Thought Leader Forum to Discuss "Eliminating Blindness"

In 2004, Dr. John Berdahl ‘99 spent time performing eye care procedures in Myanmar (Burma) – a country in Southeast Asia that’s home to more than 58 million people. It's also home to one of the worst health care systems in the world, according to the World Health Organization.

The experience, he says, was unforgettable.

“We took the cataract out of people who had been blind for 10 years and we got to watch them see their spouse for the first time in a decade. We got to watch them see themselves in the mirror. Grandparents saw grandchildren they didn’t even recognize.”

Cataract surgery, Berdahl says, takes about seven minutes yet, cataracts are the No. 1 cause of treatable blindness worldwide.

“We’re losing the battle [in third world countries]. We have the solution … it’s just a matter of implementing it.”

Berdahl, an ophthalmologist for Vance Thompson Vision in Sioux Falls, will discuss “Eliminating Blindness in our World” at the upcoming Augustana Thought Leader Forum on Friday, Oct. 14, at Callaway’s Event Center. The event will begin at 11:30 a.m.

“Eliminating Blindness”

Featuring Dr.John Berdahl '99, ophthalmologist for Vance Thompson Vision

Reserved tickets are $20 and include lunch. To order, visit or call 605.274.4404. Tickets at the door are $25.

“It takes someone else to care for a blind person. In seven minutes, we can free two people of blindness. We can free them from not being productive in society.”

In addition to healthcare delivery, Berdahl will also discuss the need for research and quality healthcare worldwide.

“How do we reconcile the quality of care we can provide with areas of the world where there is no care? In Sioux Falls, we have access to exceptional healthcare. In other areas of the world, it’s the exact opposite. In order to qualify for cataract surgery in Burma, you basically had to be able to say, ‘I can’t even see the Big E on the eye chart.’ You had to be functionally blind.”

Berdahl specializes in advanced cataract, corneal and glaucoma surgery, in addition to refractive surgery to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. He earned his medical doctorate, graduating with honors from Mayo Medical School in Rochester, Minn., and finished his internship at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz. He completed ophthalmology residency at Duke University where his published work, research, teaching and care of patients brought him many honors including best resident and national recognition as first place winner of the Resident Writers Award. Berdahl will  receive the Augustana Horizon Award, an honor recognizing the rising career of a young alumni (less than 15 years after graduation), during Viking Days 2011.

Berdahl pursued additional advanced surgical training at the most coveted cornea and glaucoma fellowship in the country at Minnesota Eye Consultants. As a fellow he received the Claes Dohlman Award from Harvard University, which is given to the top cornea fellow in the country.

Originally from Hills, Minn., Berdahl taught and coached at Hills-Beaver Creek prior to entering medical school. He has published numerous book chapters and peer-reviewed articles and his extensive research has been presented nationally and internationally. Recently, his research has brought him into consultation with NASA to combat eye disease during extended space flight. His commitment to those in need is demonstrated by his leadership role in EyeCare America (which provides free eye care to underserved) and the numerous surgical mission trips he continues to participate in worldwide.

Kelly Sprecher
Director of Communications & Media Relations