Namaskar! After 51 hours of traveling due to a series of delayed flights, I was so happy to finally arrive at my internship site for the summer, Kalinga Eye Hospital and Research Centre (KEHRC) in Orissa, India. I obtained this internship by becoming a Global Impact Fellow of a non-profit organization called Unite For Sight. One of my main reasons for applying was that a former Social Justice WOW recipient and Unite For Sight Global Impact Fellow, Samuel Icaza, told me about it. He informed me about Unite For Sight programs and how the effort you put in to provide accessible medical services to people in need has a long-lasting impact on the community. At that time, I was going to Costa Rica and Nicaragua on a medical volunteer trip for 10 days that sought to provide basic physician services through free clinics and our donated supply of over-the-counter drugs while traveling to different villages. While the experience taught me invaluable lessons and gave me unforgettable memories, I realized that my efforts were not spent on working with the local infrastructure of the health care system to make sustainable changes in its access to health.
After being inspired by what I observed, I applied to Unite For Sight because instead of short-term relief mission trips, the organization collaborates with local eye clinics to provide outreach camps to villages without eye care facility, screen patients and provide corrective refractive glasses, and bring patients back to the hospital for cataract and other eye surgeries, free-of-charge. These surgeries are sponsored and paid for by Unite For Sight. I helped contribute by fund-raising $1,800 prior to my internship so that 100% of the donations can be made to restore people’s eye sight without the barrier of high operation cost. Lastly, the average cost of cataract surgery through Unite For Sight is $50, which is incredible in that the price we pay for a pair of jeans in the US can help someone to regain eye sight and be able to connect with their family, friends, and the world.
I specifically chose Kalinga Eye Hospital and Research Centre among different Unite For Sight sites because this facility offers pediatric care and even has initiated a training for pediatric eye surgeons. At this hospital, as a volunteer and intern, I shadow ophthalmologists in the morning for about 4-5 hours, shadow and learn about basic visual acuity tests by engaging with optometrists, and work on hospital marketing and management projects of my choice. During outreach camps, I travel by bus for 4 hours to arrive at a remote village where I help contribute in the screening process (such as distributing eye glasses), help bring patients back to the hospital, and observe all cataract surgeries for non-paying patients (most from outreach camps). This is a protocol specified by Unite For Sight, as the organization needs to logistically track all the sponsored eye surgeries.
Currently, the hospital founder and president is abroad for conferences, but will soon return to Kalinga Eye Hospital. Based on my observations and ideas, I am currently working on a presentation to recommend some changes made to hospital marketing strategies and pediatric services here, as well as conducting a patient satisfaction survey for both non-paying and paying patients. I will also soon be writing letters to insurance companies to ask them to collaborate with the hospital, as KEHRC has not yet implemented a system where it accepts insurance plans (to facilitate patients’ hospital experience and also promote higher quality medical services). Lastly, I will be finding a local baby to become a model for the hospital and design posters to improve the hospital’s image. Having run for the Student Union for 2 years, I have learned to enjoy the poster designing process and creating memorable slogans.
Finally, I will be recording a video about the patient’s perspective of Kalinga Eye Hospital, so that upon completing my hospital experience, I can edit the raw footage to best capture the essence of what KEHRC does and how Unite For Sight is involved.
I have learned so much already by talking to ophthalmologists. Today I learned how to use the bio-microscopy machine (the eye machine in ophthalmologist’s office) and saw multiple layers of the eye through the instrument! Another interesting fact here is that many patients refuse to accept the concept of ‘no cure’ because the body will naturally heal itself, such as in cases of trauma. So often , doctors provide eye drops that do not directly ‘heal’ the symptoms but that serve as a psychological aid to patients’ worried minds (as they believe they will not heal without a medical ‘aid’).
If anyone is interested in knowing more about the Kalinga Eye Hospital, please visit the hospital website. Also, if anyone wants to learn more about Unite For Sight, please visit the organization’s website.
That is it for now, I am excited to update you more about my internship! Please leave any comment or questions if you’d like. Thanks for reading!
-Gloria Park, 2013