I want to begin by saying hello! My name is Skyler Martinez and I am a new fellow under the GSIF program at Lehigh University. I first want to share my primary reason for enrolling in GSIF, which was to translate my compassion for others and desire to make an impact into sustainable and meaningful work. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to experience a variety of intricate cultures through travel and short-term service projects. As a Christian missionary child, I was able to spend time in Ethiopia, South Africa, and Jiangmen, China which molded my perceptions of service and humanitarian efforts. I knew about how to install water purification systems before I even learned how to ride a bike. Most importantly, I developed a heart for people and an appreciation for world cultures. As I matured in age and experiences into my college career, my curiosity regarding the effectiveness of impact-based projects began to grow. Projects and experiences I once would brag about now I would be troubled by, wondering if the change I sought was translated in my actions. I kept in my mind that as long as I had a heart for the people, the place, and/or the cause that any action could make an impact. Yet I began to realize that many of the causes I care about require more methodical, long-term, and innovative responses and solutions. I personally think that compassion can be a powerful tool that further drives our work for impact and change, yet this very compassion may sometimes influence us to make problems less severe rather than looking for preventative measures. In other words, we may be more inclined towards a flimsy band-aid solution instead of possibly stop the wound from even occurring in the first place. Another reason for ultimately selecting the GSIF program and course is because I felt tired of believing I needed to feel qualified to make an impact. I wanted an opportunity to learn through hands on work, building skills while simultaneously having my work be worthwhile for the wellbeing of others and our planet.
Currently I am a Biological Sciences major and HMS minor here at Lehigh, with plans to enter into medicine or possibly the public/global health sector. One of the ways I envision the course impacting my student career is introducing real dilemmas and global trends that are more than relevant to my field of study. Exposure and discussion of concerns that might generally be overlooked by the general or local population I feel will further allow me to look at my work field at a more global scale, whether it be the direct effects of global warming to growing poverty levels in my own nation. As a biology student, we are constantly pushed towards the idea that the world around us is evolving and changing, whether at a visible or macroscopic scale. I now have a more strong inclination for the public health sector, which allows me to think more about why something is occurring rather than how to immediately resolve it. This is a core concept for this program that I was attracted to, which also directly coincides with my Health, Medicine, and Society minor.
My solution to the concern that over one billion visually impaired individuals do not have access to eyewear is to help create a traveling clinical setting. The World Health Organization estimated in 2017 that close to 80% of those around the world who were visually impaired were so because of cataracts or an uncorrected refractive error, which can be resolved with minor surgical procedures or changes in nutrition. A traveling clinic would allow for semi-annual examinations and diagnostic measures while also providing preventative medical procedures. The traveling aspect would be utilizing the limited number of optometrists while also utilizing local medical professionals and expertise. Of course, the first step of this project would be for building a strong logistical team along with securing genius, faithful, and confident donors. Then, it would be time to build local connections and examine specific regions most affected by preventable blindness, such as counties in Kenya. Hopefully the next step would be to build on-site teams for the traveling clinical setting and see where to evolve and grow the project from there. I believe since there is proof that changes in diet and nutrition can influence the progression or disappearance of eye problems, another avenue to explore and test would be local production of food products that would aid in proper nutrition. This would help to generate economic revenue and income for more impoverished regions while aiding in preventative measures for the development of preventable blindness.