4 things to consider before volunteering

September 5, 2017
There is no shortage of populations with little or no access to eye care, at home or abroad.

Excerpted from page 38 of the July/August 2017 edition of AOA Focus .

Volunteering your optometric skills and experience to provide vision care to underserved areas and countries can be a rewarding—even life-changing—experience. But before you embark on a service trip, there are a few things to consider, say longtime volunteers.

1. Financial commitment. Volunteers are often responsible for all of their travel costs. (Some groups may have fundraising or scholarship opportunities.)

2. Time away from practice. Trips are often one week or more. Associates will likely need to take vacation time. Practice owners will need to consider the financial costs to their practice and/or find someone to fill in for them. "You have to be at the right stage of your career to make these trips," says Ellis Potter, O.D., who is retired from practice but still takes service trips.

3. Primitive travel. Once you land in a country, you may have a long bus ride to a remote location. Lodging may mean sleeping on cots in one big room with only cold water for bathing.

4. Basic equipment. Visual acuity is often measured with trial frame refractions. Phoropters are not usually available. Pete Parenti, O.D., who has visited places such as Nepal, Myanmar, Bhutan, India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and nearly every country in Central andSouth America on service trips, says he sees a lot of patients with cataracts from frequent ultraviolet light exposure. Immediate surgery is often not available.

Read more about the AOA members who have devoted countless hours, days and weeks to bringing care to those in need in the July/August 2017 edition of AOA Focus.

Photo credit: Pete Parenti, O.D.
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