International Ophthalmology Program in American Samoa

Dr. Ben Siatu'u is an ophthalmologist in American Samoa who collaborates with Casey Eye Institute.
Dr. Ben Siatu’u, an ophthalmologist in American Samoa who collaborates with Casey Eye Institute.

Working together, the Casey Eye Institute and American Samoa are developing long-term strategies to educate and empower eye care professionals to deliver the best in modern eye care at L.B.J. Tropical Medical Center and address issues of preventable blindness in the territory. 

Current state of eye care in American Samoa

Geographic isolation and societal transitions weigh heavily on health and medical care in American Samoa. There are only two ophthalmologists in American Samoa, so the growing population is heavily dependent on a small number of health professionals for their eye care. The geographic isolation of the territory limits resources and can make accessing continuing education opportunities challenging. 

Program focus areas

The areas of focus for Casey Eye Institute in American Samoa include:  

  • Providing the educational and logistical support for Samoan doctors to become high quality ophthalmologists - clinically, surgically, and as leaders in public health.   

  • Educational support onsite at OHSU and online for eye care professionals such as ophthalmic technicians and nurses that work alongside the eye doctors to deliver important components of exams, diagnostic tests, treatments and patient education.   

  • Support for biomedical engineers, who care for the instruments crucial to studying the eye health of American Samoa.   

  • Providing education materials on diabetes, sun exposure, worker safety and other subjects to eye care advocates. With the power of information, nurses, community health workers and village leaders throughout the Islands would be able to: inform population about preventative eye care; inform the population about eye care services and improve recruitment of patients to clinical care centers; and increase the quality and efficiency of triage and referral for eye patients.  

Ophthalmic Technician Training Program

In an effort to continue to build capacity for eye care in American Samoa, LBJ Tropical Medical Center in American Samoa has supported their employees to visit Casey Eye Institute for intensive hands-on training in diagnostic testing as ophthalmic technicians. The initial three week training occurred in May of 2016 and included Samoan ophthalmic technicians Blanche Uitu and Mafa Lerome who have continued to receive remote support through dedicated technicians at Casey as well as on-site training with visiting technicians and doctors in America Samoa. In May of 2019, we hosted Blanche and Fatima Lafaele for an additional two week training. To date, our Samoan partners have been trained in ocular terminology, anatomy and diseases of the eye, visual acuity measurements, pupil assessments, confrontational fields, mobility assessment, tonometry, lensometry, and refractions. 

Dr. Ben Siatu’u

Prior to his Casey Eye Institute residency training program, Dr. Ben Siatu'u was an aspiring assistant general surgeon at the Lyndon B. Johnson Tropical Medical Center in the U.S. territory of American Samoa.  Dr. Siatu'u began a formal full ophthalmology internship and residency at OHSU in 2013. After three years in Oregon, Casey Eye Institute faculty led his transition year of ophthalmology surgical intensive training on-site in American Samoa. Through this year of training and ongoing collaborative exchanges, Dr. Siatu'u has grown professionally to manage a broad array of complex medical and surgical ophthalmology care.  As he has risen to the territory-wide leadership in health care, Dr. Siatu'u now fills the role of leader for all eye care in this U.S. territory and also is a key member of the overall leadership team for the American Samoan governmental health system.