2012 Chiapas, Mexico


VOSH/Southeast completed a very successful mission to the beautiful state of Chiapas in southern Mexico from May 19 – May 24, 2012.  This was a return trip as VOSH/SE was present there in February, 2010.  Our group of 28 volunteers worked long hours to provide basic eye care to the needy of southern Mexico.  Our clinic was held at the Lions Club-Chiapas meeting hall (Club de Leones) for 5 ½ days.

There were a total of 5 optometrists in attendance who worked hands-on to help provide glasses prescriptions and patient education, to further the education of the students in the area of ocular diseases, and to diagnose patients with  cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, pterygium, and glaucoma.  There was an experienced optician present with her unbounding energy and enthusiasm.   We were also  accompanied by two interpreters from the St. Paul area.  Without their help communicating to our patients would have been very difficult.  Eleven 3rd and 4th year optometry students from SUNY and nine 2nd and 3rd third year students from the University of Waterloo School of Optometry (Canada) were dedicated, hard-working individuals who were eager to learn about eye care and disease and to serve patients at the same time.

Our team worked together to do reliable VAs, tonometry, pachymetry, retinoscopy, trial-frame refractions, blood-glucose, blood-pressures, dilated internal exams with direct scope and BIO, and lots of patient education especially regarding diabetes.  We found diabetic retinopathy and uncontrolled diabetes to be very prevalent.  We then either dispensed glasses to those who needed them or provided them with a frame and glasses prescription.

Some of the notable statistics include:

  • Number of Patients:  2204 (918 men; 1286 women)
  • Number of pair of glasses (or frame and rx) provided:  2345
  • Number of referrals for cataract surgery:  estimated at 140, several more referred for diabetic retinopathy and pterygium removal

We were hosted by the Chiapa de Corzo Lions Club.  We are grateful to them for all the help with transportation, delicious Mexican cuisine, local volunteers and translators.  They worked side-by-side with us to care for their community and without the partnership between the Lions Club Chiapas and VOSH/SE many would continue to be under-served and our mission would not have been successful.

With the help of the social services we were able to refer many patients to either a primary care MD for further diabetic care, a local ophthalmologist, or to a non-profit eye clinic located within two hours of Chiapa de Corzo, who hosts ophthalmic surgical missions throughout the year.   This is a big step in providing more sustainable care and follow-through; we hope to again be in Chiapas to further our work in 2-3 years.

We are grateful for the generous donations and support from Allina Mission Matters; Allergan Inc.; Bausch and Lomb; Gemini Inc.; Lions Club Recycling Center-WI; Lions Club-Chiapa de Corzo; Lions Club-Hudson WI; Walman Optical; and North Central Ophthalmics.  Their continuing support is priceless to us and to those needing care in areas such as Chiapas, Mexico.



John Spencer, OD (clinic director and co-leader)

Lisa Weber, OD (co-leader)

Christina Kinney, OD

Jaclyn Benzoni, OD

Gregory DiSanto, OD

Janice Huber, ABO certified optician

Cecelia Spencer, Spanish Translator

Bretta Douville, Spanish Translator

Nicole Aucoin        SUNY Student

Matthew Bovenzi        SUNY Student

Melissa Cuan        SUNY Student

Konstantin Fishilevich    SUNY Student

Jennifer Gould        SUNY Student

Jawad Daniel        SUNY Student

Janna Lambson        SUNY Student

Kathleen Malony    SUNY Student

Beena Patel        SUNY Student

Rebecca Peitrasik        SUNY Student

Meghan Schiffer        SUNY Student

Vincent Budac    UW School of Optometry Student

Kaitlyn Elash    UW School of Optometry Student

Sharon Lam    UW School of Optometry Student

Patricia Lambros    UW School of Optometry Student

Megan Noseworthy  UW School of Optometry Student

Jessica Steen    UW School of Optometry Student

Herjot Sundher    UW School of Optometry Student

Tracy Vo        UW School of Optometry Student

Melissa Yee    UW School of Optometry Student

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