My first week volunteering with the AB Eye Institute has passed in the blink of an eye. I am currently in Patna, the capital city in the Indian state of Bihar, as a Unite For Sight Global Impact Fellow. I, along with another volunteer, Anchal, are excited to be helping with the everyday tasks that are necessary for the eye clinic to run effectively. My position here is to meaningfully support and assist eye clinic staff by providing basic visual acuity screenings, distributing medication and eyeglasses prescribed by the local eye doctors, and assisting in managerial tasks.
I learned about Unite for Sight through an email I received from the HSSP Undergraduate Department Representatives who were publicizing a Unite for Sight event during ‘Deis Impact. The Unite For Sight website is very informative in regards to how the Global Impact Fellows contribute to the local communities in developing countries. After a comprehensive application process, I was accepted and then the real work began. Before arriving in India I needed to complete an intensive course on the cultural differences and basic anatomy so that I could best contribute to the clinic, and I feel that it has helped me tremendously. Most importantly, the Hindi phrases that I was taught in the course are now almost naturally coming to my head when asking a patient about their history, or to move their heads in a way that allows the Auto Refractor to get a better reading.
During this first week I have learned so much! Each day was packed with patients and learning opportunities. During our time in the Out Patient Department Anchal and I also take patient histories (In Hindi!) and give visual acuity exams. I learned how to use the autorefractor, commonly referred to as ‘the autoref’ to provide a measurement of a person’s refractive error and prescription for glasses, the results of which I was taught to read in a brief optics lessons by Abhishek, the Senior Optometrist at AB Eye. On Friday, because it was a slow patient morning Abhishek also treated the staff to some chai, my new favorite beverage of choice regardless of the temperature outside, and tea biscuits. It was really fun getting to see the staff in a more relaxed setting as opposed to the usual stress which comes with having a constantly packed waiting room with patients eager for medical attention.
On surgical days, which are Mondays and Thursdays, I watched about twelve phacoemulsification and small incision cataract surgeries on a television screen in the Operating Room. After very long days in the hospital, we drive to different charity clinics set up in community centers in different neighborhoods in need. It was really encouraging to see people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to any eye care receive medications, glasses, and cataracts consultations, so it kept me motivated and battling jetlag!
I am looking forward to seeing what the next few weeks bring and excited to continue to learn new things about Indian culture and to help the patients in the hospital and the clinic.
– Adi Fried