Glaucoma specialist and author Dr. Daniel Laroche is on a mission to eliminate barriers to health care that exist for Black and Brown people. After seeing so many people of color die during the COVID-19 pandemic and over 25 years in medicine, Laroche is spreading his message about the benefits of making health a No. 1 priority.
Laroche, is the director of Glaucoma Services and president of Advanced Eyecare of New York. He primarily deals with eye health to prevent blindness caused by glaucoma, a condition hitting Black people the most.
“Eyesight or human vision is one of the most important senses,” he said “As much as 80% of what we feel comes through our sense of sight. By protecting the eyes, people will reduce the chance of blindness and vision loss while also staying on top of any developing eye diseases, such as glaucoma and cataracts.”
Born in Jamaica, Queens and growing up in Long Island, Laroche said he was inspired to become a doctor because of a Haitian father, who was also an anesthesiologist, and a Canadian mother, who was a nurse. Laroche received his bachelor’s degree from New York University and medical doctorate with honors in research from Weil Cornell University Medical College.
He underwent a medical internship at Montefiore Hospital and completed his ophthalmology residency at the historically Black Howard University Hospital. Throughout his career he’s seen the need for more Black medical professionals and the disparities that exist.
“We need more Black doctors in more Black communities,” Laroche said. “Unfortunately, the major medical institutions were built on a white background. That’s what contributes directly to health care. We need to pay attention to that by investing in building healthcare facilities, training, and moving toward a workforce that’s more diverse.”
In most cases of glaucoma, there is no pain, and the loss of vision occurs slowly. Many people do not even realize it’s happening until they have lost a substantial amount of peripheral vision. Laroche says there is a way to prevent the devastating effects of glaucoma: Don’t skip your eyecare visits.
“It’s very important that African Americans over the age of 40 to get their eyes checked for glaucoma,” he said. “This is a leading cause of preventable blindness. We have new earlier surgical treatments, and we can cure glaucoma in some cases.”
While Laroche works in eye care, he’s also advocating for more Black people to get the COVID-19 vaccine. He said much of the hesitancy is being caused by misinformation.
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed racial health disparities that existed for decades. Black, Hispanic and Native American people are about four times more likely to be hospitalized and nearly three times more likely to die of COVID-19 than white people. African Americans have nearly the lowest rates of vaccination among any ethnic group.
“There is an urgency to spread the message that COVID vaccines are saving lives,” he said. It is critical that people of color get the correct information that these vaccines are making the difference between life and death. However, in the medical community we are seeing the heartbreaking results of the decisions as emergency rooms across the nation are filled to capacity and the death counts rise and all of this could be prevented.”
Along with being a doctor, Laroche is also the author of a young adult book, “How to Become a Successful Black Man,” which educates and empowers young Black boys and men about their history, heritage and legacy. Laroche connects history to the present-day life experiences and challenges of the Black man to instill self-confidence and personal growth to succeed.