San Antonio doctor partners with Baptist agency to battle childhood blindness

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SAN ANTONIO—She may call herself semi-retired, but San Antonio pediatric ophthalmologist Judy Newman is busier than ever working to give sight to children in developing countries.

Newman travels about every-other month to places as varied as Tibet, Honduras, Nigeria, Namibia, Kenya, Eritrea, Nepal, India, China, Moldova, Tonga, Samoa and El Salvador to form friendships with ophthalmologists already working in these countries.

“I maintain the humble attitude of a guest working to form a friendship while doing adult cataract surgery. If the doctor likes and trusts me, I am invited back to help the doctor with pediatric patients, as most do not do pediatric ophthalmology,” Newman said.

Judy Newman, a semi- retired San Antonio pediatric ophthalmologist, works with physicians in developing countries to help children retain—or regain—their sight. (BCFS/CERI Photo courtesy of Judy Newman)

Newman began working with Children’s Emergency Relief International, the overseas arm of Baptist Child & Family Services, through her contact with Ron and Marla Rushing at Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio.

CERI then set up a trust fund for Newman to purchase supplies for international hospitals, as well as create a process where people could donate to underwrite her expenses. 

But for the most part, Newman spends her own retirement money for travel overseas.

“Dr. Newman lives very frugally with a modest home and older vehicle here in San Antonio so she can stretch her savings to finance this work,” said Marla Rushing, BCFS director of corporate training, who originally set up the trust fund for Newman and personally donates to her ministry.

Newman continues to travel back to the same countries, hoping to transform one or two eye doctors into pediatric-oriented ophthalmologists.

“I cannot transfer a lifetime of honed skills in one or two visits,” Newman said.

“I try to travel to remote countries that other ophthalmologists typically don’t visit either out of fear, cost of travel or lengthy itinerary.”

While Newman’s focus is the children in these countries, she also works with the adults as needs arise.

Most of the adults suffer from cataract disease due to age.

The children often suffer from childhood blindness due to malnutrition, infection, vitamin A deficiency, intra-uterine infections, trauma, genetics or intermarriage.

The work she does helping children in other countries has been Newman’s ambition since her own adolescence and is the reason she attended medical school.

But Newman’s job doesn’t end when she returns home from her trips.

Her overseas ministry has become a full-time job, between arranging future itineraries; answering e-mails from overseas trainees; repairing, researching, ordering and shipping equipment; preparing supplies for trips; and sharing with her supporters anecdotes and photos of her overseas ventures.

“I believe that we are all connected; the suffering of these children is our suffering just as their joy is our joy,” Newman said.

“We are so blessed living in America, and it is a privilege to give something back.”


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