This June and July I am interning/volunteering with Unite For Sight (UFS) in Ghana.
Unite For Sight is a non-profit organization that empowers communities worldwide to improve eye health and eliminate preventable blindness. UFS partners with local eye clinics in three developing countries: Honduras, India, and Ghana. Patients receive free eye care and surgeries funded by UFS so that no patient suffers due to lack of financial resources. In addition to being a leader in providing cost-effective care to the world’s poorest people, UFS’ Global Health University trains and nurtures the next generation of global health leaders.
As a Unite For Sight Global Impact Fellow, I am to assist the local eye clinics with any of their needs and participate in urban and rural community outreaches. My specific responsibilities include: registering patients (taking down introductory information like name, age, gender), conducting visual acuity screenings (testing the seeing power of each eye, one-at-a-time), distributing eyeglasses alongside the dispensing optician (reading glasses, distance glasses, sunglasses), writing receipts for patients who purchase eyeglasses and/or medications, and entering said patients’ data into the eye clinic’s database for tracking and referral purposes (chief complaint, primary diagnosis, doctor’s prescription, etc). We are also required to fundraise monies for surgeries, collect eyeglasses for the eye clinics to distribute, and complete Global Health & Impact training in preparation for our travels abroad.
I came across Unite for Sight on the “Pre-Health Advising” page of the Brandeis University website two summers ago. I discovered that at least three other Brandeis students had participated in this same program and so I reached out specifically to one of these students and asked for his thoughts. He could say nothing but great things about UFS, and recommended that I apply…and so the rest is history!
My first week with Unite For Sight was not too much of a surprise. I was required to complete the Global Health & Impact training long before I even stepped foot on the plane, so I was already familiar with many of the eye clinics, their staffs, and their global health delivery models. I spent my first week engaging in outreach work with North Western Eye Centre and three other American volunteers. We worked with communities in the Greater Accra and Central Regions of Ghana and saw anywhere from 50 to 80 patients a day. I quickly learned the difference in diagnosing many of the eye pathologies I encountered in training, (i.e. a corneal scar versus a cataract), and bonded with the team of optometrists, nurses, interns, drivers, and other volunteers.
My learning expectations for this summer are to engage in my coursework through hands-on experiences in the field of public health. As a Health: Science, Society, and Policy major, I am expected to fulfill a “hands on experience,” which grants me the opportunity to engage academic material experientially in a setting related to either health or health care. After venturing to and from Ghana, I will have come away with a stronger understanding of the social determinants of health and disease and the impacts of social inequality on health in Ghana, by having become part of a global health organization that initiates sustainable health care frameworks in the developing world.
Want to learn more about Unite For Sight and/or Ghana? Please check out the links below:
– Darrell Byrd ’13