Dr. Frank Venzara III: Central Florida Humanitarian
By Anne Straub // December 25, 2014
ABOVE VIDEO: Frank X. Venzara III, a board-certified ophthalmologist, opened his own practice, Florida Retina Specialists on Merritt Island, in August. Earlier this year, he completed a mission trip to Nicaragua, his third to that country. He also has served in Haiti and Mexico.
‘They Walk For Hours and Hours and Hours’ To See A Visiting Doctor
CENTRAL FLORIDA USA – Medical missions have been part of the life for Dr. Frank Venzara III since medical school, and he plans to continue the practice. But the benefit to the patients he sees is only part of the reason.
His aim: Train local doctors in the latest procedures and new technology.
“The goal is not to sweep in and just do surgeries,” he said. “The goal is to train the local eye doctors so they can do more and raise the level of care.”
Venzara, a board-certified ophthalmologist, opened his own practice, Florida Retina Specialists on Merritt Island, in August.
Earlier this year, he completed a mission trip to Nicaragua, his third to that country. He also has served in Haiti and Mexico.
He works closely with local doctors while he’s on a mission trip, and his most recent trip to Nicaragua focused on training surgical residents on retina surgery.
Nicaragua has only a couple retinal specialists, making the prognosis bleak for people who suffer retinal trauma or detachment.
“If you don’t have money, you just go blind,” he said.
Although his goal is sustainability for treatment, seeing the patients is especially rewarding.
‘THEY ARE SO APPRECIATIVE’
Many live far from medical treatment. “They walk for hours and hours and hours” to see a visiting doctor, Venzara said. “They’re so, so appreciative.”
During one trip, his team performed muscle surgery on a little girl who hadn’t been allowed to go to school because of her village’s superstitious aversion to her cross-eyed appearance. After her eyes were straightened, she was able to get an education.
An older woman who had supported herself as a seamstress lost her livelihood to cataracts until surgery allowed her to support herself again.
Many patients don’t need surgery, but their lives are changed with a gift of eyeglasses.
“We give out glasses, literally by the thousands,” Venzara said. “It seems like little things to us, but it makes a huge difference.”
Teams that visit developing countries also take medical equipment, such as used glaucoma lasers that have been replaced in the United States. The equipment still works and provides an advancement over what the countries have.
Actual operating conditions are very similar to surgery in the United States — it’s the outside experiences that provide the culture shock.
For example, when landing in Port de Paix, Haiti, the pilot of the prop plane Venzara was in had to honk a horn to encourage cows to move off the runway. A scheduled trip to Mexico was canceled after the mayor of the destination town was assassinated, a casualty of the drug-related violence in the country.
One welcome change is the simplified approach to medical care.
“There’s no insurance involved, no money involved — you’re giving and they’re receiving,” Venzara said.
“Most of us go into medicine to help people. As you go on, you learn about the business side, insurance, all the hours,” he said.
“On a mission trip, you remove all that and you get to help people. It’s really wonderful to be a part of that.”
Venzara and his wife, Juliet, grew up on Merritt Island. The couple has three sons.
CLICK HERE TO SEE THE CENTRAL FLORIDA HUMANITARIAN ALUMNI
ABOUT THE 2014 CENTRAL FLORIDA HUMANITARIAN AWARDS
The Central Florida Humanitarian Awards were created to recognize outstanding individuals and organizations that dedicate their Time, Talent or Treasure to help people in need locally – and around the world.
This year, more than 30 deserving humanitarians will be honored during the Gala, which will be held Thursday, Nov. 6 at the Hilton Melbourne Rialto Place, with the festivities beginning at 6 p.m.
“Over the years, our editorial team has had the distinct honor and pleasure of identifying and featuring the many members of our community who give back so much and are dedicated to reaching out and helping others, here and throughout the world, in a multitude of ways,” said Maverick Multimedia Editor-In-Chief Dr. Jim Palermo.
“We remain firmly committed to identifying and telling those stories and providing a timely media platform to recognize Space Coast and Central Florida residents’ altruistic contributions on a regular basis in our magazines, as well as SpaceCoastDaily.com,” said Dr. Palermo.
This inspiring and compelling event is sponsored by M.H. Williams Construction, Brighthouse Networks, Health First, Brevard Physicians Network, Clear Choice Health Care, First Choice Medical Group, Knudson Brain & Spine Law Injury Office, Florida Pain Institute, Sangiv Patel, DDS, PA, Brevard Geriatrics, Space Coast Medicine & Active Living magazine and SpaceCoastDaily.com
BELOW MAP: The 2014 Central Florida Humanitarian Awards will take place Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014 at the Hilton Melbourne Rialto Place, located at 200 Rialto Place in Melbourne, Florida.