This summer, the OSU College of Optometry sent a team of students from its SVOSH club to southern Ghana. SVOSH is the student chapter of VOSH (Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity), which provides eye care to underserved populations internationally. This year the group of 14 students and 3 doctors volunteered at St. Theresa’s Eye Hospital in Akim Akroso, Ghana for one week.
Sean Cushman (’21) introduces himself and answers some questions below:
My name is Sean Cushman, and I am a current second year student. I did my undergraduate education at Hope College in Holland, MI. I am interested in private practice and hope to [focus in] ocular disease. I am very passionate about mission/service trips having been on several in the past and am one of the co-president elects of SVOSH. I also enjoy rock climbing, hiking, and guitar.
How did you get involved with SVOSH?
Missions/service trips are one of my biggest passions, so I knew I wanted to get involved with SVOSH coming in. I attended the first meeting of the year to learn how I could get my volunteer hours sorting glasses and took off from there.
How did you prepare for the trip?
In order for a student to go on their first SVOSH trip, they must complete 65 hours of volunteer hours for the club. I completed my hours first semester and continued my involvement second semester. I was elected one of the co-president elects as well. During the summer, we had a few meetings to learn about what we would be doing on the trip and the area. There was also a big packing party to pack all the glasses, drops, and equipment that we brought.
What did a typical day look like?
Our usual day started with us eating breakfast from around 6-7am. We would then wait for our bus which usually left much later than we were supposed to. Our group split in half for clinic, each group going to a different village each day. We set up clinic in different churches or pavilions and started seeing patients mid-morning. We then saw patients until about 5 or 6 pm seeing about 100 patients per day. At night, we did grand rounds with the doctors going over some of the interesting cases from the day.
What kinds of problems did patients present with, and what kinds of services could you offer them?
We saw lots of severe cataracts and glaucoma. We were able to refer the cataract patients for surgery with the head of ophthalmology at OSU who came with a team the week after we left. We also were able to give some drops to try to help the glaucoma patients. We also gave drops for patients dealing with dry eyes or irritation. Some of the [less common diseases] we saw were toxoplasmosis, Burkitt’s lymphoma, sarcoidosis, bullous keratopathy, thyroid eye disease, sickle cell retinopathy, and retinitis pigmentosa.
How did the trip change how you think about optometry?
It taught me how valuable optometry is for a person’s overall health. Through the work and different systemic diagnoses we made on this trip, it showed me how big of an impact we can have on a person’s life, not just abroad but in our everyday practice. We not only save vision but have the potential to save lives as well.
How can incoming OSU students get involved?
If you want to get involved, come to our first meeting of the year to learn more about the club, how you can volunteer, and to get your name on the mailing list. It is super easy to get involved and anyone is welcome to join.