We are excited to share that Jill Davis, Surgical Technology Program Director, is on her way to a medical mission trip in Chuuk, Micronesia on Friday, Oct. 27. She will be traveling with the Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah to offer optometry care to residents in these remote islands. Jill has been on a handful of medical mission trips prior, assisting in Guatemala, Haiti, Tanzania (pictured to the right with Jill on the lefthand side of the photo), and multiple times in Honduras. And with each, her face lights up as she shares her stories.
The Moran Eye Center’s work is taxing and often times emotional. Over the five days that Jill will be in Micronesia, she estimates that her team will help over 500 people through cataract surgery. For comparison, Jill says that most hospitals stateside will treat about eight people a day (at most) for cataracts. Between each table that the Moran Eye Center sets up, they’ll see four times as many patients with fewer resources.
Micronesians’ lifestyle is heavily impacted by blindness. The region is comprised of thousands of small islands and residents live in a tropical marine climate. This means that their eyes are exposed to consistent sunlight, often with harsh reflections from the water. Many are fishermen, which further exposes their vision to the harshness of salt water. Eye injury is common. Family members rely on each other’s help to the point that if a parent’s vision is damaged, they will pull their kids from school to assist with everyday tasks. This, of course, will then impact children’s education.
“Being able to see makes a huge difference for not just the patient’s life, but the whole family’s life,” Jill says. “These trips are so cool because you see that ‘instant fix’ with those who receive cataracts. The day after, the get to take their eye patch off and realize that they can suddenly see again.”
The experience itself is hard to describe, Jill says. She’s made connections with communities halfway across the world and shared surgical technology education through training opportunities with doctors in those communities. And the experiences have changed her life.
She hopes to bring medical mission opportunities to students at Missoula College in the future, but in the meantime wants her students to know that a degree in medical care can open doors. Students can truly travel anywhere with their degrees if they want to, and many opportunities exist to do so.
Stay tuned! We’ll be chatting some more with Jill when she returns from her trip to hear more about her experiences.