Pediatrician Dr. Marc Backal Provides ‘2020 Vision’ to Those in Need
Jefferson Health New Jersey Pediatrician Dr. Marc Backal has a “2020 vision” for this decade. His passion for providing eye care to the underserved has been a labor of love.
Dr. Backal continually puts the needs of others ahead of his own — not just for his patients at Advocare Laurel Pediatrics in Sewell and Advocare Greentree Pediatrics in Marlton — but for those around the world.
Since summer 2013, the Voorhees resident has traveled to Chile, Israel, and Mexico City as a physician volunteer for Maccabi Team USA, an athletic organization that teaches Jewish pride through sports. It wasn’t until his second trip in 2015 that he realized he could do more than just be there for the athletes.
Since then, he has given back to the communities that host the Maccabi games by setting up vision clinics, which provide free vision screenings and prescription glasses to those in underserved areas who do not have access to medical care.
“At this past summer’s Pan American Maccabi Games, I led a team of volunteers to two very poor villages outside Mexico City,” says Dr. Backal. “Word spread that we were coming and hundreds of people were waiting when we arrived. It was overwhelming, but we screened all of them.”
Over three days, Dr. Backal and his volunteer team — comprised of athletes, parents, coaches, and Maccabi staff from the home office in Philadelphia — helped provide a free vision screening for more than 800 people. And, thanks to the Essilor Vision Foundation, they obtained exact prescription needs and returned a couple of months later to deliver the gift of sight for the first time to more than 400.
In 2017, Dr. Backal’s team screened every kid in every elementary school in the poorest, largest Arab town in northern Israel — Jadidi Maker. “At the 2015 Games in Chile, not only did we screen and treat hundreds of impoverished children in San Bernardo, but the publicity of our efforts resulted in the government giving $300,000 to the community — completing the construction of an elementary school for those forgotten children,” says Dr. Backal.
In total, Dr. Backal has helped provide nearly 3,000 vision screenings and more than 1,400 prescription glasses since 2015. Dr. Backal has been on Maccabi’s medical team for seven straight trips, and he does not plan to stop there; he looks to support similar communities in need at the 2021 Maccabiah World Games in Israel.
“We thank our Maccabi supporters and generous donors who continue to make it possible to allow us to provide services to those in need,” he says. “It is a life-changing experience and we are still looking for physicians interested in general or sports medicine to volunteer for the medical team going to Israel in 2021.”
For Dr. Backal, his personal Maccabi experience went from being short-lived due to a disappointing wrestling injury as an athlete in 1985, to him providing an everlasting, tremendous impact for thousands of people around the world.