Once again, we close out the year on a positive note.

Our VOSH Texas year began on March 17th with the spring clinic in Guerrero where 28 US VOSH volunteers including 2 ophthalmologists, 4 ODs & 11 SVOSH students, (9 from the University of Houston and 2 from SUNY), joined with 61 Mexican volunteers, including 5 Mexican ophthalmologists, to provide vision screenings for 1764 patients, 708 in 22 county locations and 1056 in the Guerrero clinic. Glasses were dispensed in both, 204 in the villages and 648 in the clinic. Our surgeons performed 202 cataract procedures, 2 pterygia, 24 YAG laser & 12 Argon laser treatments. However, the week preceding our clinic, a group of VOSH members from Virginia & Ohio used our facility to conduct their own vision clinic and we hope to continue this cooperation in the future with other VOSH chapters.

In July, with picture perfect weather, we had 37 US VOSH volunteers including 2 ophthalmologists, 3 ODs & 10 3rd year SVOSH students from the University of Houston, along with 59 volunteers from Mexico, and our 5 loyal Mexican ophthalmologists, working only in the Guerrero facility, where they did 433 eye exams and 109 cataract surgeries, 6 iridotomies & 5 YAGs. Our retinal specialist did 33 retinal services including 12 Argon laser treatments. 215 pairs of glasses were dispensed.

Also in the summer, a plastic surgery team came to our clinic in Guerrero and performed 47 cleft/palate surgeries and 32 minor surgeries.

The fall clinic in September had 15 VOSH volunteers from the US, one ophthalmologist and 3 ODs, but still with about 60 Mexican volunteers, again including our faithful 5 Mexican ophthalmologists, who were productive with 650 eye exams done at the clinic which had been preceded by 832 patients screened in 26 counties where 224 pairs of generic glasses were given, 243 glasses prescriptions were done in the clinic; 177 cataract surgeries; 60 retinal referrals; 18 YAG lasers; 23 Argon lasers & 248 dental procedures by three Mexican dentists. There was a Mexican OBGYN who saw 143 women patients and a Mexican Pediatrician who saw 47 children.

VOSH Texas was asked to do a presentation at the VOSH International meeting on Oct. 14th in Chicago. The Keynote speaker, Dr. Jerry Vincent, for the conference attended the very first VOSH Mexico clinic, led by Dr. Thomas Pruett, current VOSH Texas president, way back in 1981. Jerry told the audience that his experience in Mexico directed his optometric future into providing for the unserved. He spent his career in Thailand at one of the largest refugee facilities in the world and became the recognized expert in the field. He was named International Optometrist of the Year in about 2014. He stressed how important student involvement is in VOSH clinics and I am proud to say that almost every clinic we have conducted in the past 37 years has included optometry students. One of our most active members, Walter Branson, Guerrero Clinic Administrator, FVI (Fellow of VOSH International) and also a Franklin Harms Society member, spoke to the International group about our Guerrero clinics and invited participation.

Several of our clinics had R & R at Copper Canyon either by train or van before or after the clinics and this will continue to be a draw for volunteers because of the awesomeness of the canyon.

If you are not a member of VOSH Texas, we would love to include you in our group and an application is attached. (It is not necessary to be an optometrist to be a member.) The yearly dues of $35.00 are used to support VOSH International and to subsidize the costs of the trip for optometry (SVOSH) students. If you do not wish to become a member, but still would like to support our clinics, please use the following address: VOSH Texas, P. O. Box 293, Lake Jackson, TX 77566.

The 2018 spring clinic in Guerrero will be the week of March 4th.  You can find an application on our website: guerreroclinic.org

My sincerest thanks to all who helped make our year successful.

Thomas W. Pruett, OD

Updated COVID-19 and VOSH Humanitarian Clinics Advice

VOSH/International recently consulted its US and International Chapters about the feasibility and timing to restart our humanitarian clinics. While the vaccination process continues with different levels of success depending on availability and acceptance, it is evident that vaccine inequity and the availability and reliability of data in several countries are issues we need to consider.

Even if already vaccinated, our chapters are still concerned about the wellbeing of our volunteers and patients.  Some chapters, are organizing clinics locally where they are better able to comply with the existing safety requirements and respective state/country regulations.

The COVID-19 pandemic is being experienced quite differently depending on state, region, country, vaccine availability, vaccine acceptance, and the spread of SARS-COV-2 variants. Most VOSH chapters are not holding clinics or traveling internationally in 2021.

Thus, VOSH/International is slightly moderating its overall guidance against clinics and travel issued in late March 2020 and renewed in January 2021. This will be reviewed and communicated on a quarterly basis.

If a VOSH Chapter choses to hold a clinic or travel internationally, we highly recommend that the chapter performs due diligence to comply fully with the requirements established by the visited country, ensures all VOSH volunteers are aware of and follow strict safety guidelines and all existing protocols and regulations of the country, and keeps the principle of “do no harm” embedded in all its decision making. As always, the wellbeing and safety for VOSH volunteers and our patients is of utmost importance and central to any decision-making process. We have published our updated clinic guidelines with best practices to be observed in this new context. VOSH chapters in specific countries are using protocols that need to be considered as well. You can download VOSH/International clinic guidelines here.

*VOSH/International is formed by autonomous US and international chapters that are fully and only responsible for their activities, fundraising and decision-making.  VOSH/International can only provide recommendations based on our best knowledge and information at the time.

Also please keep checking the following sites with official and most recent updates:

World Health Organisation: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

US CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/when-to-delay-travel.html

US Government Travel Advise: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/COVID-19-Country-Specific-Information.html

Thank you for your hard work and dedication to improving vision and eye health throughout the world.

John Daniel Twelker, OD, PhD, FAAO, FVI

President, VOSH/International

July 2021