AHS grad earns national award

Published 1:17 am Thursday, October 27, 2016

Andalusia native and AHS grad Dr. Ben Roberts recently was recognized by the American Academy of Ophthalmology with its Outstanding Humanitarian Service Award.

1027-benjaminw-roberts-md-2The national award was presented the group’s annual meeting in Chicago.

Roberts works as an ophthalmologist and missionary at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya. The AAO recognized him for “his contributions in charitable activities, care of the indigent, and community service performed above and beyond the typical duties of an ophthalmologist.”

He and his, wife, Jenny, and their three sons, Luke, Isaac, and Nathanael, have lived primarily in Kenya since 2006, although they furlough in the United States approximately every fifth year, when he generally works in Birmingham.

“We returned to Kenya in August and plan to be here another four years before returning to the U.S. for a furlough,” Roberts said. Mrs. Roberts was able to join him for the ceremonies in Chicago.

The toughest part of the transition between the two countries is the change in pace, he said.

“Both countries have aspects that feel like home to us,” he said. But life in the States is definitely faster paced. This is the toughest transition for our boys.

“Life in Kenya can also be busy, but in a different way. We only get in our vehicle about once a month to travel away from Tenwek,” he said. “The busyness is with the work in the hospital.”

Although he and his family live and work in Kenya, Roberts regularly make trips to provide services in Sudan. Those who follow international news know this can be dangerous.

“We have made several trips to Sudan to carry eye services to places who have never had them,” he said. “On occasion we have had to cancel our trips because of unrest in regions close to our intended travel. We usually work with existing ministries already in the country, making our transition much easier.”

On one such trip, on the last day of a clinic, couple came for help.

“They traveled four days, walking and sleeping in the bush to get to our clinic,” he said. “The wife had bilateral cataracts, and the husband was blind in one eye. All of us were awestruck when we saw them with only a mosquito net, a bag of sorghum (a staple food grain), and a dry water canister.

“The husband did not come for himself but wanted sight for his wife,” Roberts recalled. “After informing the husband that we could help him as well, we proceeded to operate on both him and her.”

“The next morning after removing the eye patches, the man was elated that he could see again,” he said.

However, despite the cataract surgery, the wife, still could not see. Further examination revealed that she had an irreversible blinding retinitis condition.

“This man and his wife were not believers. They came from a village where they had never heard of the truths of Jesus that we spoke about,” Roberts said. “Wilson, one of our eye team members, recognized the sacrificial love of this husband and used it as a beautiful example to share with him of the sacrificial love that Jesus has for each of us. This couple departed having heard the gospel but not personally receiving it. They stated that they would share this with others.”

Roberts was salutatorian of the AHS Class of 1991, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Birmingham Southern College. He interned at Baptist Medical Center in Birmingham; completed his residency with UAB and Callahan Eye Foundation Hospital, and from 2003 until 2005, did a fellowship in vitreoretinal disease and surgery retina consultants in Birmingham.

He previously has received the Andalusia High School Outstanding Graduate Award.

He is the son of John and Ruby Roberts of Andalusia.

Those who wish to support his work may contribute at www.wgm.org/roberts.