Dominican Republic with University of Arizona College of Medical School Students

We examined 315 people in the Dominican Republic recently with the first year medical students

This past year, we re-opened our store with a smaller footprint adjacent to our private practice. The store includes artisan products from 34 countries and hundreds of artisans. Through the proceeds, we were able to purchase reading glasses from Vision Spring  and through the generosity of our friends at Global Vision 2020, received the USee kit that permitted us to “dial, snap, and wear” glasses for people in real time (learn more about their mission here–thank you Kevin White and team   ).

We rotate through 5 bateys in small communities attached to sugarcane harvesting, most of the workers live on a few dollars per day. The communities are rural and often lack access to healthcare. The first year University of Arizona medical students fundraise for the medications and supplies we bring. My emphasis is teaching the basics of primary eye care during the weeklong rotation through the bateys.

One patient stands out. The student reported that “her vision was fine”. She did not own reading glasses. By the end of the week, most of the students knew to ask about the patient’s ability to read, sew, “see their mobile device”.  Ultimately, the savvy student beat me to the questions and announced, “she doesn’t read, have a cell phone or sew”. “Ah” I responded, “did you check her vision; it is a vital sign.” He sulked a bit and went back to check her near vision and then returned to report that she was “J16” or legally blind. I raised my eye brows  in that suggestive way, and he took the cue and grabbed reading glasses to place on her. “Ouila, her animated voice was methodical and she showed us she could in fact read every number and she proceeded to do so. She further explained that ‘she was learning to read at her church’ and now she would be able to ‘sew again’. Paul Harvey used to say, “the rest of the story.”


Healthcare is a funny thing. We can change lives with the simple. My first trip to Brazil taught me that uncorrected refractive error is one of the greatest correctible causes of “blindness”.  We purchased 1900 reading glasses this past year at about USD $0.75 cents each. 

The Global Vision 2020 gift allowed us to “learn yet more lessons with the students”. Making glasses on the spot with the USee device and allowing kids to choose their frame color would bring at least a half smile. Some of the kids required more patience. We imagined that some had low self esteem and were not doing well in school because they really could not see and required a lot of encouragement to read the eye chart

We taught some children the importance of wearing sunglasses since UV damage is cummulative. There is no better opportunity that to influence eye care by combining the humanitarian space with impacting vision and sight.

We are so grateful for all our patients at Global Retina Institute who supported us by being our patients and keeping our safety in your prayers.