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A New Westminster eye doctor has received Douglas College's highest distinction—an Honorary Fellowship.
Dr. David Neima has volunteered in Mexico, China, Vietnam, Uganda, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo for more than 25 years. His work includes training surgeons, helping to equip clinics, performing free eye surgery and providing glasses to those that need them. He also raises funds for eye camps in India, and for the past 12 years has run free eye screening clinics for new immigrants at Lower Mainland Sikh temples.
"They could go to an eye doctor but they don't feel comfortable," said Neima in a Douglas College press release. "Their English is poor and they don't have translators. But there are translators at the temples, so we do the screening clinics there."
Neima moved to New Westminster from his native Nova Scotia in 1986. He has done much of his humanitarian work through the Rotary Club where he helped raise funds for Douglas College nursing scholarships.
He has worked with a program providing eye care and glasses to Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and travels to Vietnam at least once a year to set up training programs and arrange cataract surgery.
"We go to the countryside and try as hard as we can to work on the people who are really poor," said Neima. "The problem in many of these countries is they have enough doctors, but access to health care is a problem because of poverty."
Douglas president Scott McAlpine said Neima was a natural choice for the distinction.
"Becoming an ophthalmologist is an achievement in itself. But becoming an ophthalmologist who leaves the comforst of home and travels to some of the poorest places in the world to give help and hope to people in needs makes Dr. Neima a truly remarkable individual."
Douglas College board chair Paul Wates said Neima is a role model who inspires people to look beyond their own needs.
"Giving back to society and the world at large is a quality we encourage in our students. Dr. Neima embodies this quality—and then some. He is a true inspiration," said Wates.
Neima received his honour Wednesday.