FISH Providing Eye Care at an Affordable Cost
A team comprising a professor and optometry students from the University of Waterloo in Canada recently conducted outreach programmes at the Foundation for International Self-Help (FISH) Medical, Dental and Eye Clinic, located along Gordon Town Road in St Andrew. They have been visiting the island for more than 28 years.
These students have completed the optometry course at the university, but have not yet been granted a licence to practise in Canada. Their efforts at the FISH Clinic coincided with their
requisite requirements for graduation. Over the three-week period, while in the island, the team also visited other clinics, churches
and communities, where they screened persons for eye care, free of cost.
The FISH clinic not only serves the surrounding communities, including Papine, but other patients throughout Jamaica, including rural parishes such as Portland, St Thomas,
St Mary and St James. According to Marilyn Smith, clinical lecturer and optician and head of primary care externship at the University of Waterloo, the programme, over the years, has been a success, as the students gain information and experience that they would not have had otherwise.
"We see 300 to 500 persons while we are here, including schoolchildren who would not have eye care under normal circumstances. Our students get to see persons with some issues that we would not necessarily see in Canada," Smith said.
The students also assisted persons not only in the Corporate Area, but they also visited Portland, St Thomas, St Mary and St James. The patients were examined for eye care, following which, persons were referred to the resident ophthalmologist at the clinic.
"Some of the persons who we have seen also have issues that they are unaware of and would not have been able to afford the eye screening they were offered," Smith said.
Since it began in 1985, one of the objectives of the FISH clinic has been to provide health care to persons who cannot afford private medical care. This has been made possible through the many volunteers, both locally and overseas, who have offered their services in various areas.
Dr Juliane Watson, optometrist with the team, said they visited with patients who were doing quite well and others who were in need of critical care. "The patients have responded very well and are appreciative of the care. The students have done very well also in identifying some of these issues," Watson said.
One of the interns, Dr Kelsey Snow, conducted a meticulous screening session with a member of our team and provided pertinent information relating to the care of the eyes. "This is the best possible way to end optometry school. I have always wanted to help persons see through their eyes, and it is great to be in health care where you do not have to do surgery on someone, as in, we do not have to open someone up," Snow said.
The FISH clinic started its early days of operation out of an old passenger bus on a plot of rented land. Today, the clinic consists of sprawling buildings, some of which were recently built, and offers a variety of services, with eye care being its main speciality.