Thursday, April 28, 2011

Amigos Trip Update: The Philippines (Guest Post: Meg Richardson)

AMIGOS Eye Care is a non-profit organization of students, doctors and lay people affiliated with Pacific. AMIGOS is dedicated to providing quality vision care at no cost to underserved people in the Portland area and throughout the world. Since its establishment in 1975, AMIGOS has grown to become one of the largest eye care providing organizations in the world, bringing services to thousands of people at home and abroad.

Because so many prospective students are interested in AMIGOS, I have decided to ask 4 current students, who went on recent AMIGOS trips over Spring Break, to share their stories.  I hope you enjoy the series, the second of which is being written by current student, and AMIGOS member, Meg Richardson!

Hellloooo future (and current) optometry students!! My name is Meg and I am a fourth year student here at PUCO. That’s right, just a few short weeks left for me. No, I don’t have a job lined up yet, but will be moving back to my home state of Wisconsin in June to find one. Before I launch into my Amigos trip, let me just say that PUCO is a great school and I have truly enjoyed my years here in the great Pacific Northwest. (And no, Janelle did not pay me to say that J ).
There were a LOT of stray doggies in the Philippines

One of the best parts about PUCO (and optometry school in general) is being able to help people with their visual problems. I have participated in three Amigos trips during my time here, and for me, it has been the best way to relate classroom learning to real-world experiences. It may seem difficult once you enter school to find time to do a trip, but I would encourage every single student to participate in one if possible. The experience is worth so much more than a letter grade, and will without a doubt put you ahead of classmates in terms of clinical skills.
The town set up a tent where people could wait to be seen in our clinic

So, you want to hear about the Philippines trip? Well…first of all, in case you are clueless like I was, the Philippines is (are?) VERY far away from the United States. Like, an 11-hour flight followed by a 5-hour flight. Oh, wait, you wanted to help people living in a rural area of the Philippines? Add another 1-hour flight plus 5-hour drive on unpaved mountain roads. Yeah. It’s far.
All of us taking a break during the 5-hour drive up the mountain. The vehicle we rode in is called a “Jeepney"

Needless to say, when our crew finally made it to the clinic site in Balbalan, we were delighted to find that our beds, food, and clinic were all going to be located in one building. No more traveling around, thank goodness. Once we were set up we began to see patients immediately, and worked for the next 3.5 days straight. There were 10 students, 2 optometrists, and a few Philipino surgeons on our team. It was really nice to have the surgeons there because we were actually able to get cataract surgeries for some of the patients. Cataracts are rampant in these rural areas because people do not have access to surgeons, and it can be frustrating when we are unable to help them. 
Rowena performing autorefraction on a patient. This gives us an idea of the patient’s prescription.

We ended up seeing about 1,200 patients during our time in Balbalan. Some of the cool things we saw included: Cataracts, congenital macular dystrophies, corneal keratinization, colobomas, nystagmus…the list goes on. I realize all of you reading may not know what these are, but let me tell you, it is some cool stuff to see, especially as a first or second year. We gave away over 1,100 pairs of glasses, which had been donated to us by various organizations, but mostly from the Lions Club. Many of the glasses are not-so-stylish, so it is kind of an amigos tradition to take a group picture with the funniest of these.
yep, that’s me on the left.

Well, I could go on, but what I would like to convey most is how much my experiences on Amigos trips have meant to me, and how important it is for us as students and doctors to continue providing care to poorer areas of the world. It is something we can truly feel great about doing with our education.

And if you have any questions about Amigos or PUCO in general, don’t hesitate to email me! I am always happy to answer questions from prospective students.

P.S. I encourage everyone to make a donation to AMIGOS today. 

1 comment:

  1. Meg -- who sponsors these trips? Other than the cost of actual optometry equipment and the contributed care of the optometrists themselves, who pays for the travel costs, etc? Either way, good job to all of you for participating in this. Seems like you're making a real difference :)