What is your current mode of optometry practice?
I am semi-retired, having sold both of my private practices in 2007. I still serve as a contract optometrist at the California Veterans Administration Home in Chula Vista, CA, working two days per month (perfect for my busy lifestyle). It has nearly 300 residents, ranging from independent to assisted to skilled nursing health care levels.
Describe your career path from graduation to where you are today.
After graduation from Pacific University in 1973, I served on active duty in San Diego until 1979, staying in the Naval Reserve until retiring in 2003. I purchased a suburban practice in 1981 and added a second in 1989. They were both general practices, with a concentration in contact lens care and computer exams / eyewear. Upon turning age 60, I sold the practices and did part time optometric evaluations at two California correctional facilities, as well as the state VA Home.
What types of optometric volunteer work are you involved in?
Monthly, I volunteer at the Lions Optometric Vision Clinic (LOVC) in San Diego's Balboa Park, examining a full range of pediatric to geriatric patients. I occasionally perform optometric services for the Tzu Chi Foundation, assist with annual visual acuity assessments of 10th grade students at Sweetwater High School as well as screen diabetic patients at the Braille Center of San Diego.
My involvement with the K-12 Monarch School for the Homeless in downtown San Diego consists of arranging and helping perform semi-annual screenings of all students, followed by examinations in cooperation with the VSP Mobile Clinic for those students referred. It has been a San Diego County Optometric Society project for the past seven years, and I serve as the Public Awareness Chairman.
Most of my international volunteer work is with Lions In Sight (LIS), a non-profit organization with an annual clinic schedule in multiple countries. It is a cooperative effort with the Lions Clubs in the host countries and multiple volunteer ODs from around the country. Their web site is lionsinsight.org
What inspired you decide to get into volunteering?
I went into our profession to help serve mankind with the gift of vision. Volunteering to help the underserved is a privilege, giving freely of my skills. It is so rewarding to see the smiles on faces of those people that have so little and are so appreciative of my/our efforts to help them.
What is your typical mission trip like?
Most of the vision missions are 4 days total, with examining and dispensing eyewear accounting for 2 days, when held in Mexico. When going to other countries, the trips are usually 7 days, with 4 days of clinic and an off day in the middle. All of the equipment for LIS trips is provided by the organization, including auto refractors and hand instruments within two large doctor bags accompanying the group. Thousands of pairs of donated eyewear are sent to the site well in advance and are dispensed by volunteer techs to best match the Rxs written in the clinic. Patients are plentiful and each doc will typically evaluate about 100 patients per day. Referrals for medical testing and pathology are made to the Lions Club personnel present and are taken care of after the clinic with local assets, as well as making lenses for high astigmatism and significant anisometropia.
How often do you do mission trips and what are some of your favorite places you've visited?
Recently, I have been volunteering for 2-3 trips per year, but I may do 4 in 2017, including Nepal and possibly Nigeria. I have been on multiple clinics in Mexico, as well as Peru, Haiti, Serbia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Panama. Each site is unique and we normally have time to enjoy some tourism, thanks to our local Lions Club members who act as our hosts for lodging and meals. I have enjoyed each trip, even to Haiti which is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and still recovering from the earthquake in 2010.
Any advice for a recent graduate wanting to get into volunteer work?
Travel to any country is so broadening and gives new perspectives to our thinking. When you can combine travel with helping their underserved population, it is a win-win. Select an organization (there are many good ones), go on a mission trip and see how you feel while you are there and when you return.
There are also opportunities that are local as you can volunteer at health fairs and clinics. Try to find someone who can be a mentor to you, as it is less intimidating that way.
Be open to trying it and see what happens!
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would be pleased to answer any questions.