Dr Geoffrey Tabin
By Annette Velarde
Park City opthalmologist Geoffrey Tabin is an extremely well-educated, accomplished man who is world- renowned for his philanthropic work in the poorest regions of the globe. His non-profit, the Himalayan Cataract Project, restores sight to people who have been blinded by cataracts, many of them children. Google him—you’ll be amazed by the long list of stories about his work that has been printed in eminent publications. However, there is an aspect of Dr. Tabin that is even more remarkable than his good works: his inner philosophy that has been the catalyst for his meaningful life.
The mindset that life is a sacred gift has been passed down generation by generation in the Tabin family. Geoffrey’s grandparents left Europe as the Holocaust was imminent, and his remaining relatives perished. “Being alive isn’t a right, it’s a privilege,” said Tabin. “For me, the purpose of life is seeking out ways to express the gratitude I feel for that privilege. It’s inconceivable to me that anyone would not want to help others in any way they can. I’m so lucky to be doing what I want to do.”
His outlook is well worth reflection. It challenges our customary belief that personal accomplishment is the sum of preparation plus money, with a steady dose of lucky breaks.
Instead, it points toward the Dali Lama’s simple truths: “The purpose of life is to be happy. To be happy, help others.” One might assume that Tabin’s impressive line-up of diplomas from Yale, Oxford, and Harvard Medical School set the course for his life. However, it was the time in-between classes that ignited his determination to help the poor. While studying for his Master’s Degree in Philosophy at Oxford, he had six-week breaks between semesters that afforded him time to travel. He thought he was merely indulging his passion for mountain-climbing by traveling to exotic locales like Nepal and Ethiopia. Deeply moved by the striking disparities between the wealthy and impoverished people he encountered, Dr. Tabin put his life in the hands of sherpas who had no access to the most rudimentary health care, and he witnessed children dying of easily-curable illnesses. He was further moved by the vast number of people suffering from blindness due to cataracts—a debilitating condition that can be treated through a simple, inexpensive procedure.
In partnership with Nepali eye surgeon Sanduk Ruit, he founded the Himalayan Cataract Project (HCP). The doctors’ enthralling story is recounted in the recently-published book Second Suns, now available on Amazon. It tells of the doctors’ deeply transformative experiences that inspired the sole mission of HCP: to restore eyesight to patients, regardless of their ability to pay. The HCP and the local physicians it has trained have restored sight to over two million people.
Dr. Tabin is a Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and Director of International Ophthalmology at the John A. Moran Eye Center and University of Utah. He sees patients in the Moran Eye Center in both Salt Lake and Park City. He was recently bestowed the John & Marva Warnock Presidential Professorship at the University of Utah, which will allow him to further his work to overcome treatable blindness. For information on the Himalayan Cataract Project or for donation opportunities: www.cureblindness.org.