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Panama Mission Trip

This January, two of our doctors, Jerry and Greg Ferrell, had the opportunity to travel to the country of Panama with the organization VOSH (Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity.) It marked Dr. Jerry Ferrell’s sixth trip with the group, and Dr. Greg’s first. With large bags of donated prescription glasses, reading glasses, and sunglasses in hand, they were able to perform over 2300 eye exams to an underserved population near San Felix, Panama in just five days. The group included seven optometrists and 24 volunteers total.

Many of the patients seen on the trip were from an indigenous tribe called the Ngobe Bugle, one of the most underserved groups in the area. While reading glasses were an extremely helpful tool to give to these patients, they typically were not meant for reading as most of this group is illiterate. Instead, the Ngobe (especially the women) found them useful to aid in daily activities such as crafting, cooking, and sewing. The Ngobe women hand-make all of their dresses with cultural significance in each design, so they were very grateful for the readers we brought with us and excited to get back to their sewing!

An eye exam on a mission trip is drastically different than one we provide in our office. The doctors have none of the equipment we are fortunate enough to offer at home, instead relying on lenses and basic hand-held instruments to distribute glasses and educate on ocular health. One of the biggest challenges in these regions of the world nearest the Equator is UV damage from the sun. Cataracts and a condition called pterygium were an extremely common occurrence, both being linked to sunlight exposure and both possibly stealing sight from individuals who otherwise have no access to sun protection. Hundreds of pairs of sunglasses were distributed, and every patient was educated on the damage that can be caused to the eyes by excessive sun exposure.

VOSH is an international organization that helps countless individuals throughout the world, and the Ohio chapter has been one of the most active for years. To learn more about our group, head over to