Article

THE ESSILOR #DIFFERENCEMAKERS

Meet 4 ecps who are changing lives by improving sight
2 days, 2,000 vision screenings: The #DifferenceMakers in Thailand
How can you make a difference?

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

“Service is the purpose of the soul.” I once saw award-winning author Terry Tempest Williams speak, and her words have stayed with me—and inspired me—for decades.

So, it was with humility that I accepted the opportunity to be a judge on Essilor’s #DifferenceMakers campaign to send four eyecare professionals who do incredible give-back work on a service trip to Southeast Asia. The work being done by the nominees was truly inspiring—they are making the world a better place by providing better vision for those who may not otherwise be able to afford care. Essilor also ran an internal #DifferenceMakers program for employees who do the most give-back work, and invited three of its own to join the trip—Darlene Ford, Kim Gromko, and Samara Monte.

I was honored to be invited to join the #DifferenceMakers on the service trip—facilitated by the Essilor Vision Foundation (EVF) team, which has built an impressive network around the world to provide eye care and eyewear to those in need. The trip—during which the #DifferenceMakers, local EVF team, and local optometry school students joined together to provide vision screenings for nearly 2,000 children—would become life-changing for me, and for many others.

In this special 4-page section, we chronicle that trip in photos, and we present the #DifferenceMakers, sharing their highly inspiring work and takeaways from the trip.

For those of you who leave these pages motivated to make a difference in your own community, the last page features Essilor Vision Foundation’s Changing Life through Lenses program, a simple step that will help you start making a difference, right away.

In Service,
Erinn Morgan
Editor-in-Chief, Eyecare Business

2 Days, Nearly 2,000 Vision Screenings. The #DifferenceMakers visit Surao Khlong Nung School + Wat Phraya Suren School outside Bangkok.

From top: Will Tantum, O.D., screening a young student; the #DifferenceMakers with Essilor’s Millicent Knight, O.D., at Surao Khlong Nung School; a student needing vision correction trying on frames; Hannah Cho, O.D., providing a screening; EB’s Erinn Morgan assisting Dr. Knight on the autorefractor; Aislynn Hall (right) and Essilor #DifferenceMaker Samara Monte with students in Thailand.

LEARN MORE:
ESSILORUSA.COM/DIFFERENCEMAKERS

SERGUL ERZURUM, M.D., OPHTHALMOLOGIST

In 1994, Dr. Erzurum became the first female partner at Eyecare Associates in Youngstown, OH, and she is also a professor of surgery at Northeast Ohio Medical University. An amazing spirit, she is a tireless advocate for vision care in her local community.

PLEASE TELL US ABOUT YOUR GIVEBACK INITIATIVE.

In 2016 my co-founder, Karen Segesto, and I started a 501(c)(3) organization called Sight for All United. The purpose was to assist people struggling with copays and deductibles. Over the last three years, it has morphed into so much more.

WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO GIVE BACK TO PROVIDE BETTER VISION FOR ALL?

When you have the ability to help someone, the knowledge that will heal someone, how can you withhold it based upon their ability to pay?

WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE ON THE #DIFFERENCEMAKERS TRIP?

We were able to see firsthand what Essilor is creating on a global level: a system that allows the community to be in charge of their own health initiative. It was powerful.

MOST POIGNANT MOMENT?

I am always most moved by the first moment of the first day. When you do a mission trip, you think you are doing it for “them,” but what you realize is that you are doing it for yourself. There is no greater emotion than gratitude and to see it coming from a thousand beautiful children is so powerful.

KEY TAKEAWAY?

I walked away inspired by the aggressive plans Essilor has made to improve sight in the world. It made me realize we all need to aspire even higher.

Sergul Erzurum, M.D.

