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From Behind the Desk to Behind the Autorefractor

By Pete Hanlin

A couple of weeks ago, I spent three days in Haiti helping to set up a sustainable vision clinic with my friend Dr. Dave Ziegler and Mission of Hope Haiti.

When I was a dispensing optician, I was able to see how I impacted people’s lives every time I helped troubleshoot a patient's visual problems or gave a child her first pair of glasses. But sometimes when you’re working for a large manufacturer, it can be difficult to feel like you're actually making a difference, even when your company’s mission is improving lives by improving sight.

In my 15 years with Essilor, I can honestly say our mission isn’t just words. The company encourages employees to actively volunteer with vision-related causes. So even though Mission of Hope Haiti isn't an Essilor-driven initiative, the company gave me time off to help another organization improve lives by improving sight.

Dave Ziegler, OD, with vision clinic staff Diana and Ezekiel

Because we were installing equipment on this trip, we were only able to see about 25 patients during our short stay. Several had cataracts that were so advanced their vision could not be significantly improved with eyewear (cataracts are the No. 1 cause of blindness in non-industrialized countries). However, we did have five patients who were living with significant refractive errors and required prescriptions high enough that they would be considered legally blind in the U.S. The shocking part? None had ever had eyewear before, so it was an incredible moment when they received custom eyeglasses with their exact prescription and could see clearly for the first time.

I’m lucky to work for a company that strives to fulfill its mission every day. Having the opportunity to put my scrubs on for a few days and be back on the front lines of improving sight reminds me why I am passionate about Essilor’s mission. More importantly, this experience brought our mission to life and made the difference for the Haitians who need vision care. When a 52-year-old woman who has never been able to see better than 20/400 put on a pair of glasses I just made and broke into laughter and delight as she saw 20/20 for the first time, I knew I’d just made the difference in every moment she'll have for the rest of her life. That moment will carry me through months of daily meetings!

Click here to take a tour of the Mission of Hope Haiti vision clinic. To learn how you can support this initiative, visit the Mission of Hope Haiti website.

Pete Hanlin, ABOM, is Senior Director Professional Solutions, Essilor of America, Inc. He has held numerous roles in his 15 years with the company. Prior to joining Essilor, Pete spent 15 years in the optical industry managing optical labs and optometric practices.