Trained to train others
“Doing ten [cataract surgeries] a day, I thought I was the best eye surgeon in the world,” said Dr. Ayo Bello. But then he met Dr. Stan Pletcher at the American Academy of Ophthalmology in Georgia, who told him he knew someone who could do 50 cataract surgeries a day. “No way! It’s just not possible,” said Dr. Bello. Dr. Pletcher assured him it was true and agreed to direct him to Dr. Glenn Strauss. “And he did!” said Dr. Bello.
“It’s not been the same ever since,” he admitted, “because Dr. Strauss is a wonderful teacher and a marvelous man.”
At Dr. Strauss’ invitation, Dr. Bello came to serve on the Africa Mercy for the first time in 2009. “The first day, he only did 35 [surgeries] because I was slowing him down. He was showing me the steps one at a time, watching and holding my hand through it all,” he explained.
According to Dr. Bello, Dr. Strauss’ method works on all types of cataracts, hard and soft, and the technique is faster, safer and cheaper for the patients. For these reasons, he is now using it at his hospital, the Ayo Bello Memorial Hospital in Ilorin, Nigeria. The hospital is named after his late father.
Dr. Bello’s association with Mercy Ships led him to examine his life. Reflecting on the sacrificial life of Dr. Strauss, he started the Ayo Bello Foundation which offers eye surgeries to the poor, without charge. “Why shouldn’t I go to the next town in Nigeria to do something good?” he asked. To date, well over five hundred surgeries have been done. Dr. Strauss’ technique has helped the foundation reach many people, which is why Dr. Bello feels more support will be forthcoming.
“As the word gets out,” he said, “we’ll be able to recruit more doctors. Mercy Ships has done this, which insures that the good work will continue. It looks like now we’ll do even more, since we are training other doctors. We are multiplying what I’ve learned, to produce many Dr. Glenns,” he said. “We have to clone him, if possible,” Dr. Bello chuckled.
Earning his medical degree at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, Dr. Bello completed his two years of residency in Nigeria, followed by two more years in the UK. For his fifth year, he served in Nigeria to finish his program and began practicing in Nigeria in 1986. He recently served short-term onboard the Africa Mercy for the third year in a row.