Chiapa de Corzo, México
On July 17, 2014, 31 US and Canadian volunteers from VOSH-Southeast travelled to Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas, Mexico to provide primary eye care to the underserved of the region. The volunteer group included 4 optometrists, 2 opticians/ophthalmic assistants, 2 CNA’s, 16 optometry students, 5 undergraduate students, and 2 retired school teachers; 7 of the volunteers were fluent in Spanish.
Our arrival in Chiapa de Corzo was uneventful with the exception of rain that greeted us on our short walk to our hotel. We were told an earthquake had only recently hit the Chiapas region but the damage was minimal and by the look of things, thankfully not much had changed since VOSH-SE’s last visit in 2012.
We started each day at the house of Pilar for a locally made, hearty breakfast. All meals were prepared by Pilar and her wonderful family throughout the week. Those with special dietary needs were not disappointed in the variety of foods offered; all were well nourished!
Clinic was once again set up at the Lion’s Club Hall, a pleasant six block walk from our hotel; clinic ran from 8:30 am to 7:00 pm with a short mid-afternoon break. Primary eye care was successfully delivered to patients through stations which included registration, visual acuities, auto-refraction, retinoscopy, triage, blood pressure/blood sugar testing, glaucoma testing, disease, and glasses dispensing. Our 5 ½ days of clinic enabled us to see, evaluate, and treat 1998 patients and approximately 2000 pair of glasses were dispensed.
Building on our first two ventures to Chiapa de Corzo, VOSH-SE and the Lion’s Club advanced local community engagement to include prescription spectacle manufacturing for those patients not fit with prescription glasses on the day of clinic and cataract/pterygium referrals. Over 200 eyeglass prescriptions were produced locally at minimal cost to these patients ($3-$8) and over 160 patients were referred for cataract/pterygium surgery.
A local non-profit surgical facilitator was contacted prior to our July visit. VOSH-SE via VOSH/INTL’s TTP Program was able to provide a necessary lane of equipment to this group; VOSH-SE also provided the necessary topical ophthalmic medications for the referred cataract/pterygium surgeries. It is the goal of VOSH-SE and the Chiapas Lion’s Club to have all these surgical referrals seen and treated locally by a team of Mexican and American surgeons prior to VOSH-SE’s next visit in 2016.
While this mission and all VOSH trips are successful, VOSH-SE does understand the need to do more. Research, teaching, funding, and increased community involvement are integral for clinical sustainability to become a reality in the Chiapas region. VOSH-SE is grateful to the Chiapas Lion’s Club and is committed to supplementing and complementing Chiapas Lion’s in their establishment of a locally staffed and directed primary/secondary eye care clinic serving Chiapa de Corzo and its surrounding communities.
We would like to acknowledge the Club de Leones de Chiapa de Corzo for their generous hospitality during our stay; thank you for making the arrangements for the meals and transportation. Especially we are grateful to Jose Alejandro Munoa Pola and Javier Gomez y Gomez and their families for helping to facilitate the mission.
Thank you to the volunteers who brought their instruments to share with the group. On behalf of VOSH-Southeast we also are grateful to the following: Alcon, B+L, Allergan, Inc., Ocusoft, Lions Club Recycling Center WI, Allina Health, restoringvision.org, National Vision, Gemini, Inc., Mendota Heights-West St. Paul Rotary, Jeff Hommes, Rosa Sanchez Sanchez, Willie Goodrich and Jack Greavu. We value your support, donations and collaboration.
Dr. John Spencer, Optometrist; mission clinic director; co-leader
Dr. Gregory DiSanto, Optometrist
Dr. Jennifer Gould, Optometrist
Dr. Melissa Cuan, Optometrist
SuEllen Brauer, VOSH-Southeast
Cookie Mikrut, VOSH-Southeast
Pilar Lozano, ABOC, mission co-leader; translator
Nicole Dahle, certified ophthalmic assistant
Kaushal Chinnusamy, 3rd year optometry student, SUNY
Irene Frantzis, 3rd year optometry student, SUNY
Apoorva Frantzis, 3rd year optometry student, SUNY
Samantha Rao, 3rd year optometry student, SUNY
Kathryn Werner, 3rd year optometry student, SUNY
Andrea Friedman, 4th year optometry student, SUNY
Anna Lange, 4th year optometry student, SUNY
Rachael Johnson, CNA
Carina Hernandez, FIU undergraduate
Diana Guerra, FIU undergraduate
Ingrid Valencia Ortiz, FIU undergraduate
Charles Spencer, U of M Morris, Undergrad
Julian Spencer, student
Carlos Vidal, Student; translator
Elizabeth Addesi, University of Waterloo optometry student
Jenna Astorin, University of Waterloo optometry student
Rose Badame, University of Waterloo optometry student
Lara DiPasquale, University of Waterloo optometry student
Fred Cho Hyunook, University of Waterloo optometry student
Riyad Khamis, University of Waterloo optometry student
Janice Luk, University of Waterloo optometry student
Courtney Maltman, University of Waterloo optometry student
Tina Morowat, University of Waterloo optometry student