I came to the United States from Korea when I was 14 years old. I did not come from a wealthy family, and frequently needed a place to stay during school breaks. When people kindly opened their homes to me, I asked how I could repay them. Their answer always was, “Help others in need when you can.”
Fast forward to 2014, when I became a resident at OHSU Casey Eye Institute. Casey’s commitment to community service was one of the reasons I was attracted to its residency program.
For example, Casey operates an outreach van that travels across Oregon to provide free dilated eye exams to medically underserved adults.
When I was given the opportunity to have an elective rotation on the Casey van, I jumped at the chance to be part of this effort.
In August, a team that included Casey outreach medical director Mitchell Brinks, M.D., M.P.H., my wife, sister, and three other volunteers spent a week traveling to three tribal health clinics in remote areas where the van had never before visited.
The team was met with enthusiasm and gratitude. One woman, when asked what the van meant to her, began to cry and said, “Tears of joy.”
Another patient considered us a godsend. Despite blurry vision, she had not seen an eye doctor in 15 years because she could not afford the cost of an eye exam or eyeglasses.
The word “godsend” means a lot to me. It reminds me of when people helped me in times of desperation. I believe they were literally sent to me by God. And I feel very privileged that I can pay that generosity forward.
Yet many may not realize how much we gain from the experience. The van is literally a vehicle for Casey and its volunteers to make a positive impact on the lives of individuals and the health of their communities.
It’s truly an honor and privilege to be part of Casey, which has empowered me to make my dream and passion become reality!
Dong-Wouk Park, M.D., is a second-year ophthalmology resident at OHSU Casey Eye Institute.