NECO students have been involved with the Volunteer Optometric Service to Humanities (VOSH) medical missions each year as volunteers. Students organize and fund raise to help offset costs for travel and accommodation to spend a week in a developing country (typically in Central America) serving the underserved population. On average, during five days of patient care, approximately 1,000 patients are seen.
I forget just how fortunate I am to be living in Boston and attending optometry school. Student organizations like VOSH are great reminders of what you can do to give back.
VOSH trips provide students the opportunity to provide critical services to underserved populations and gain invaluable experience in the field. Problems that are commonly encountered on a VOSH trip are uncorrected refractive errors, acquired and congenital cataracts, diabetic and hypertensive retinopathy, pterygia, glaucoma and dry eye. Student appreciate the gratifying experience, recognize the inequities of health care between US and developing countries, and note the frustrations of patients losing vision due to inability to affordably access eye care.
Skills in examination using hand-held equipment in patient care over an intense period of time and learning communication skills despite language barriers come about quickly. The students gain an insight to the culture and nature of the people. Typically, when a student graduates from NECO, among their most memorable experiences they can recall during their academic life are their VOSH trips.
During the past several years, active VOSH members will have seen patients in the cities of Merida and Chetumal, Mexico as well as the Dominican Republic.