by Melissa Zaleski, Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry Trustee-elect

by Melissa Zaleski, Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry Trustee-elect

Some travel to see the difference, while others travel to make the difference.” Yes, my friends, I am talking about optometric mission trips. We are already aware that these trips are immeasurably fulfilling, so I’ll simply touch on some of the main reasons why you will NOT want to miss out on these life-changing experiences.

Let’s start with the obvious: travel opportunity. Most of the places that student organizations go to tend to be tropical and breathtaking. Mission trips are most likely our only chance to get away while on a small budget during optometry school. We work hard! A break to serve those in need and see the world is exactly what the doctor ordered (pun intended). Not to mention many of these trips give us a chance to work on some language and communication skills, depending on your destination. Bonus!

On optometric mission trips, student doctors get the chance to see cultures and lifestyles that we never imagined. Ultimately these trips give us a greater appreciation for what we have and what we can do to make a difference for our patients. For some of the patients, you may be the only eye doctor that they have seen in their entire lives. That pair of glasses could be what saves them. Talk about making a difference!

Okay, so maybe travel does not interest you as much. What should interest us is an opportunity to expand our optometric skills. I’m talking retinoscopy, direct ophthalmoscopy, visual acuity tests, BIO, dispensary, you name it! While on a mission trip, groups have the chance to see hundreds of patients.

Incoming president of the Fellowship of Christian Optometrists James Spinuzza, O.D., and assistant Marilania DeJesus on a mission.

Incoming president of the Fellowship of Christian Optometrists James Spinuzza, O.D., and assistant Marilania DeJesus on a mission.

It may seem overwhelming, but once you get into a groove you will be so comfortable with these tasks that clinical settings will be a breeze. Mission trips give us experience in our future field of practice and remind us why we study so hard.

One of the most rewarding aspects about joining a mission trip is the life-long friendships that you will make. Traveling, working, eating, sleeping, and breathing in sync with a group of people allows you to truly get to know some of your classmates. You become so close after this experience that they become your family. These people will never let you down!

Mahatma Gandhi once said “A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.” My challenge to you is simple: get out there and make a difference!

Join one of the clubs from your school, whether it be faith-based with the Fellowship of Christian Optometrists, or mission-specific with Student VOSH and the National Optometric Student Association. Take these opportunities to show how important our practice is around the world. No one ever said we had to graduate before we help people see!