Dr. Fonken has been recognized as a leader in his profession because of his excellent academic credentials. He has had the privilege of serving as an Associate Examiner for the American Ophthalmology Association since 1996. This is an honor bestowed upon select doctors who scored highest on their ophthalmology boards to become Board Certified.
Having grown up all around the world, Dr. Fonken was exposed to many fascinating cultures. Pakistan was one of the countries he lived in for a significant period. The poverty was extreme and overwhelming, and he was forever changed by his experience there. This compelled him to dedicate his life to helping underserved people. He chose ophthalmology because he knew that it was an area of medicine that could make dramatic improvements in people’s lives from a one-time procedure like cataract surgery.
Since 1989, Dr. Fonken has been devoted to helping those in developing countries who do not have access to cataract surgery. On his annual trips, he has traveled to Mexico, Romania, Brazil, Argentina, Peru and India. In 2008, he made four separate surgical trips. He has helped innumerable patients by performing surgery and teaching local doctors specialized surgical techniques.
What is most remarkable about his work oversees is the pioneering effort he has made in partnership with SEE International. In 2008, they created the world’s first training program in a specialized surgical technique. It teaches doctors how to perform cataract surgery with basic equipment that is available in developing countries. The surgery only requires a car battery and a microscope that folds up into a piece of carry-on luggage. Instead of relying on sophisticated technology, the doctors need advanced skills with supplemental training. Because of the simplicity and hardiness of the equipment, doctors have been able to travel on canoes and camels to previously inaccessible places. Dr. Fonken finds this work deeply satisfying.