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A World of Vision

Stamford resident Scott Hamilton channels his wanderlust into medical missions focused on restoring sight



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Stepping into the Explorers Club in the Upper East Side of Manhattan is like visiting a shrine to lived-to-tell-about-it travel, complete with a sled from a North Pole expedition, tusks framing a fireplace, a stuffed polar bear standing on its hind legs. It’s easy to picture these items in the faraway places from where they came, and the exploits implied by what they symbolize.  

But observing the ease with which Scott Hamilton moves among these relics quickly sets imagined tales of adventure aside. A visitor since the 1970s, when Hamilton (now a member) began dropping by with his father, he shares recollections of circling the globe a few times over the decades (at least when he wasn’t making a living as an investment banker). Those jaunts weren’t to some mega resort poolside chair. They were more akin to a trip completed recently in Chile, when he traversed the country westward, from the Andes to the Pacific, in a kayak. “A life well-lived should have some adventure in it,” he reasons.

But lately Hamilton’s adrenaline is leading him in mostly one direction: on a mission to help curb blindness, which affects 285 million people, or about 4 percent of the population—according to the World Health Organization (WHO)—even though it’s a scourge that seems as treatable as it is widespread. Indeed, about 80 percent of sufferers, which includes those with impaired vision, can be cured, and sometimes with little more than a pair of cheap eyeglasses, says WHO. But there’s a catch. Most of those 285 million people live in remote areas of developing nations, where paved roads to transport doctors and equipment—most notably high-tech equipment—can be limited.

This is where Hamilton comes in.

Sure-footed in rugged back-country scenarios, but also, as a holder of an MBA degree, able to drum up funding at home, Hamilton has become a sort of a quarterback on the blindness issue, organizing well executed drives into places where other eye-focused charities can’t go. In impoverished, rugged Nepal, which Hamilton has visited about a dozen times in the past two decades, that particular expertise is paying off.

“Scott has great connections,” says Dr. Sanjay Kedhar, an ophthalmologist whose philanthropic group, Operation Restore Vision, organized cataract surgeries and other procedures on some recent Hamilton-organized Nepal trips. “He knows local people; he has local knowledge. The trips really wouldn’t have been a success without him.”

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