01/24/2020: Noah S. Weaver
1) I enrolled in this course because of my personal experience with helping those of limited means. I come from a low-middle income background, and I have always had to work incredibly hard in order to achieve barriers, ranging from financial to personal barriers. I enrolled in this course in order to do exactly what was mentioned during class: impact. It is incredibly easy for people to enroll in a typical study abroad course or do the one-week mission trip, but this program is uniquely equipped to allow for a sustained experience that addresses the intersection of socioeconomic, health, and political issues, etc. As a community college transfer student, I have seen people from incredibly diverse backgrounds, and something that I feel needs to be at the forefront of any purpose-driven life is the practice of servant leadership.
2) This course will make me a better molecular biology student because of the unique opportunity this fellowship offers me to apply the skills I have learned in the classroom up to this point and cultivate them into a tangible, meaningful experience and effort. The purpose of my degree of study is to allow me to learn more about my interests in biology, as well as pursue a realistic path to medical school. Although my goal is to impact people and their communities, I now realize that this fellowship is much bigger than that (in terms of changing systems). The learning will occur as long as I focus on the project at hand and put my best effort into it, and I “just might learn something”. Finally, I am a firm believer that there is much more to life than simply regurgitating ideas learned within a classroom. In essence, anything that is learned within a classroom and unable to be realistically applied to the rest of the world is meaningless. It has always amazed me how many people I have met in my life that possess an encyclopedic knowledge of academic material, but when it comes to applying those concepts, such as through a laboratory experiment, they often are unable to perform. Again, knowledge is not meaningful if it cannot be applied to real-life situations.
3) A realistic solution, in this case, would entail training as many community health workers as possible to conduct very basic assessments of the people’s vision. For example, if their required needs are as simple as needing a prescription for near-sightedness or far-sightedness, it would be relatively easy for the community health workers to perform this task. Of course, this would take approval from the relevant governmental organizations and it would undoubtedly take significant collaboration with non-governmental organizations.
However, in cases requiring more advanced training, such as a patient who is at risk for something such as retinal detachment or suffers from a stigmatism or requires cataract surgery, it would be beneficial to refer them to an optometrist at that point. Obviously, the resources would be quite limited given that there is approximately 1 optometrist per one million people, but this would potentially reduce the initial workload by a fairly large amount (assuming their vision needs are similar to what other comparable countries experience). In order to address the shortage of optometrists, it might be best to attempt a collaborative project with philanthropists and developed countries and develop an incentive program. For example, the US government has a program that allows for debt forgiveness for physicians providing care in underserved communities. Although this has involved several policy disagreements, if we could determine a way to navigate the politics of this issue, the hurdle to achieving sustainable and independent development in Kenya would potentially be within reach.