Hundreds of thousands of people were affected by the unprecedented destruction delivered by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, including optometry students, staff, and faculty at the University of Houston College of Optometry (UHCO), Inter American University of Puerto Rico (IAUPR)and Nova Southeastern University (Nova). In response to the disasters, the American Optometric Student Association (AOSA) and the American Optometric Association (AOA) worked together to develop a disaster relief fund for optometry students.
AOSA President Andy Mackner states, “As the storms played out, we couldn’t help but be concerned for our colleagues and classmates in Texas, Puerto Rico and Florida. That sense of uncertainty and the shattered sense of security they must have been experiencing can be overwhelming and it is especially important at these times that the optometry family reach out to both express, and show our support for those impacted.”
Chris Lopez, a fourth year OD/MS student at UHCO, had all of his notes and books from optometry school ruined when his garage flooded. Additionally, due to car flooding, he had mold growth in his vehicle and it was declared a total loss. However, he states, “Compared to what many people in the Houston and surrounding areas have been through, I consider myself to be extremely fortunate.” He adds, ”We lived through one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history. However, as is the case with many catastrophes, it is often through hardship that brings people and the strength of the human spirit together. My heart goes out to the first responders, as well as everyone who volunteered and did their part to help those in need, for they are heroes and deserve our recognition. I am confident that throughout this disaster and afterwards, the people of Texas will demonstrate camaraderie and resiliency.”
Jade McLachlin and Irina Yakubin, students at Nova and IAUPR, respectively, evacuated in the wake of hurricanes Irma and Maria. Jade was able to make it back to Florida safely, and Irina comments that IAUPR is still closed down for the foreseeable future. She adds, “The school has sustained severe damage and is projected to be closed for a month. The staff and administration are working hard to repair the damages and tweak the semester structure for students.”
Fortunately, the AOA and AOSA have taken steps to help those affected by the hurricanes. “Together, the AOA and AOSA are working to establish support and assistance for the students impacted. We must all step up and contribute to assist our fellow colleagues,” Mackner said.
How You Can Help
Optometry’s Fund for Disaster Relief, a program of Optometry Cares®—The AOA Foundation, is optometry’s exclusive financial support program to provide immediate assistance to optometrists and optometry students who are in need in the wake of natural disasters.
To support your friends and classmates, please consider making a donation today by clicking here, and selecting “Optometry’s Fund for Disaster Relief for Students” under Program Designation.