I think a lot of people use the new year as a chance to either pick out their biggest insecurities or to contemplate all the things that didn’t go according to plan over the past year. At the stroke of Midnight they vow that this year will be the year that everything changes. Because I am not immune to this mindset, I contemplated the last year of my life and shocked myself with my revelations.
I began the year as a Senior completing my undergraduate education, unsure and anxious about what the next step would mean for me. Now, one year later I have had the amazing opportunity to engage in an organization that not only excites me but has drastically altered my perceptions of health and society. As a Vision Promoter at the Illinois Eye Institute Princeton Vision Clinic I have been allowed the opportunity to not only see health care in action but to personally experience the impact that a clinic like ours can provide.
The Princeton Vision Clinic offers services to every patient regardless of insurance status. No patient is every turned away, thus, the clinic has become an incredible resource for the community. My perceptions of society were altered quickly following my first couple of weeks of service. I began to recognize that the barriers to receiving health care are much more common and life-altering then I previously realized. I have spoken with patients who were thrilled to receive a simple eye exam, as they have been unable to receive care for years due to an inability to access a clinic such as ours. I have helped treat many children who have been maneuvering around the world without any sort of vision correction, unable to clearly see even one foot in front of themselves.I have seen patients that not only lacked eyeglasses, but also a home. We have served refugees and immigrants who left everything behind to seek a new life in this country. We have diagnosed and help connect several patients to affordable surgical care to prevent permanent blindness. However, what has surprised me the most through all of these experiences is the neverending optimism that our patients present every day. Regardless of their circumstances they are simply thrilled to receive a pair of glasses that will help them see more clearly.
As I look back on this it makes me think; should we be more concerned about how we can improve certain insecurities about ourselves, or should we turn our attention to improving our society so that every patient has the resources they need available to them?
I think it is about time we stop focusing on “New Year, New Me” but rather start working towards “New Year, New World”.
This blog post was written by NHC Chicago 2017-18 member Ashley Wehrheim.
Ashely is a Vision Promoter at the Illinois Eye Institute at Princeton Vision Clinic.