I always wanted to go on a mission trip and I was excited to hear that there was an opportunity to join one in Jamaica through NOSA and The Eye Health Institute (EHI). EHI has been providing free eye-care to under-served communities in Jamaica for over 20 years and they actively encourage students to participate in their medical mission trips. They were even kind enough to cover the lodging and most meal expenses; and the interns were only responsible for their airfare. EHI had organized for Lloyd (a very friendly taxi driver) to come pick up the interns from the Montego Bay airport. The travel time from Montego Bay to Negril was approximately an hour and a half. In the meantime, I enjoyed taking pictures of the scenery and chatting with the other interns.
We stayed in a private villa at the White Sands resort in Negril, Jamaica and I shared a room with one of my fellow interns. We woke up to a hot breakfast every morning and EHI was kind enough to provide lunch for us as well. During the week, the interns rotated among 3 clinics (Burnt Savannah, Sandy Bay and Grange-Kendall) and a few primary schools to do screenings. As interns, we performed refractions, dilations, BIO, slit lamp, Icare/tonopen, direct ophthalmoscopy and dispensed glasses. The clinicians were also there if we needed any help. I was able to see a lot of pathology that I may not have normally seen at my school clinic including a macular hole and Weiss ring.
During this trip, I learned what my strengths and weaknesses were and my clinical skills have definitely improved as a result. I can now do objective refractions in 1 minute and do BIO on a patient with dense cataracts. Sometimes, the doctors liked to quiz us by asking us clinical questions which helped us improve our clinical thought process. At times, it was hard to believe that some people had advanced diseases such as end-stage glaucoma that would have not been treated if EHI had not intervened. Witnessing the lack of access to eye-care in the communities we visited has made me fully appreciate the profession of optometry and what we do as optometrists. This eye-opening experience has made me realize the importance of eye-care and how we should not take it for granted.
In addition to performing eye exams, we were able to enjoy spending time in Jamaica. We enjoyed dining in local restaurants in Negril and soaking up the sun on the beautiful white sand beach. Then, on November 24th, EHI prepared a thanksgiving dinner for all the volunteers to thank them for making the mission trip a success. Overall, it was a very rewarding experience. I highly recommend this trip to anyone who wants to gain more clinical experience or who just wants to experience what a mission trip is like. If you want to explore the island, I suggest to arrive early or to stay after the mission trip is over. Looking back through it all, I am grateful to be part of this experience.
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