Toyos Honored For Post-Katrina Eye Care

By Rosalind Guy

Dr. Rolando Toyos
Position: Founder, Medical Director
Company: Toyos Clinic
Basics: Toyos was honored May 29 at an awards ceremony in New York for his efforts to provide free eye care to displaced New Orleans residents.
“Our clinic is always open to anyone who needs our help. It was our privilege to take care of the Katrina victims, including the many musicians who came our way.”
– Dr. Rolando Toyos

For many, Hurricane Katrina is a distant memory, a disaster that hit the Gulf Coast nearly three years ago. But for all the families and individuals directly affected, many still struggle daily to pull their lives back together.

And many have had to start over in new cities, at new jobs and sometimes without health care.

Dr. Rolando Toyos knows that.

Immediately after the storm ravaged New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, evacuees began flooding into Memphis. And Toyos, who opened Toyos Clinic in 2000, immediately began offering free medical and surgical eye care to them.

Toyos was recognized for his efforts by the Jazz Foundation of America at its annual concert and benefit at the Apollo Theater in New York City last month.

Some of the patients from New Orleans were displaced jazz musicians and one, Stephen Foster, was instrumental in Toyos receiving the recognition.

Foster, who still is receiving care from Toyos and is scheduled to undergo eye surgery in the near future, shared Toyos’ efforts with the Jazz Foundation of America.

Special honor, special place

The May 29 event was the Jazz Foundation’s seventh annual “A Great Night in Harlem” event. It was hosted by actors Bill Cosby and Danny Glover and featured live performances from a number of jazz musicians.

“I am honored that the Jazz Foundation of America presented me with this award,” Toyos said. “Our clinic is always open to anyone who needs our help. It was our privilege to take care of the Katrina victims, including the many musicians who came our way.”

Toyos also made sure his staff received credit for the honor. During an interview with The Daily News, Toyos said more than once that the credit should be shared with his staff.

And, while acknowledging he doesn’t perform outreach work to garner accolades, Toyos said he did enjoy the attention he received in New York.

“It was great, it was awesome, the music was awesome,” Toyos said. “We also had a benefit afterwards where we got to mingle with everybody, including the celebrities that were there. It was a nice evening of music and comedy and celebration.”

Willing to help

Toyos’ outreach work didn’t begin with his efforts following the Katrina disaster. He has been a member of the six-year-old organization EyeCare America, the foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, which promotes service among its associates.

Toyos also has participated in mission trips offering eye treatment and surgery to underserved populations in Nicaragua, Honduras, Columbia and the Dominican Republic.

The native Californian moved to West Tennessee 10 years ago after meeting with a recruiter from Jackson, Tenn., who was looking for someone to direct a neonatal intensive care unit at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital.

“They were trying to recruit an ophthalmologist that had pediatric ophthalmologic experience, which I have from working with Children’s Hospital in Chicago,” Toyos said. “And there was nobody doing LASIK and performing cataracts surgery, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to come to the area and use the skills I’d learned during residency.”

He worked there for about seven years.

Toyos received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Berkeley and Stanford University, respectively.

Before moving to Chicago to attend medical school, he worked as a high school teacher and basketball coach.

He received his medical degree in 1994 from the University of Illinois. While at Illinois, he received a community service award for helping the Chicago City Public Schools develop a pre-med program for students interested in medicine. He completed residencies at Northwestern University and Chicago Children’s Hospital.

Since opening his practice eight years ago, Toyos has continued to provide services to those who might not otherwise be able to afford them, including Hispanic immigrants who don’t have medical insurance.

In addition to the Memphis clinic, Toyos has an eye center in Jackson, Tenn.