Tzu Chi Honors Columbia University Ophthalmology for Glaucoma Screening Efforts

Photo caption: Pictured are CUMC’s Stanley Chang, MD; Lama Al-Aswad, MD, MPH; and Vipul Patel, as well as Tzu Chi’s Kenneth Liao, DDS, Director of Medical Development and Deputy Director of Tzu Chi International Medical Association, New York Chapter.


On April 24th, the New York chapter of Tzu Chi, a non-profit, Buddhist philanthropic organization honored Columbia University Medical Center’s Department of Ophthalmology for its longstanding relationship and ophthalmologic public health service work. 

In a ceremony held at Flushing High School Auditorium, in Queens, a plaque was presented to Stanley Chang, MD and Lama Al-Aswad, MD, MPH for the years of vision screening work performed. 

The collaboration began in 2006, and was initiated by Dr. Chang who was involved in the first screening event.  Over the years the effort has continued and grown. Since 2007, Dr. Al-Aswad and her team have served as the principal collaborators with the foundation and have continued to provide annual screening for at-risk members of New York’s underserved, indigent and high-risk Asian, African American and Hispanic communities. 

Tzu Chi’s glaucoma screenings have targeted middle- and senior citizen-aged, Asian women, and have been held at the Tzu Chi Building and Sheraton Hotel in Flushing, New York, Brooklyn, and Kensico Park, Valhalla in Westchester County. Over the years, the organization counts five-to-six hundred people have been screened through the program, which typically runs concurrently during the Tzu Chi Annual Health Fair in New York and Asian Heritage Festival in Westchester County.

In the effort to bring care to needy patients, the program utilizes vans to provide screening for glaucoma and other ophthalmic disorders. Vision checks, eye pressure and optic nerve exams, as well as screenings of peripheral field of vision are given free of charge through the grass roots organization.

The recent award ceremony celebrated Tzu Chi’s 25 years of service to the New York community, and included recognition of Columbia University Medical Center for its continued commitment and care, among other healthcare and wellbeing initiatives. Founded in 1991, Tzu Chi USA’s Northeast Region Chapter, today counts more than 50,000 supporters and an active base of dedicated volunteers in the Tri-State Area and New England.

Dr. Al-Aswad reported that from 2006 to 2014, she and her team screened a total of 8,547 most of whom were age 40 years or older, (72%). Of that total, it was further reported that 55% were female, 10% were Asian, 17% were African American and 54% were Hispanic/Latino. Nearly a third of those screened had no health insurance, and 57% had never seen an eye doctor, according to Al-Aswad.

The screening examinations were performed in two ways: (a) at 221 community sites in Northern Manhattan, including stations in the lobbies of Milstein Hospital at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, of Harkness Eye Institute, and at many other community centers, grocery stores, banks, and churches; as well as (b) via mobile screening performed in a specially equipped van.