Viral vision: Sight of 1,000 people restored in YouTube megastar’s video featuring Jacksonville eye surgeon

Dr. Jeffrey Levenson’s career-long mission to end the most common cause of blindness is amplified in MrBeast’s video

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A video from YouTuber MrBeast with the headline “1,000 Blind People See For The First Time” has garnered more than 72 million views in only three days. A large part of the video involves ophthalmologist and surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Levenson and his team who operate in Jacksonville.

In the most recent video from 24-year-old YouTube sensation MrBeast, who has a following of 131 million subscribers, the sight of 1,000 people who were blind or near-blind but could not afford cataract surgery is restored.

“Half of all the blindness in the world is people who need a 10-minute surgery,” Levenson, who has been doing cataract surgeries for more than 30 years, says in the video.

Levenson, of Levenson Eye Associates, told News4JAX that the influencer called him about three months ago with an idea to pay for 1,000 people’s surgeries in three weeks and that he followed through on his promise.

“He paid for all of this. He was incredibly generous,” said Levenson, who admitted he had not heard of MrBeast before that and almost hung up on him at first.

But in a leap of faith, the two teamed up. Levenson is part of a local charity called Vision Is Priceless and a global group called See International, and that’s how they got 1,000 patients, including 40 Jacksonville-area residents, who previously wouldn’t have had access to the life-changing operation.

Cataract surgery is quite simply replacing a cloudy lens in someone’s eye with a clear, artificial lens, restoring vision in minutes.

“I tend to think of cataract surgery as man’s greatest invention,” Levenson said. “Of all the surgeries in the world, cataract surgery is probably the most effective.”

Vic Micolucci speaks with Dr. Jeffrey Levenson. (Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

Levenson’s career-long mission to end the most common cause of blindness is amplified in the 8-minute video. News4JAX asked him what it is like to restore someone’s vision after a short surgery.

“Everybody tells me how blue the sky is and how bright the trees are and how glorious and vivid and wonderful the world we live in is,” Levenson said. “We tend to forget that.”

In the U.S., surgery for people who are uninsured costs about $2,000. In other countries, it’s simply out of reach.

“It’s a problem where there is a solution, and it’s almost to a point where we need to develop the moral outrage that we agree as a species that we’re just not going to tolerate this any longer,” Levenson said. “That’s what this MrBeast video is hoping to do.”

MrBeast also surprised several deserving patients with scholarships and even new cars.

This is not the first time Levenson has gotten attention on the internet. Five years ago, he spoke at TEDx event about ending preventable blindness.

If you would like to get involved with the charities Levenson is part of, visit Vision Is Priceless’ website or See International’s site.

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.