Three optometry undergraduates have provided eye care in Zambia with Vision Aid Overseas, in partnership with the annual Irvine Aitchison Memorial Fund (IAMF) bursary and the Wiseman Memorial Fund.
Practising alongside a team of qualified optometrists, students Holly Higgins, Gemma Gould and Muhammad Vali spent two weeks in Lusaka, Zambia, to provide refraction and dispensing services through an outreach clinic.
During the trio’s trip, more than 1,800 people attended the clinic, with the majority given a free eye examinations and spectacles.
A total of 90 optometry undergraduates applied for the three bursary places, which are offered annually to provide optometry students the opportunity to experience eye care in developing countries to increase their knowledge.
Speaking about the experience, Ms Higgins said: “The clinic was packed and most days we would arrive to find a long queue already formed, with some patients having waited since 4am that morning.
“I am so very grateful for this experience as I got to see firsthand a plethora of pathology which I’d only ever seen in textbooks, and this has helped me to feel a lot more prepared for my final year at university which is very pathology and clinic-based.”
Development director at VAO, Jeremy Jalie, added: “It’s inspiring to hear the experiences of this year’s IAMF and Wiseman Fund bursary winners, who have made real differences to people’s lives by being willing to donate their time and newly learnt skills in countries where eye care resources are limited.
“As the optometrists and dispensing opticians of tomorrow, their words remind us just how important, and life-changing, these bursaries can be, both for the students themselves and the people they are directly helping during their time in countries like Zambia.”