North Sulawesi, Indonesia, June 11, 2012 — You never know where a good idea can come from.  In the case of Dr. John Jarstad, an ophthalmologist and team leader with Latter Day Saints Charities, aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), it can come from a casual conversation with your neighbor.

Jarstad said he wanted to come up with a cheap and effective way to train doctors in developing nations how to perform the most up-to-date procedures in eye surgeries.

“I just didn’t know how to do it.” said Jarstad. That’s where my neighbor came in. “He suggested creating a simulator much like the ones a pilot might use, but  much cheaper.”

Starting ten days before he was scheduled to leave on the Mercy, Dr. Jarstad got to work on creating the new simulator.  “Using a plastic facial mold, PVC piping, clay, and an acrylic base, I was able to create one of the most realistic training models I have ever used,” he said.

Most modern eye simulators cost upwards of 800 dollars.  Jarstad’s costs only seven.  “Having such a cheap yet effective substitute to the more expensive models currently in circulation will allow us to produce it en-masse and deliver it to doctors in developing nations around the world,” he said.

The first test for Jarstad’s device was when the Mercy arrived in Manado, Indonesia to support Pacific Partnership 2012 (PP12).  While there, Jarstad visited a local eye clinic where he instructed 35 Indonesian ophthalmologists in techniques using his new device.

“When we started training, none of the doctors had ever performed a surgery like this before,” he said.  “But after one week every one of them were able to successfully perform the surgery on real patients. It was true success.”

Dr. Jarstad is no stranger to teaching young doctors.  He is currently an associate professor at Pacific Northwest University College of Medicine.  “Being able to teach these doctors from Indonesia and watching them succeed after using my device really shows me how much of a difference it can make,” he said.

Jarstad’s skills however are used to teach more than just the doctors in Indonesia.  He is also putting his years of experience to work training the young doctors aboard Mercy.  “Teaching new doctors is my favorite part of what I do,” he said.  “These are some of the most gifted young minds I have ever had the opportunity to help train.”

Jarstad said he felt very blessed to be able to bring his device to the people and places that needed it as well as to be part of this mission.

“This is an experience that none of us will ever forget,” said Jarstad.  “Every nurse and doctor both aboard the ship and those touched in Indonesia will always remember our time here with PP12.”

Pacific Partnership is an annual U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance mission that brings together U.S. military personnel, host and partner nations, non-governmental organizations and international agencies to build stronger relationships and develop disaster response capabilities throughout the Asia-Pacific region