Student Optometric Service to Humanity (SOSH)
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Optometry students at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry prepare for the annual missions through fundraising efforts such as bake sales, sports tournaments, and auctions in addition to external support. The students of SOSH work diligently to insure the financial feasibility of the missions.
The glasses dispensed on these trips are donated from a variety of sources, including religious organizations, optical companies, doctors, and private individuals. SOSH relies heavily upon outside support and donations for medical supplies and finances. Through the generosity of corporations and private donors, SOSH has been able to provide continuous eye care to people in need of its services.
Two weeks at the end of the summer semester,a team of approximately 21 students (20 third-year and 1 second-year students) travels to countries with indescribable poverty and care shortages. Thousands of patients are given complete visual examinations, ocular pathologies are detected and treated or referred if necessary. Eyeglasses are dispensed to the patients as needed. The glasses are collected and processed at PCO and carried to these countries along with all of the other equipment and medications used in the clinics. The project is funded entirely by private contributions and it is the team's responsibility to raise the necessary funding each year. There is no cost to the individual team members.
Immediately following their return from their trip, the 2nd-year officer assumes leadership of SOSH. He/she will have chosen team members from their class by that time which will comprise the next SOSH team. In the spring, a committee from the 2nd year class' SOSH team will choose one member from the 1st year class who will eventually act as President of SOSH for their class and who will travel to the chosen site the following year.
Participation in SOSH begins in the first year byattendance at work nights. You'll meet upper-class persons there, and learn how to neutralize glasses
SOSH rely heavily on donations from caring individuals and organizations. Monetary, pharmaceutical, and ophthalmic equipment donations are invaluable to our cause. PCO students spend countless hours preparing and fundraising for each mission; however, we de replies on external contributions to help us meet our goal of $50,000. We hope you find SOSH to be worthy of your donation and we thank you in advance for your consideration.
SOSH Trip 2014: Haiti
by Frank Mai ’16OD, SOSH president
On August 7, 2014, this year’s SOSH (Students in Optometric Service to Humanity) team of twenty-five students and two optometrists traveled to Cap Haitien, Haiti, where they examined 1,150 patients over four days of clinical operations. More than 2,400 pairs of glasses and sunglasses were dispensed.
The glasses for this year’s mission were donated to SOSH by Lions Clubs, social organizations, and private contributors. Our patients were referred by local physician, Dr. Guerline Roney, from a nearby clinic in Cap Haitien - the Vision Plus Clinique for glaucoma and cataract surgeries. Our team was accompanied by a local group headed by Joseph Telemaque, whose help proved invaluable. Joseph provided us with drivers and translators during our stay and, without his organizational skills, our SOSH team wouldn’t have been able to give direct help to patients.
We arrived at the Port-au-Prince Airport in the capital and then took a bus on winding roads through the mountains until we finally got to Cap Haitien – an approximate seven hour trip. We stayed at the Mont Joli Hotel where, every night, SOSH officers would pack suitcases with the appropriate amount of glasses, sunglasses and pharmaceutical drops for the following morning’s clinics, and leave the suitcases in the lobby ready for transport. Every morning at 7 :45 a.m., twenty-seven SOSH members packed into two vans with our five translators. The drive to each of the five clinic sites - Grand Riviere, Lorie, Robiya, and Vertieres - took about an hour.
Each clinic was set up as a series of stations. The first station was where Joseph would register our patients. At the second station, each patient’s history was taken and the chief complaint, background, and associated symptoms were assessed. The third station was where visual acuity was measured at a 10 ft. testing distance. At the fourth station, extraocular muscles, pupils, and the patient’s external ocular health were examined and any pathology was noted. The fifth station was tonometry, where gloaucoma was ruled out. At the sixth station, a ret rack was used to determine the patient’s prescription. The seventh station was direct ophthalmoscopy to examine the back of the eye, and, finally, the last station was a final examination, with the doctors taking a look at all remarkable information on the exam forms.
When the patients were finished, they were then given proper pharmaceutical drops and received appropriate prescription glasses for their needs at the eyeglass dispensary. With the the help of our translators, our doctors educated the patients on the use of their prescription glasses, and whether the glasses were for distance or near. Many patients who did not need an eyeglass prescription were given non-prescription sunglasses. By the end of their examination, a patient was able to leave with appropriate glasses or drops and, if a referral was needed, Joseph recorded their names in a handbook and gave them a referral form.
The trip was an inspirational experience that all SOSH members will hold close to our hearts for years to come. It was rewarding to able to utilize our knowledge and skills to help those who would overwise be denied the gift of sight. We were proud to be able to improve the quality of life for so many Haitians who would be without any vision care without vists by volunteer groups such as SOSH.
