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Davis, California

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Student’s vision of change restores sight

Editor’s note:Earlier this month The Aggie published Thuy Tran’s first-hand account of her optometric mission in Vietnam. UC Davis junior Jasdeep Manik recently participated in a similar mission in India with nonprofit Unite for Sight.

Imagine looking through a clear plastic glass,filled with water.Now replace that water with milk.This is the world through the eyes of someone with a cataract.But with a$50surgical procedure,this blur can be restored to the clarity of water.

Jasdeep Manik,a junior neurobiology,physiology and behavior major,traveled to India in December to assist with these cataract operations.She went as a volunteer with Unite for Sight,anonprofit aimed at promoting international eye care and assistance.She is vicepresident of the UC Davis chapter.

The program requires each volunteer to raise a minimum of$1500to fund cataract surgeries as well as supply a minimum of300pairs of eyeglasses.With the help of her mother’s company,Manik raised$2120in about a month,and brought300eyeglasses to distribute to patients.The program also required her to take training courses on topics such as culture shock and eye health.

At the start of winter break,she flew to India,stopping first in Punjab to visit relatives.Manik began her volunteer work at the A.B.Eye Institute in Patna, a city in the state of Bahir,India. Under the direction of institutestaff Dr.Ajit Sinha, she tested blood pressures and conducted visual tests,as well as assisted with 35 to 40 of the cataract surgeries performed by institute doctors.During her10-day stay,she worked with637patients.

Cataract surgery involves a removal of the clouded lens and replacing it with a synthetic lens,according to the Mayo Clinic’s website. This surgery improves vision in 90 percent of patients.

She described patients who rely on sewing for income attempting to thread needles after surgery.

“[It is] amazing that in20minutes,they get their sight back,Manik said.

Without vision, she said, what work can you do?

During her stay in Bahir,Manik also visited a school for blind girls founded by Ajit.She remembered the girlsfriendliness,despite the tragedy of their blindness.

“The sad truth is that the girls that go [there],had they been diagnosed,it could have been prevented,she said.

According to the World Health Organization’s website,cataracts are the leading cause of blindness globally,despite the surgical procedure capable of removing them.

Manik credits her motivation to participate in the program to a lecture given by Andreas Toupadakis,a chemistry lecturer,as part of the Last Lecture Series.

Toupadakis said he encourages students to explore areas of interest by participating in activities such as internships.He said he considers Manik anincredible example for fellow students.” In a letter thanking him for his guidance, Manik said that his lecturemade[her] realize that life is a continuous journey of learning about oneself.

Initially intending to go medical school,Manik discovered her interest in optometry during her time at UC Davis.

Someone told me optometrists were really happy and I wanted to know why,Manik said of her first attraction to the field. She said that many diseases,such as diabetes,can be diagnosed through an eye examination.

Optometrists are like primary healthcare providers… guardians [for other problems],she said.

After graduation from UC Davis,Manik plans to attend optometry school. Her first choice, she said, is UC Berkeley because students get hands-on clinical experience on their first day.

Manik said she would eventually like to open her own practice. She currently volunteers her services at community health fairs.

“[This experience] just makes you realize there’s a great need; people can make a difference,she said.

For further information about participating in Unite for Sight,contact Jasdeep Manik at jkmanik@ucdavis.edu.

SARA JOHNSON can be reached at features@theaggie.org. 


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