My practicum brought me to Ghana where I worked with a non-profit organization called Unite for Sight (UFS). UFS specializes in providing vision care in various impoverished communities within Ghana, India and Honduras. Prior to leaving for Ghana, I fundraised and collected reading and sunglasses for UFS affiliated Clinics. I also trained and learned from an optometrist. My volunteer efforts provided human and financial resources to local clinics in Ghana and contributed to the sustainability of UFS outreach programs.
Over the course of my 2-month practicum, I traveled all over Ghana with local doctors and other volunteers from across the United States and Canada. We traveled in a van reaching out to the masses that have no access or the funds to pay for vision care services. We visited over 31 communities in 3 different regions and over time, hundreds of people came for care and had their vision restored. The results of cataracts surgeries were almost immediate and along with patients, I could appreciate the outcome. I could see the impact of our work when over 50 patients, both adults and children, were operated on in one day. My volunteer responsibilities included performing visual acuity tests, dispensing prescribed medications and glasses as directed by local doctors and data entry. I also trained and helped prepare patients for surgery as well as assist the ophthalmologist with patching the eye after surgery. Lastly, I surveyed mothers to investigate maternal perceptions of child eye care in Ghana.
My practicum experience exposed me to the realities of health care delivery in resource-limited environments. I learned how to effectively work through language and cultural barriers. I gained experience in cross-cultural communication, a deeper understanding of international development and global health. Through discussions with local doctors and interactions with patients, I learned more about vision care, various eye diseases, and their management. I learned the importance of culture in healthcare delivery. My volunteer experience with UFS gave me the opportunity to see public health practice in global settings. This is because I got hands on experience in applying public health principles to blindness prevention. It also gave me the opportunity to train and learn from experts while contributing to vision restoration in the Ghanaian community. It expanded my professional network and reinforced my healthcare interests. What was unique about my UFS experience was I had the opportunity to observe surgeries while they occurred and saw first hand how complex global health problems are managed using financial and human resources. Through my research, I applied epidemiologic methods in the field and successfully conduct a study on a largely unstudied health issue in Ghana, which may contribute to closing the existing information gap in global health research.