We would like to thank all our sponsors and supporters whose efforts and donations made this mission trip possible. Thank you Dean Jim Caldwell, Ms. Monae Kelsey, and the University’s student government Executive Council. A special thanks to our optometric advisors who traveled with us, Dr. Bhawan Minhas and Dr. Lindsey Perno, our faculty VOSH-liasons Dr. Gwen Amos and Dr. Mark Street, and lastly, thank you SOSH officers and members of the Class of 2016 who participated: Melissa Keller (vice president), Bridget Veglia (treasurer), Brad Sparks (office manager), Roma Desai (internal fundraiser), Emily Jones (external fundraiser), Carrie Christopherson, Victoria Galbreth, Mary Gouris, Stefanie Hwang, David Lai, Jacky Lam, Vivien Li, Lili Liang, Youseff Neema, Jared Scheff, Jenna Sembrat, Daniel Situ, Kelci Walters, Helena Wang, Ting Wei, Belinda Weinburg, Shirley Yan, Kristin Yandrich, and the Class of 2017 underclassmen liaison, Nicole Yoder.
2013-2014 SOSH Officers
From left to right: Brad Sparks, Roma Desai, Frank Mai, Melissa Keller, Emily Jones, and Bridget Veglia
SOSH -Students in Optometric Service to Humanity - held its second annual Mr. Salus pageant this month and Salus University's male students looked great! This year's Mr. Salus is Youssef Neema '16OD. Runners up were Sean Fuster '17AUD (first) and David Lai '16OD (second), with Chaz Truesdale '16OD winning Mr. Congeniality. Thanks to contestants: Karl Cunningham '17OD; Tony Hollop '16OD; Vitto Mena '14OD; and Daniel Situ '16OD. The men paraded in dress or casual attire before their enthusiastic audience and judges Dr. Alissa Coyne, Dr. Melissa Trego and Dr. Bre Myers. This event helped to raise money for the SOSH annual humanitarian trip while providing a fun evening for all.
SOSH was founded in 1968 by Dr. Algernon Phillips during his years as a student at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO). The original purpose of the organization was to administer eye examinations and to dispense spectacles to the people of Haiti. In 1986, SOSH expended its scope to provide more comprehensive eye care to people throughout the world. Over the years, SOSH has traveled to Africa, the Caribbean, and North, South and Central America. Often, the services that SOSH renders in these regions are the only means of receiving proper eye care.
During the past few years, SOSH has also been a partner in developing a permanent eye clinic in Guatemala, seeing over 18,000 patients and referring approximately 800 for surgery.
Pictured top row, L to R: Shawn Yu, Dr. A. Phillips, Dr. Harry Kaplan, Robert Wang, Mark Street, Michael Rebar; Bottom row, L to R: Allyssa Nguyen, Anjali Desai, Lisa Schneider, Kristy Dean, Erin Van Shura, Lisa Chow.
SOSH Founder Meets with Students
On December 5, 2008, members of SOSH, with memories of their September mission to Haiti still fresh in their minds, had the privilege of meeting Dr. A.A. Phillips ’69, founder of SOSH (Student Optometric Service to Humanity) at the University.
After viewing videos of the September mission created by SOSH president Robert Wang ’10, Dr. Phillips shared some of his experiences with the students. The first SOSH mission to Haiti in 1969, planned after then second year student Phillips’ visited and saw the acute need for vision care, included PCO faculty member Dr. Harry Kaplan ’49.
Dr. Kaplan and Dr. Anthony Di Stefano, Vice President, Academic Affairs, were present at the meeting and, with the students, heard some of the interesting and diverse experiences Dr. Phillips has had during his many years of volunteer service and travels around the world.
The PCO students and faculty and an ophthalmologist and surgical nurse from SEE International, completed the ten day September mission in Cap Haitian, providing eye exams to more than 2400 individuals, dispensed more than spectacle glasses, distributed more than 2300 UV protection sunglasses and provided funding for over 70 cataract extractions and 50 glaucoma referrals.
Two SOSH teams working at two sites maximized the number of patients seen and the students and faculty worked long hours and gained invaluable experience. With the help of the PCO Lions Club, the students also purchased a screening tonometer (with the PCO Lions Club) for use during future missions and included an underclassman representative to ensure a smoother 2009 mission.
Faculty members Dr. Gwenn Amos and Dr. Mark Snyder accompanied SOSH Class of 2010 members: Herbert Bressler, Kristy Dean, Anjali Desai, Aesha Sharia, Carl Ekman, Caryn Jones, Timothy Kim, Colleen Kroll, Matthew Lim Ah Ken, Doua Lor, Yupheng Ly, Allyssa Nguyen, Sheila Poon, Michael Rebar, Cara Reitnauer, Lisa Schneider, Mark Street, Julie Tran, Robert Wang, Shawn Yu and Dianna Zhang. Erin Vanshura ’11 was class representative for the 2009 trip.