Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service an Up-close and Personal Experience for Salus Optometry Students
Darnel James ‘23OD is the historian for the University’s National Optometric Student Association (NOSA), and as such, historical perspective is important to him. So when he had the chance to participate in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service Jan. 20 with seven other NOSA students, it made a significant impact on him.
“It meant a lot of things for me,” said James, who shares a fraternity affiliation with Dr. King as both are members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. “I’m from North Carolina and Dr. King is a big deal there. This is not the first time I’ve been a part of MLK Service Day. I love volunteering, so seeing the tradition still lives on meant even more to me.”
James was part of a contingent of Salus students who volunteered their time to conduct vision screenings at Girard College in Philadelphia. Fellow students who participated were Sarah Bilal ’23OD; Brandon Garces ‘23OD; Simone Wallace ‘23OD; Sean Lewis ‘23OD; Kierra Washington ‘21OD; Ashley Wright ‘21OD; and Jeredine Kallon ‘22OD; along with faculty advisor Dr. Ruth Shoge, assistant professor in the University’s Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO).
“It’s always important for our students to truly understand the need to serve the community in which they work, and what better way to do it than on MLK Day of Service,” said Dr. Shoge. “Part of the National Optometric Association (NOA) and NOSA’s mission is to serve those who are underrepresented and disadvantaged, so serving in this capacity helps fulfill the organizational mission. Additionally, PCO and Salus have a legacy of participating on this day, and that is an extension of that legacy.”
The experience was a little different for Wallace, who is Canadian and doesn’t celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in her country.
“It was a new experience for me because we really don’t have opportunities like that,” she said. “But it’s nice to know there’s an event which involves giving awareness to a day of service.”
Students checked patients’ visual acuity, eye muscle issues, color vision, and used a direct ophthalmoscope to see the back of the eye during the screenings. Dr. Shoge then determined if patients needed follow-up visits with an optometrist and referred them to The Eye Institute, which is located just north of where the event was held.
“This service helps our students continue to develop their clinical skills as well as the interpersonal skills needed to interact with, and gain the trust of, the community they serve,” said Dr. Shoge.
Dr. Shoge, who has been participating in MLK Day of Service for years, reflected on her own experiences.
“I’m glad that NOSA has kept up the time-honored tradition of serving in this manner,” she said. “What I observe in my students every year is the reward they get for making themselves available and in seeing those who may not have otherwise received these services get the timely assistance they need.”