About Utah: The world-famous eye surgeon who lives next door

Published: Monday, Aug. 12 2013 3:10 p.m. MDT

“I liken my role to the enthusiastic fat boy who plays because he brought the ball,” he said. “(Dr.) Ruit is such an amazing man, so skilled, so innovative. All the really big substantial things that have changed eye care came from him. I’ve ridden along on his coattails.”

He and Ruit participated enthusiastically in Relin’s book project, Tabin explained, to help draw attention to what they are doing and potentially attract more assistance. “We want to raise the profile of human blindness and what can be done any way we can,” he said. “Overcoming preventable blindness is one of those things we can really win.”

Alas, no causes, no matter how good, run completely smooth, and Tabin agreed that the suicide death last November of the author of “Seconds Suns” has cast a somber pall on the book’s release this summer.

David Oliver Relin died at his own hand only days after he sent the completed manuscript of “Seconds Suns” to Random House. News reports said Relin suffered from mental depression, and suggested the ongoing problems with Greg Mortenson’s inaccuracies in “Three Cups of Tea” possibly contributed to his woes.

“I feel terrible about what happened,” said Tabin, who noted that during their extensive travels Relin gave no outward signs of severe mental distress.

“What I do know,” he added, “is that he felt strongly, very passionately, about wanting to do good with his writing.”

However much good the book does – and over time I think it will be plenty – the beat will go on. Dr. Tabin is off to Rwanda and Ethiopia next week, helping further establish the network of free- and low-cost clinics the HCP and others, including the Moran Eye Center, are sponsoring in Africa. (Learn more at cureblindness.org).He said he’ll be taking his 16-year-old daughter, Sara, a junior-to-be at Park City High School with him, meaning she’ll be a couple of days late for the start of school.

Note to the Park City High attendance office: that excuse that says Sara was in Africa helping her father wipe out preventable blindness? Absolutely true. Every word of it.

Then, in October, Tabin will be on his way back to Nepal for about the zillionth time – curing the blind, one cataract at a time.

Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Mondays. EMAIL: benson@deseretnews.com

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