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Lessons from Panama Trip Extend Past the Clinical Work for Salus University SOSH Students

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In August, a group of 21 students from Salus University’s Students in Optometric Service to Humanity (SOSH) program - led by Laine Higa, OD, assistant professor at the University’s Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO), and Navpreet Hehar, OD, PCO instructor - traveled to Panama to bring much-needed medical eye care to those living in poverty who otherwise might not have a chance to receive such treatment.

Working with the Kiwanis Club of Panama to provide services, the students saw more than 1,020 patients during the week-long trip. According to Dr. Higa, Panama does not have any optometrists, so patients must see an ophthalmologist for an eye exam. Due to the limited number of ophthalmologists in La Chorerra City, where the students set up a clinic in the administrative area of a local hospital, many Panamanians don’t have the opportunity to receive proper eye care. It’s also costly, which many citizens can’t afford, and that forces many of them to lead their daily lives with blurred vision.

The trip not only reaffirmed some students’ decision to pursue a career in optometry, but it also helped build character.

“This trip exceeded all my expectations and it helped mold the way I foresee my future in optometry,” said Natalie Baek, ’21 OD. “The Panamanians, Salus PCO students and faculty all endeavored together to help those that do not have access to eye care. But the best part of the trip was coming to love the people of Panama. It was a reminder that it is truly a privilege to care for patients and be trusted with one of their most precious gifts – their ability to see.”


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