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.
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.
SOSH 2013: Haiti
by Kristina Ngo ’15OD, president PCO chapter of SOSH
For the first time since 2008, the SOSH (Students in Optometric Service to Humanity) team of twenty students and two faculty advisors traveled back to Cap Haitien, Haiti. Together the group examined 1,314 patients over the 5 days of clinic operation, dispensed more than 2,500 pairs of glasses and sunglasses and made 129 referrals for surgery or additional medical treatment. Lions Clubs, social organizations, and private contributors donated the glasses for the 2013 mission to SOSH.
We worked in five different clinics – all at least an hour’s drive from Cap Haitien, which made for a daily 6:00 a.m. start in order for us to meet the 7:45a.m. departure. We traveled in two vans along with five translators to reach the clinics, where we set up five stations: patient history taking (with the help of a translator); slit lamp station to examine ocular health and identify any pathology; tonometry station to rule out glaucoma; a ret rack station to determine the patient’s prescription, and the final station, where an OD examined the back of the eye and a final examination was performed with the doctors, utilizing the information collected at the previous patient stations.
As SOSH members on previous trips had told us, the number of patients needing care was tremendous. On the third day of clinic we saw 400 patients and had to turn away 100 more. The demand for glasses was so great that we were running short by the third day of seeing patients. Thanks to Dr. Dave McPhillips of VOSH (Volunteers in Optometric Service to Humanity) and Dr. Guerline Roney of a vision clinic in Cap Haitien, we received additional glasses for our fourth and fifth clinic days.
It was a busy and rewarding trip to bring much needed vision care services to a population that would not have them without our help. We were all proud to be a small part of helping people to see clearly, many of them for the first time in decades.
Thank you to our sponsors and supporters whose efforts and donations made this trip possible. Thank you to our faculty advisors, Dr. Alissa Coyne and Dr. Michael Rebar, and thank you to the SOSH Class of 2015 members who participated: Veronika Ageyeva, Sana Alfimari, Christina DalPorto, Priya Desai (internal fundraiser), Jerson Desiderio, Alyssa Donahue, Elina Dorfman, Lindsey Eisenberg, Jill Federico, Stacy Fortin, Amber Gonka, Alysson Mass, Tamara Mendez (vice president), Kelsey Moody (external fundraiser), Charlene Pineda, Aaron Punim (treasurer), Kathleen Van Horn, Fei Yang and Francis Mai '16OD.