Article from MBKU Campus News, March 31, 2017
A group of four SCCO optometry students, along with faculty member Dr. Corina van de Pol, recently traveled to Mexico for an SVOSH (Student Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity) humanitarian trip. Throughout the week of February 18-25, they held clinics for underprivileged communities in Puerto Vallarta and Talpa de Allende, providing comprehensive eye wellness exams, glasses, and referrals to a local ophthalmologist for reduced-cost surgery. In just four days of clinic, this team provided 1,300 people with much needed eye care. What follows are some of the highlights of their experience as described by the students:
Casey Foster, SCCO Class of 2019
“One of the greatest parts of this trip was seeing the huge amount of gratitude and community involvement there was in both Puerto Vallarta and Talpa de Allende. In both places, there was a huge amount of support from community members who did their best to learn how to autorefract, assist patients in picking our eyeglass frames for the correct prescription, and translating for us. The communities were really welcoming and excited to receive our care, as it showed through the large number of thank yous, hugs, and generous gifts we received.
After I performed a trial frame refraction on one particularly young girl with a high amount of astigmatism, she was explaining to her mom that she had never seen so clearly in her life, and her mom began to cry and hugged me. Overall the trip was an extremely rewarding experience.
I feel like I now have personal connections to both Puerto Vallarta and Talpa de Allende communities that will last a lifetime.”
Shelby Brendel, SCCO Class of 2019
“I cannot express how much of an impact being involved in optometric mission trips has had on my life and my experience in this wonderful profession. Mission trips not only provide me with an opportunity to help others, using my profession in the best way possible, but it also is an unbelieveable learning opportunity.
While on this trip I saw retinitis pigmentosa for the first time, perfected my art in retinoscopy and refraction, and increased my overall patient count and patient experience immensely. As optometry students, we tend to get engulfed in the life of being a student, trying to get those perfect test scores, pass all proficiencies and are continuously worried about keeping our heads above water in this challenging academic setting.
We tend to forget about the joy and gratitude that comes along with this profession and this mission trip was the perfect opportunity to remind me of why I got involved in optometry in the first place.
We had a purpose in Mexico, and that was to help as many people see as possible, all while making great memories.”
Grant McPheron, SCCO Class of 2020
“This last-minute opportunity came up and something was telling me I had to take it. This was my first mission trip and first time out of the country. To say I was excited is a bit of an understatement!
This was a perfect opportunity for me to first and foremost serve others who are less fortunate than I.
Being in Mexico, I was also able to practice my optometric Spanish and overall patient care in another language (easier said than done). Prior to going and being only a first year student, I didn’t know how to use a direct opthalmoscope. Now with this on-the-job training, I am closer to being able to to observe the optic nerve head and large portions of the retina.
The cities of Puerto Vallarta and Talpa are beautiful and offer different perspectives of Mexico and ways of living. These were just a few of the many experiences I will remember and bring back with me.
I’m already excited for my next humanitarian trip!”
Alexander Paradis, SCCO Class of 2019
“One of my favorite stations to work at was the refraction table. Although this was one of the more challenging stations to work at, especially without being fluent in Spanish, it was the most rewarding one.
The reaction on patients’ faces when they were able to see clearly for the first time was sometimes emotional. Some of these patients have gone their entire lives seeing this world in a blur.
Being one-on-one with the patients developed my cultural skills as well as my optometry skills. There were a couple instances when I mispronounced my words in Spanish, accidentally giving them a different meaning. For example, I kept saying “pescado” instead of “pesado,” warning the patients that the trial frames were “fishy” instead of “heavy.” Another example of my embarrassing mispronunciations was when I instructed the patients to look at the “milk” (leche) instead of the “letter (letra).
This trip made my passion for human service grow even more. The impact I was able to make on each individual life snowballed into the community contributing to the growth of Puerto Vallarta and Talpa de Allende.”