Fall arrives at 10:29 p.m. ET on Monday, September 22 this year. For many cultures, this time of year is seen as a period of transition, as the northern hemisphere progresses toward the winter solstice and the southern hemisphere looks forward to the summer season. And throughout history, the autumnal equinox in our half of the world has been observed as a time of preparation and reflection.

In Greek mythology, the autumn equinox marks the return of Persephone to the underworld to be with her husband Hades, where she must return after walking the Earth for half the year as the goddess of spring growth.

In China, the Moon Festival celebrates the harvest during the 15th full moon of the Chinese Year, which falls around the autumn equinox. In Japan, Buddhists observe higan, a memorial service when people visit family graves to comfort their ancestors’ spirits.

The arrival of the autumn equinox is also evidenced in the animal kingdom, especially in the migratory flight of many species of birds. It is during this time that the Arctic Tern makes its annual 11,000 mile trip south and the Bar-Headed Goose soars to heights above 28,000 feet (that’s over five miles up!) as they skim over the Himalayas on their way to warmer climes.

And we find ourselves doing our own part during this time of transition, preparation and reflection as we begin preparing our lawns and gardens for the change in seasons, pulling out our winter clothing from storage, and enjoying body-warming and soul-stirring soups and stews.

Yes, the arrival of autumn is indeed a time of change. I hope the return of cooler weather, longer nights and the anticipation of the upcoming holiday season finds you happy and healthy.

David R. McPhillips, OD, FVI

PS- If you are attending the upcoming Academy of Optometry meeting in beautiful New Orleans, please try to attend the VOSH International Annual Meeting, sponsored by National Vision.  The festivities start on October 8 when we honor World Sight Day by providing eye exams and eyeglasses during an outreach campaign in the 9th district from 8am-4pm.  Friday evening from 5pm-630pm we honor all Fellows of VOSH International at our Welcome reception at the Marriot Renaissance Arts Hotel.  The event is sponsored by SmartVision Labs and all are welcome to attend.  The meeting culminates on Saturday with our Annual Meeting from 8am-5pm, featuring an array of internationally renowned speakers talking about our theme “Creating Connections, Building Bridges…Together”.  Presentations will be by:

Drs. Susan Cooper, immediate past president of the World Council of Optometry,

Alvaro Alcala from the Association of Mexico Optometry Schools,

Christopher Quinn, vice president of the American Optometric Association,

Victoria Weiss of Remote Area Medical and

Luigi Bilotto of the Brien Holden Vision Institute.

Also featured are Mark Sachs of Restoring Vision, Greg Van Kirk of the New Development Solutions Group and Randal Avolio, CEO of Surgical Eye Expeditions.  After the afternoon awards presentations there will be breakout sessions on topics including new technology, partnering with sustainable eye clinics and membership retention and growth.

See you in NOLA for Lagniappe!

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