Surgery for over 20 years. He has been in private practice in London, England, held advisory roles for the Healthcare Commission and Nuffield Hospitals as well as a Registered Expert to Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). He is a noted expert in his field, holding an Expert Witness Accreditation since 2003. He began his overseas volunteer work in Cambodia in 2004 and continues to dedicate his surgical skills on humanitarian missions.

Dr. Custer is a Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences for the past 18 years at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri. He has numerous awards and accolades and editorial responsibilities in major publications for over 24 years. He has several dozen of publications and has taken part in hundreds of invited presentations, lectures, courses, and speaking engagements during his career. He somehow still finds the time to volunteer for mission trips to continue his passion and love of teaching.

A new HEF volunteer, Vietnamese-speaking optometrist Dr. Le, was able to join them. She was excited to shadow our experienced team! She plans to begin her own volunteer trips soon.

A big mahalo and cảm ơn bạn to our sponsors Allergan, Inc. and Santen and to our volunteer surgeons, Drs. Kim Hakin and Phil Custer.

Coming September 23-29, 2018 – Retina Specialty training with Dr. Dhanu Meleth.

Dr. Annal Dhananjayan “Dhanu” Meleth:

Dr. Dhanu Meleth is a vitreoretina surgeon and uveitis specialist at Marietta Eye Clinic in Georgia, USA. He did his training at Baylor College, the National Eye institute, George Washington University and Mt. Sinai. He is currently working on 13 research projects (mostly uveitis clinical trials), but he has already published over 25 papers. He has written or contributed to many textbooks and has volunteered locally and internationally. Dr. Dhanu has taught at dozens of meetings and universities and we are so lucky to have him share his knowledge with the Vietnamese doctors and residents.

Courses in Refractive and Glaucoma specialties are also to be held this year.

Stay Informed

Stay up-to-date with Hawaiian Eye Foundation. Get our latest news and updates by email:
PO BOX 23212,
Honolulu, HI 96823
Phone: (808) 201-3937
Hawaiian Eye Foundation is a division of Project Vision Hawaii.

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