The World Health Organization (and many other international health organizations) have determined that lack of eye-care is one of the most crucial needs of the underserved in developing countries, as optical care is seldom provided by most socialized medical systems.  Because refractive needs and other eye problems don’t necessarily cause immediate pain, eye care is often placed “on the back burner” of health care priorities when resources are limited—especially for children.  Through ISL thousands of the underserved have received eyewear and eye care utilizing socially responsible methodology.

ISL utilizes a combination of new and used eyewear distribution, in-home screenings/surveying, community clinics with ISL students and local optometrists, ISL subsidized referrals, as well as other venues for eye care education (schools, fairs, etc.) to accomplish the dual goals of providing both A) quality eye care for the underserved and B) appropriate, supervised field experience for students.

Pre-optometry and optometry students have two options of field service with ISL:

  1. “Optical” teams are dedicated solely to optical care as described above are listed on the ISL Team Schedule page.  See description of students’ activities and seminars below.
  2. Most general medical teams include an “eye-care station” which provides a series of screenings and, in many cases, distribution of reading glasses. Check with to make sure the general medical team you choose will be offering this opportunity for optometry service.

FIELD CLINICS AND SEMINARS All ISL teams are “service-learning” in the truest sense.  Experiential learning is the hallmark of Latin American health care training, and it is appropriate that we use their system of experiential instruction when working in their countries.

Examples of field activities and training seminars in which students participate:

  • Basic Eye Health Assessment and Screening Exam
  • Visual Acuity Assessment
  • Screening and measurement for possible refractive errors
  • Eye exam for disease or injury
  • Eye Health and Safety Information (information on hygiene, nutrition, UV protection, and injury)
  • Criteria for referring patients to eye care professionals
  • Interviewing the Patient
  • Preventive Practices
  • Measuring Distance Vision
  • Measuring Near Vision
  • Pinhole Occluder Testing
  • Screening for Binocular Dysfunction (Cover / Uncover Test)
  • Screening for Coordinated Eye Movement (Versions Test)
  • Screening for Limitations of Visual Field
  • Screening Color Vision
  • Screening for Acanthosis Nigricans
  • Measuring Pupillary Distance (PD)
  • Pterygium screening
  • Supervised use of ophthalmoscope and retinoscope

Additional seminars and learning activities (availability varies in different countries):

  • Comparative practices in the host country and the U.S.
  • Visits to a local optometry school and clinic
  • Opportunities to serve and socialize with local optometry students
  • Optometric Spanish
  • Optometric Public Health

The following factors should help you determine your level of participation:

  • The patient must agree to have you participate in their care.
  • Your field clinic supervisor can help you evaluate your capabilities.
  • The policies of the local Health Ministry or supervising school must be followed.
  • You can evaluate your own capabilities based on previous experience and training.  You may choose not to participate in any aspect of patient care.

Students can and should be a vital part of the provision of health services for the millions who do without – but remember: this experience is not about you.  It is about serving the underserved, while respecting their rights!

Other ISL Services and Provisions Included in Your Trip Cost

  • The services of a professional team manager in the U.S., who will be in constant communication with you, preparing you for your adventure
  • Professional itinerary planning in the country you will be serving
  • Direct supervision by a medical health professional at all times when assisting with care to patients
  • Safe and reliable transportation (including airport pick up and drop off)
  • All lodging
  • An average of two meals a day (for example, you may have all meals provided one day and only one on another day – you will receive a meal schedule)
  • Project coordination and evaluation
  • 24 hour emergency assistance
  • All equipment, materials and supplies for projects (unless otherwise indicated)
  • Professional bilingual medical staff
  • Professional bilingual team leader and team assistants
  • Highly qualified translators, as needed – 24 hours a day
  • Recreational activities (depending on country – see destinations); may include:  beach-time, volcano tours, zip lining, shopping, Mayan ruins, hiking, wildlife viewing, river tours, snorkeling, horseback riding, cultural activities, etc.
  • Your own copy of an optical care manual and general orientation guide
  • Evening group activities (seminars, debriefing of day’s activities, area cultural activities, local dance lessons, free-time, etc.)
  • Border and customs fees (does NOT include airport departure tax)
  • Entrance fees to national parks, museums, and tourist activities
  • Statement of volunteer service hours or letter of recommendation (offered on a case by case basis)
  • Financial aid available through our Good Samaritan Missions Sponsorship Program
  • Post-service-adventure follow-up and evaluation
  • The confidence, satisfaction, and assurance of success that comes with serving the under-served through ISL!

Upcoming optometry teams:

See more teams