The Gift of Sight

Dr zaveri with a patient

The Gift of Sight
by Adama Dyoniziak, Executive Director, Champions for Health

“All I saw was blobs and I couldn’t distinguish anything. I would be embarrassed because people would think that I was ignoring them, but really I couldn’t see them or didn’t know who they were,” shared Rosario, a 66-year-old Project Access patient with cataracts in both eyes.

Rosario always had health problems and when her vision began to worsen, she stopped leaving her house. She felt helpless – she was dependent on her husband and the Food Bank. She used to work for an agency and cleaned houses and offices. “With my cataracts, I couldn’t do anything.”

Then the COVID pandemic turned her isolation into hopelessness when her cataract operations had to be rescheduled. At one point Rosario said, “It’s okay if we aren’t able to schedule the surgery. At this point I just want to spend the rest of my years in my homeland (of Mexico) and die in peace.” Her husband, who is a farm worker, is the only family she has in San Diego. He is Rosario’s support system and they depend on each other.

Project Access Care Manager, Evelyn Penaloza, was able to schedule the two cataract surgeries with Dr. Kelsi Greider-Sideris and Dr. Maulik Zaveri of Greider Eye Associates. Evelyn coordinated medical interpreters and transportation while CSU San Marcos nursing students helped with surgery day logistics. Now Rosario’s vision has greatly improved, and she can do things on her own again.

The two ophthalmologists were happy to volunteer their services. “I became a physician to improve the world on an individual level.” Dr. Greider-Sideris shared with GB Magazine. “Volunteering provides a lot of satisfaction. After surgery, a patient’s eyesight improves, and they are happy again.” Dr. Zaveri agreed; “We see the smile and the look of joy on a patient’s face. They finally see the world in a different way.”

Rosario exclaimed, “I had a great experience with both doctors from beginning to end. Everyone is so nice and I’m grateful to be able to see again. I can’t thank them enough.” Rosario has never gone to the beach and she wants to see the ocean. Most importantly, she looks forward to being reunited with her son and seeing her grandchildren. “With my vision restored, I can live a better life.”

Since 2008, Project Access has facilitated $21 million in care for 6,500+ uninsured patients just like Rosario by providing free consultations and surgeries – all thanks to the dedication, time and talent of the volunteer specialty healthcare physicians of Project Access. Both Dr. Greider-Sideris and Dr. Zaveri expressed the power and responsibility that physicians have to provide patients access to healthcare. “Connecting with people is the bottom line,” said Dr Zaveri, “and Project Access is a wonderful program that allows us to connect with patients. It is incredibly rewarding to be a part of this process.”

For every $1 spent on program expenses, Project Access provides $10 in contributed healthcare services — a return on investment of 1000%!

Come join us at the 2nd annual Champions Soirée – Waves of Wellness event at the Birch Aquarium on July 10th to raise money for Project Access San Diego. For more information about Champions for Health, please visit

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Esteban Villanueva