VOSH-NC clinics see over 1,300 patients in four days
In June, I had the pleasure of participating in a mission trip to the Caribbean island of Grenada, providing eye care to their underserved population. With the assistance of the local Rotarians, the North Carolina chapter of VOSH (Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity) hosted four, one-day clinics in parishes around the island, providing vision screening, glasses fittings, medication for chronic eye disease, education, and referral for follow-up.
My wife and I joined a group which included our daughter Stephanie Mastores, an optometrist, along with three of her fellow Ohio State University College of Optometry alumnae: VOSH-NC Chapter President Jill Scullion, Gail Long, and Heather Day, as well as fellow VOSH optometrist Christina Smith. As part of the eight-person support team, I helped out wherever I could: administering basic visual acuity exams, filling out charts and keeping people moving through the clinic. I was also able to bring along some of Volk’s portable imaging equipment to help with patient screening.
According to Jill, continuity of care is a big part of the mission. For many, the VOSH clinic is their only opportunity each year to get basic eye exams, as well as care and medication to manage chronic conditions such as glaucoma or dry eye. One such patient she saw had noticed very little visual impairment, but was found to have very advanced glaucoma. Without treatment, he would have eventually lost vision. With ongoing intervention, he will have a much better chance of preserving his sight. Jill pointed out it’s not just these standout cases that make a big impact. Even getting fitted with reading glasses–allowing someone to read or sew in order to work–makes a tremendous impact on patients’ quality of life.
We saw over 350 people a day. Many were waiting in line up to 8 hours to be seen, so quick and easy screening was paramount to move through as many people as possible.
I was able to support the screening process by providing portable fundus imaging using the Volk Pictor Plus to get clearer & wider field images of conditions picked up by the ODs during direct ophthalmoscope screening. When it turned out that one of the doctors was missing some her equipment, which was essential to completing BIO examinations, I was able to use the Volk Pictor Plus fundus camera to capture retinal images. I then passed the patient images along to the doctor for review, which allowed her to complete her portion of the exam.
The trip really brought home how essential handheld portable equipment is. It’s one thing to develop products at our headquarters in Ohio and know that they can be used in remote locations; it’s another to be able to see with my own eyes how our handheld imagers are used in these settings. We were set up in a different place every day, each with its own challenges in terms of space to see patients. Plus, we had to move people through a quick pace, so ease-of-use was an important factor as well.
Jill kept track of stats, and it’s staggering to see in numbers what we were able to accomplish in such a short time. We handed out:
- 600 pairs of sunglasses
- 850 readers
- 312 single vision glasses
- 286 biofocal glasses
- 147 referrals for follow up
- plus the medications prescribed
All told, Jill figures the value of goods and medicine provided adds up to over $200,000.
I had such a great time working with the people of Grenada. They were so warm and appreciative-I think I got more hugs in those four days probably than I ever have in my lifetime. It’s just a great feeling-whether you’re finding significant eye disease or just passing out sunglasses to help prevent cataracts.
All of the VOSH team funded their own travel and lodging. Some of the equipment and medicine were donated through partnerships with Alcon, Allergan, and Bausch + Lomb charitable giving programs, as well as Lion’s Clubs, and RestoringVision.org. VOSH also collects charitable donations to help fund this critical work. Similar trips to Belize and Trinidad are being planned in the next year. To help VOSH-NC, you can donate through their website.
I’m so glad I finally had a chance to participate in such a worthwhile trip. Planning has already begun for another Grenada trip July 2017, which I will be attending with my family.