A vision to volunteer

DMU students love to pursue volunteer opportunities that tap their clinical skills. Yet the need for appropriate oversight and documentation can create barriers for community medicine projects. So when Kristin Randa, D.O.’18, proposed on-campus training with Prevent Blindness Iowa, the partnership felt like a perfect fit.

DMU students learned screening techniques as part of the nationally recognized training to prevent blindness.Randa, who volunteered with Prevent Blindness Wisconsin while an undergraduate student, was eager to connect her DMU classmates with the cause. She worked with the community relations department to coordinate training, which was also attended by students in the Waukee Aspiring Professionals Experience (APEX) program.

“The students trained as certified vision screeners, who are able to provide free vision screening to children in the community,” says Jeanne Burmeister, executive director for Prevent Blindness Iowa. “The goal is to detect vision problems early, when treatment is more likely to be successful.”

The Waukee APEX program embeds high school students in the Des Moines business community. This year, 12 participating students come to the DMU campus daily to explore topics in the health sciences and medicine.

Volunteers for the Prevent Blindness Iowa session learned chart-based and equipment-based screening techniques as part of the nationally recognized training. Their instruction also touched on interpersonal skills for working with a pediatric population, a topic of interest for the student volunteers.

“A lot of our classes don’t really teach the best way to interact in a way that will make a patient comfortable,” says Qadija Qadri, D.O.’19. She and other participants appreciated that the scope of the training extended beyond the standard Snellen eye chart.

For Randa, a former certified nursing assistant (CNA) who hopes to become an ophthalmologist after graduating from DMU, the volunteer opportunity is yet another way to connect with her passion for vision.

“Sight is something people take for granted,” she says. “When I worked as a CNA in a traumatic brain injury rehab hospital, vision was the main sense for the patients. People couldn’t hear or talk, but as soon as they saw their family’s faces, they were smiling. It made me feel that sight is something we need to work to preserve.”

Faculty and staff are also involved in Prevent Blindness Iowa. George Clavenna, D.O., an ophthalmologist at the DMU Clinic, is a past board member for the organization, and Philip Blumberg, DMU Clinic operations administrator, currently serves on the board.

“I appreciate that Kristin came forward with an idea that will provide a sustainable volunteer connection with Prevent Blindness Iowa,” says Brianne Sanchez, M.P.A., community relations manager. “I hope to extend future training opportunity to employees as an avenue for utilizing community service leave time, too.”

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