Sandwich Doctor Travels to Tanzania with Gift of Sight

Dr. Caitlin McQueen part of team that provided over 3,500 eye exams...
Dr. Caitlin McQueen of Sandwich (Courtesy of Delaware Valley University)

From Delaware Valley University:

Dr. Caitlin McQueen '12 knows what it is like to change a person's life for the better. In May 2017, she was part of a team of doctors and students that provided more than 3,500 eye exams in Tanzania. She spent 10 days in the city of Dar Es Salaam serving patients who did not have access to vision care.

Dr. McQueen will never forget the feeling of handing a patient her first pair of glasses.

"When I gave one woman a pair of glasses, she excitedly put them on and began grabbing my hands and embracing me," said Dr. McQueen. "She repeatedly thanked me for allowing her to see for the first time. She told me to remember no matter where I was in the world throughout my life, that the people of Tanzania were thankful for me and for the work I was doing. It brought me to tears. We often take the gift of sight for granted."

Dr. McQueen graduated from Delaware Valley University's pre-professional biology program. She then enrolled at Salus University where she earned her Doctor of Optometry in 2017. She was selected to go to Tanzania through her optometry school. The American Optometric Student Association and Luxottica, an eyewear company, funded the trip. Luxottica provided exam equipment, frames and lenses for the clinic.

Dr. McQueen said being a part of the team in Tanzania was "incredibly humbling." She said she treated patients who walked barefoot for miles in water up to their knees just to have an eye exam. Some even traveled from the surrounding islands to bring their families to the clinic.

"Many had never owned a pair of glasses and weren't able to read, write, or complete tasks like sewing because of their vision," said Dr. McQueen.

She said she will never forget the patients in Tanzania.

"They were some of the most grateful and appreciative people I have ever met," said Dr. McQueen.

Dr. McQueen found her path in optometry after coming to DelVal. She chose to transfer to DelVal from a larger university as a sophomore because the small classes and community appealed to her.

"I knew that DelVal would provide the best hands-on experience," said Dr. McQueen. "The scope of classes amazed me. In my first year at DelVal, I was able to perform surgery and manage post-operative care of rats."

At DelVal, she realized she wanted to pursue a career in medicine. So, she decided to major in pre-professional biology. Through the program, she began taking science courses designed to prepare students for graduate and professional programs.

"The science courses I completed at DelVal challenged me to become a better student and thinker," said Dr. McQueen.

She enjoyed taking Dr. Kathryn Ponnock's Human Anatomy, Physiology and Embryology courses most.

"They were the most difficult classes I took in my undergraduate career. Dr. Ponnock forced me to learn material instead of memorizing it," said Dr. McQueen. "Because of this, I had a much easier time in graduate school."

Dr. McQueen is now working with her father, who is also an optometrist, at a practice in Massachusetts. She's planning to help him grow the practice in the future. Dr. McQueen said her DelVal education helped put her on the path to achieving her goals.

"My DelVal education was the perfect stepping stone to optometry school," said Dr. McQueen.


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