ST. LOUIS - If doctors were revered like sports heroes, Dr. Harry Brady would have his lab coat retired.
"He's an icon in the eye care community in St. Louis," said Dr. Tom Porter, an ophthalmologist with SSM St. Louis University Hospital.
At an age when many people are working on their gardens, the 82-year-old Brady is still working in the eye clinic he founded.
"Well you use the word work but it ain't work when you love what you're doing," Brady said with a laugh.
He started as a resident at St. Louis University back in 1962 and later went into private practice. But along the way, he adjusted his focus.
"I always wanted to do mission work," he said.
So, Dr. Brady started traveling to Haiti.
"Haiti is a third-world country. There are people going blind there from readily treatable disease," Brady explained.
He'd set up shop and treat as many people as he could. It was an eye-opener for the St. Louis University residents he'd take along.
"They would be able to do more cataract surgeries in two weeks than they would do in six months to a year in St. Louis," Brady said.
Trips like that led to this.
Since 1998, the Brady clinic at SSM Saint Louis University Hospital's Department of Ophthalmology has been serving people he calls "medically disenfranchised."
"If they have no money, no Medicaid, no Medicare, no insurance, what that equals is no treatment," said a fired up Brady.
"We have people that are recently paroled from prison, we've had homeless people coming in. I've had patients come in that have had all their belongings in a trash bag," explained Dr. Porter.
Ralph Flakes was one of those people down on his luck. He couldn't find a job, in part he says because he couldn't see.
"I was suffering from glaucoma and I didn't know it," said Flakes.
And Johnnie Moore has been legally blind in his left eye since getting hit by a baseball as a child. Until now, he's never seen an eye doctor.
"I didn't have any type of money. I didn't have any type of funds," Moore explained.
Now, they're both on the road to recovery. Just two of the 11,000 clinic patients who received comprehensive eye care free of charge.
"He's a blessing," said Flakes.
"You come in the door and it's like your family," Moore added.
Dr. Brady did retire from private practice but he says there's no quitting on the people who need him most.
"There are a lot of good people in the world but one percent of the population are just above and beyond good and Harry really is that person," said Dr. Porter.
Dr. Brady said he will continue to do the job, "as long as I can."
Dr. Harry Brady. When it comes to making a difference, seeing is believing.
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