Seva Canada Board Member, volunteer and BC-based ophthalmologist, Dr. Martin Spencer has been recognized with the Governor General’s Sovereign Medal for Volunteers for his contribution to restoring sight and preventing blindness worldwide.

The Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers recognizes the exceptional volunteer achievements of Canadians from across the country and celebrates a wide range of voluntary contributions. It recognizes living Canadians who have made a significant, sustained and unpaid contribution to their community, in Canada or abroad.

The award is part of the Canadian Honours System and replaces the Governor General's Caring Canadian Award. Dr. Martin Spencer will receive the award Tuesday, April 12 in Ottawa from the Governor General David Johnston. See the live stream of Dr. Spencer receiving the award.

Dr Marty Spencer receives Sovereign Medal for Volunteers

Dr. Spencer appears at minute 48:05. ©GG David Johnston's Facebook

Dr. Spencer has been an active board member of Seva Canada for over 30 years. Known affectionately as an “eye-opener,” Dr. Spencer travels overseas annually, at his own expense, to Seva’s programs in Cambodia, Guatemala, India, Malawi, Madagascar, Nepal, and Tibetan Areas of China to train local eye care specialists in surgical techniques and performing surgeries.

Dr Marty Spencer receives Sovereign Medal for Volunteers

Dr. Martin Spencer training in Tibetan Areas of China. ©Dr. Martin Spencer

“I think everyone has a desire to help, and I'm fortunate to have an occupation with which I'm able to make a difference in the lives of others. The impact of a $50, 15-minute cataract surgery on a person in need in the developing world still amazes me to this day. Seeing someone get their sight back and see the faces of their loved ones knowing they will be able to return to work or school and provide for their family is extraordinary. Receiving an award for doing something I get tremendous satisfaction from is truly icing on the cake. I'm happy to bring attention to the work that Seva does to improve the lives of people who aren't lucky enough to live in a country like Canada.”

– Dr. Martin Spencer


Dr Marty Spencer receives Sovereign Medal for Volunteers

A Nepali woman sees her child for the first time. ©Dr. Martin Spencer

Dr. Spencer has restored sight to thousands of people in need over his decades of service. He was one of the first doctors in the world to bring high-quality, inexpensive sight-restoring services to remote rural areas. Dr. Spencer also adapted modern cataract surgical techniques and instruments for geographically challenging environments, such as mobile eye camps in the Himalaya. His innovations have become the global standard.

Dr. Spencer has also worked extensively with the renowned Aravind Eye Care System, Seva Canada's partner in India. Aravind created a method of subsidizing free surgeries for the poor by charging reasonable fees to patients who can pay. Aravind, with the help of Seva, also created Aurolab, a not-for-profit manufacturing facility that provides millions of low-cost intraocular lens implants annually for cataract patients, as well as surgical sutures and other sight-saving products.

Dr Marty Spencer receives Sovereign Medal for Volunteers

Dr. Martin Spencer at Aravind Eye Care Systems.

“Dr. Martin Spencer’s innovative approach to eye care and tireless dedication to helping others has had a tremendous impact in the developing world. He has put British Columbia and Canada on the map with regard to international development and health care, and serves as an example of British Columbia’s innovation and ingenuity making a positive impact worldwide. Seva Canada couldn’t be more proud of his achievements and recognition by the Governor General’s Sovereign Medal for Volunteers”

– Penny Lyons, Seva Canada Executive Director

Dr. Spencer also passionately advocates for Seva while in Canada, donating his time to speak to various groups about the work Seva does and stocks Seva brochures in his eye clinic in Nanaimo.

Dr Marty Spencer receives Sovereign Medal for Volunteers

Dr. Spencer speaking to a crowd about Seva Canada in Nanaimo, BC.

Dr Marty Spencer receives Sovereign Medal for Volunteers

Dr. Spencer in Tibetan Areas of China. ©Dr. Martin Spencer


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