By Dan Twelker, OD

One of the best reasons to go to a VOSH International meeting is to network with optometrists from around the world. While at the 2016 Annual VOSH International Meeting I met Carlos Martinez, Licenced Optometrist, and Emiliano Teran Bobadillo, PhD from the Autonomous University of Sinaloa in Culiacan. We discussed me visiting their program and giving a couple lectures. I applied for the SVOSH Mentorship Program grant through VOSH International and Optometry Giving Sight. The grant provided money for a couple retinoscopes, battery handles, a charger, lens bars, and a practice schematic eye. 

I took a direct flight from Phoenix, Arizona to Culiacan. On Thanksgiving morning I met four of the faculty for breakfast (see photo #1), Head of Dept, Lic Optom Carlos Martinez, Emiliano Teran Bobadillo, PhD, Lic Optom Rosalia Ramirez Jaimes, and Lic Optom Jorge Martinez. I toured the Licenciatura en Optometria building and classrooms (Photos #2 and #3). I gave a 2-hour lecture at the University on Retinoscopy and Refraction. (Photos #4 and #5). I emphasized the need for all optometrists to learn retinoscopy and be competent at a high level. 

The next day I gave a 2-hour on Treatments to Slow the Progressions of Myopia, including bifocals, contact lenses, and Atropine 0.01% solution. We discussed the role of sunlight and outdoor exposure. I gave the optometry instruments to Carlos Martinez, Head of the Optometry Department. In the afternoon we completed an outreach clinic to a local orphanage (Photos #6a and #6b). We screened 17 children and gave eye exams to 5 nuns who ran the orphanage, providing spectacles to those who needed them, and teaching the SVOSH members how to run a vision screening.

One very interesting development is a new social entrepreneur business called Salud Digna.  Francisco Gómez Salazar, who is a Manager at Salud Digna in Culiacán, Sinaloa, gave me a tour of the clinic. They now have clinics in almost every state, including Sonora and Sinaloa where we have worked extensively. Their mission is to “To contribute together with doctors, health professionals, employees, and volunteers so that people will have a better quality of life through the prevention and detection of disease, offering to our community diagnostic studies of the highest quality and lowest price, being sustainable in our operation.”

The clinic offers eye examinations at no charge and high quality single vision glasses at 160 pesos ($8 USD at the current exchange rate), bifocals at 180 pesos ($9), and progressive addition lenses at 400 pesos ($20). The glasses are made on premises and delivered within 45 minutes. They complete a risk profile based on age and family history to decide if an intraocular pressure check and fundus photos are needed. Most local optometrists do not support Salud Digna because they say it will run them out of business. Having said that, most optometrists or opticians wait in their office with little to do because their prices for spectacles are relatively high, only the upper middle class and upper class can afford them. Salud Digna offers high quality spectacles at a price all but the most poor could not afford, especially if they save up for a month or two. This could greatly increase access to vision care in Mexico.

The  Autonomous University of Sinaloa Licensed Optometry Program is now graduating highly educated students at the rate of 15 per year. This will greatly contribute to the visual health and access to vision care for the people of Mexico.

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