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Profile: Armie Harper, M.D.
Working with Vanderbilt on Haiti Project
C. Armitage Harper, III, (Armie) was born in Nashville and graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1983.
He jokes, “My father went to Vanderbilt, too, and I saw his name on the wall every time I walked down the hall of one of my classroom buildings.”
Dr. Harper attended boarding school in Austin, Texas, and once he completed his medical training, he moved back to Texas to join Austin Retina Associates. His current research interests include pharmacological treatment of macular degeneration and preventive nutrition for macular degeneration.
Harper met the VEI’s Dr. Amy Chomsky at an American Academy of Ophthalmologists meeting, where she told him about the proposed Vanderbilt eye clinic in Haiti. Dr. Harper was moved by the dire conditions that existed there for eye care. As an alumnus, he had been looking for ways to get involved with a Vanderbilt initiative, and was excited that the Vanderbilt Eye Institute was thinking about global outreach.
“It’s the right thing to do,” he says. Austin Retina Associates is a large practice with several offices, and Dr. Harper used this buying power to purchase the equipment necessary to set up the eye room at Gheskio Clinic in Port-au-Prince. Fortunately, none of the equipment had been shipped before the recent earthquake, since the Gheskio building sustained some damage.
A friend of Dr. Harper’s in New Orleans is storing the equipment and other donated supplies until it’s safe to ship a container down.
“I’m happy to be involved with Vanderbilt on this project,” says Dr. Harper. “It’s one thing to get the clinic set up initially, but it needs to be sustainable. It’s like a business venture…you have to be able to trust your partner.”
“This eye clinic will give us the opportunity to see medicine practiced in its purest form,” he says. “In the U.S., there are so many rules and regulations. In Haiti, they have nothing. I want to bring care to these people utilizing the best thinking and the best tools we have.”
Dr. Harper’s wife, Ruthie, is an internal medicine physician specializing in nutrition.
The couple would eventually like to take their children (Holly, 17, and Beau, 15) to Haiti “to experience the rewards of helping those less fortunate.”
As for himself, he says, “I’ve been practicing retina for 16 years, but I want to look into the future and know there’s something more out there for me to do with my life.”