As an ophthalmologist practicing in Youngstown, Sergul Erzurum, M.D., is concerned about the barriers to care that she observes every day.
“Patients are often unable to access care because they are denied by their insurance company. They have sky-high deductibles, or they have inadequate resources,’’ says Dr. Erzurum. To counter these problems, Dr. Erzurum and co-founder Karen Hauser of PNC Wealth Management have established a foundation, known as Sight for All, a non-profit organization that provides vision care to people who are uninsured or under-insured and have few or no other health care options.
Through Doctors for Sight, an important arm of Sight for All, a cohort of 36 optometrists and ophthalmologists volunteer their services to help their patients. Goodwill Industries and Lions Clubs International also support and collaborate with Sight for All.
Last spring, as officers of the Ophthalmology Interest Group at NEOMED, Kathleen Spitz and Sohaib Awan—both second-year College of Medicine students—were recruited by the enthusiastic Dr. Erzurum to start Students for Sight to support Sight for All. Now the two students serve as co-presidents of the student organization.
Students Contribute to Eye Ball’s Success
Earlier this month, NEOMED students helped Dr. Erzurum stage a fundraising event to launch Sight for All. The event was lightheartedly named the Eye Ball of the Mahoning Valley, but it served the serious purpose of providing vision care to those who can’t afford it.
Krish and Karan Dewan, twins who are first-year College of Medicine students, were among the dozen NEOMED students who assisted at the Eye Ball. “Our father is an ophthalmologist, so over the years we have developed a unique appreciation for the gift of sight and how much it really means to those who receive it. We loved the idea of being able to volunteer to an organization that worked towards giving that gift,’’ says Krish.
“You can tell that Dr. Erzurum really cares about people,’’ says Spitz. And the ophthalmologist’s mission seems to resonate with many NEOMED students. At the fall student organizations fair, about 30 students signed up to join the new Students for Sight group.
The student organization meshes well with Spitz’s own interest in ophthalmology, which she has already begun cultivating. While doing research at the Cleveland Clinic over the summer, she was excited to have the opportunity to observe eye surgery on a teenage patient—and was struck by the difference that the outcome potentially could make.
Spitz sees a great fit between the community mission of Dr. Erzurum’s non-profit and NEOMED students’ interest in community service. The next step? Easy: “We’ll see how else we can help.’’
Students who are interested in participating in Students for Sight may contact Kathleen Spitz at email@example.com.
A Sight for All office is now open in the Goodwill Industries office, 2747 Belmont Ave., Liberty, Ohio. To receive more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website.