VOSH/International is pleased to announce that it is collaborating with Salus University to offer VOSH Corps optometrists scholarship opportunities for earning a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree while on their international placement. making its first placement in the newly established VOSH Corps program. The MPH degree is designed for future international optometric leaders with advanced knowledge and skills in developing and implementing sustainable vision programs worldwide. The program includes courses and projects such as cost-effectiveness analysis, humanitarian and refugee health, program implementation and evaluation, human rights, global health and leadership, and health policy. The program is delivered online with real world application through a capstone project adaptable to the VOSH placement.

Dr. Justin Manning, the first VOSH Corp placement, is currently enrolled in the MPH while serving on the faculty of the optometry school at UNAN-Managua, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua. The school has 124 optometry students who will be prepared to serve the unmet needs of communities throughout the country.

The goal of VOSH Corps is to build optometric education worldwide. VOSH Corps is in collaboration with the Brien Holden Vision Institute and is supported by Optometry Giving Sight.  Modeled after the Peace Corps program, graduates from North American optometry schools are recruited to serve in emerging optometric institutions around the world as faculty and program development assistants. 

When asked about his reasons for applying to VOSH Corps and his future plans, Dr. Manning said, “During my first Student VOSH trip (to Nicaragua of all places), I thought to myself, if there was any way I could make a living doing this, I would do it in a heartbeat. That sentiment only grew following my second SVOSH trip to Bolivia. Since those two trips, the dream to move abroad developed and when the opportunity to return to Nicaragua presented itself, I knew it was where we were meant to be.  Pursuing the Salus MPH has allowed me to apply my new public health skills and knowledge to my work in Nicaragua. The MPH has given me a public health framework and language to engage with the broader health community, sharing ideas, successes, and challenges that will lead to expanded strategies for long term sustainability. I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity through the MPH to engage in discussions with other health providers throughout the developed and developing world: sharing ideas, successes, and challenges from which we all can learn. It really has been an honor and privilege to be able to serve in such a meaningful capacity. I encourage others to continue this historical VOSH initiative.”

More information about VOSH Corps, including application information and the Salus MPH program, can be found at: http://vosh.org/vosh-corps/

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