It is hard to realize the impact you are having on the visual health of others when you only see, on average, six patients a week as a student in optometry school. At the end of September, I had the opportunity to embark on a journey that will forever remind me that I do make a difference within the field of optometry.
Despite the hurricane devastation in other areas of the Caribbean, Jamaica was spared. It became my home, clinic, and oasis for a week. We had a team of students, opticians, doctors, and humanitarians that all had the privilege to serve the Jamaican population in Duncans, Trelawny for the length of the entire week through iCARE-Great Shape! Inc.
In just one day, we transformed an 1800s Methodist Church into a working optometry clinic with a dispensary. The next morning, word got out there was an eye-care facility at no cost. Hundreds of natives lined the church in the beaming Jamaican sun waiting to have their health and vision assessed. Services that are so accessible to us became an event that hundreds traveled very far to receive.
In the midst of a fast-paced, crowded clinic, I became a valuable asset. I was able to seamlessly change between stations to where I was needed most, share my knowledge and expertise, and accurately, clinically evaluate patients all because of the skill set that I have attained. With all my knowledge acquired thus far from the Illinois College of Optometry, I was able to power through trial frame refractions, discover clinical findings in pathology, successfully work in the dispensary, and help out with multiple entrance testing stations.
The days were long, hot, and exhausting, but worth every minute. After I experienced the joy, relief, and gratitude a patient expressed when they were taken care of without having to spend a penny, nothing else seemed to matter. As a team, we were able to see 1,552 patients, perform 38 surgeries, and created 138 custom-made eyeglasses. Perhaps the most important statistic was that, even with limited time and resources, not one Jamaican was turned away for the entire week the clinic was open. The appreciation and love of each patient were astounding.
It was such a pleasure to care for and build relationships with the people of Jamaica. It was a pleasant reminder that what I have decided to make my passion and career will actually change and help the lives of many. With the many tragic events currently happening around the world, I was humbled to be in a place where the motto “One Love” was sung, written, stated and felt so deeply. The message is simple but profound—to have one universal love in which all people treat and care for one another, without any other variables limiting the ability to become one, cohesive world.