I never realized the true meaning of "giving the gift of sight" until my first mission trip in 2009 when I went to Haiti. In August 2009, I went as an undergrad student with a team of 4 optometrists and 10 volunteers. In five days we saw over 1100 patients and dispensed glasses to about 90% of them. The other 10% were medical patients who had glaucoma, cataracts, trachoma, conjunctivitis, viral infections, you name it....the list goes on.
My first experience when I was really touched was on the third day when an older gentleman, likely in his 70s, asked me why he was going blind. I determined that he had hypermature cataracts that needed removal. Because we were 5 hours away from the next major city and because the patient did not have money for cataract surgery, I had to tell him the reason he was going blind and that there was nothing I could do. It was difficult for me to know that such a simple 30 minute procedure in the US was so highly inaccessible for patients in underdeveloped nations.
This first trip really humbled me and showed me the need for eye care in nations such as Haiti. Which led me to my application to The New England College of Optometry in Boston, MA. I started optometry school in 2010.