WILL TANTUM, O.D.,+ AISLYNN HALL, OPTICIAN

In 2014, Dr. Tantum created LOVE Eye Care to help a former classmate open a mission clinic in Guatemala. Today, LOVE Eye Care has expanded to Haiti—as well as to Dr. Tantum’s own Blount County Eye Center (Maryville, TN) community, where at least one LOVE patient is seen weekly. As LOVE evolved, optical director and optician Aislynn Hall became involved. Here, Dr. Tantum shares his thoughts with feedback from Hall, too.

PLEASE TELL US ABOUT YOUR GIVEBACK INITIATIVE.

We run LOVE Eye Care, which provides no-cost eyecare and eyewear to people who have barriers to accessing care. We also run LOVE Little Eyes, which provides a voucher for every single child in our county to receive a comprehensive eye exam by third grade.

WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO GIVE BACK TO PROVIDE BETTER VISION FOR ALL?

Life is kinda boring if you keep it all to yourself! I love helping people. It keeps me going.

WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE ON THE #DIFFERENCEMAKERS TRIP?

I was blown away by just how far Essilor’s reach is with their mission work. It’s a message more of the eyecare community needs to hear about.

Aislynn: Getting to interact with the kids in the schools was life-changing for me, and to see some with higher prescriptions smile from ear to ear when they could see for the first time. I won’t forget those smiles.

MOST POIGNANT MOMENT?

The experience as a whole. The heat outside. The smiles of the kids. Hearing their laughter. Working alongside the other volunteers.

KEY TAKEAWAY?

We can do more. We should do more. We must do more. Together, we can accomplish great things to eliminate vision issues worldwide.

Will Tantum, O.D.,and Aislynn Hall, optician

HANNAH CHO, O.D.

After joining a mission trip to Haiti in 2016, Dr. Cho became passionate about helping others—later that year she established FLOE Optometry, a charity that donates eye exams, frames, and lenses to communities in need. She is also in private practice at For Love of Eyes Optometry in Irvine, CA, and is the COO and CMO at XP Health, joining to help innovate eye exams.

PLEASE TELL US ABOUT YOUR GIVEBACK INITIATIVE.

With my FLOE Optometry family, we try to go to Mexico every few months to donate exams and glasses. I’ve also created an optometry clinic in one of the largest Federally Qualified Health Centers in Southern California.

WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO GIVE BACK TO PROVIDE BETTER VISION FOR ALL?

It definitely has to do with my belief. I’m a Christian and one of Jesus’ commandments was to love one another…This profession has the ability to change people’s lives and it’s our responsibility to do so, regardless of the patients’ economic status.

WHAT WAS YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE ON THE #DIFFERENCEMAKERS TRIP?

It was one of those “once-in-a-lifetime” trips you have and it reminds you how big this world is. This trip made me excited to do a lot more charity work and create a business that can sustain my vision of creating 1 billion experiences.

MOST POIGNANT MOMENT?

My colleagues. We began as strangers and quickly became friends who I know we’ll keep in touch with forever…everyone came in with a serving posture, which was so humbling.

KEY TAKEAWAY?

I can and will do more.

Hannah Cho, O.D.

Inspired?

HERE’S HOW YOU CAN GIVE BACK, TOO.

Have the #DifferenceMakers inspired you?

If so, you will certainly not be alone.

If you’d like to join the movement to inspire change in your community or the world, the Essilor Vision Foundation has developed a program just for you.

Changing Life through Lenses is a unique charitable solution that provides no-cost eyewear to eye doctors who aim to expand charitable efforts within their own communities. Here’s what included:

» No-cost single-vision or bifocal eyewear for qualified patients

» Real-time account creation and access to immediate ordering

» A free trial collection of frames with 30 styles, sizes 42-58.

Visit changinglifethroughlenses.org to view the demonstration video + learn more.

Did You Know?

» It is estimated that over 10 million children in the U.S. need vision care—and half of them face barriers that prevent them from accessing it.

» Since Changing Life through Lenses was launched in September 2018, over 1,000 doctors have activated through the platform, supporting patients with 45,000 pairs of eyewear.

» Essilor Vision Foundation has provided over 1 million pairs of glasses to those in need since 2007.