Before beginning my internship I sat down and listed what I had hoped to get out of it. I was told that my days would be packed with patients from previous volunteers and that I should make the most of the experience, because before I know it I’ll be back in the beautiful New Delhi airport on my way home. I had a few goals in mind; things that I would hope to accomplish before my time ran out.
First, I wanted to see the differences between the kinds of healthcare disparities found in the United States as opposed to those found in developing countries. So far I have learned that the care given to patients of all socioeconomic backgrounds and races in the AB Eye Institute is the same across the board. The only exception of the type of cataracts surgeries they commonly perform on paying patients, which is the phacoemulsification surgery, as opposed to the small incision surgery performed on the free patients. When I asked for the reason for this difference I was told that the small incision surgery was cheaper, and therefore the clinic was able to afford to provide more cataracts surgeries for the seemingly never ending demand of free cataract surgeries.
Secondly, as someone interested in the optometric field I wanted to know what the ‘day-to-day’ entails. I have been learning to ‘diagnose’ certain conditions and have successfully labeled many of them in practice. It was really rewarding to turn to the Senior Optometrist and ask if the patient has a corneal ulcer, or mature cataracts and suggest a course of treatment and be rewarded with a proud smile.
Finally, having never been to India before, I was intent on learning more about Indian culture, and I am so far succeeding! As of today I have gone to a Hindu wedding reception and to the Buddhist holy city of Bodh Gaya. Both experiences were incredibly enjoyable and simultaneously educational. I was taught interesting practices, such as touching the lower legs of elders as a sign of respect and the concept of a prayer wheel. Both experiences were a much welcome break from the busy clinic and helped me reach one of my learning goals.
My proudest, and most looked forward to task at AB Eye Institute is the nightly trips to the charity clinics. The community leaders who invite us are always incredibly warm and gracious, and are constantly refilling our cups of chai. After a few overwhelming clinic visits, in which I was told to distribute glasses to the patients by pulling them out of a vast black garbage bag, I had an idea. In preparation for my trip to India, I was told to bring a bunch of Ziploc gallon bags, to hold wet clothing, or food for long trips. I brought those bags with me to the charity clinics, and began sorting the most common prescriptions into bags and labeling them. It was easy and not terribly time consuming. Once I had everything organized I was able to efficiently distribute the glasses, even allowing the patients to pick out their frames from a selection. This was not something that they would usually be able to do when offered donated frames. I believe that in making the small step of organizing the frames I was able to give patients a chance to choose what I view as a personal item, according to their own tastes. Before the ‘ziploc revolution’ a patient was given the first pair of glasses that matched the prescription written in their chart, regardless of color or style. Afterwards, a patient was able to regain control over their own appearance, and given the glasses they desperately needed but could not afford.
I am learning new things every day, and am enjoying how much more comfortable I am becoming with the set up in the clinic and the busy schedule! I am looking forward to seeing how my time with the AB Eye Institute helps me continue to grow in both academic and personal realms.
– Adi Fried