Snapshot Interview:
Dr. Andrew Kohn

Get inspired and learn a little bit more about your fellow VOSH-Illinois volunteers.

This month we are talking to Dr. Andrew Kohn

Dr. Andrew Kohn has served as the president of VOSH-Illinois since 2016 but has been involved with the organization since his days as a student at Indiana University. He has participated in many VOSH trips, including international clinics to Guanajuato, Mexico City and Oaxaca. In addition to serving as president, Dr. Kohn is the owner of Wilmette Eye Care in the North Shore of Chicagoland.

“The phenomenal volunteers and doctors who created VOSH-Illinois were such trailblazers and I have a great deal of admiration for them.”

What motivated you to initially become involved in VOSH-Illinois?
I had always been interested in participating in volunteer groups. Particularly organizations with an international focus as I saw what a dramatic level of need existed in heavily impoverished and developing nations. One of the most influential experiences of my life was traveling to Honduras to build housing in rural areas. It completely redefined my perspective on so many things. Once I started optometry school, becoming involved in VOSH seemed like a natural way to apply my education to help others.

How long have you been active in VOSH-Illinois and what has motivated you to stay involved all these years?
I first became involved with the SVOSH chapter at the Indiana School of Optometry as a student in 2006. I had such a positive experience that I sought out membership in VOSH Illinois as soon as I moved to Chicago in 2010.

What have been your greatest accomplishments in VOSH-Illinois or as an optometrist (or volunteer) in general?
This isn’t really an accomplishment but getting to participate in VOSH alongside my wife has been a thrill. She became involved and went on her first VOSH trip to Oaxaca, Mexico in November of 2014. Watching such a talented doctor help so many patients in such great need was incredibly rewarding.

What have you learned from being involved in VOSH-Illinois?
As a student volunteer, I did not have a very good appreciation of the history of VOSH. Since becoming the president of VOSH Illinois, I was able to learn so much more about the founding and history of our chapter. The phenomenal volunteers and doctors who created VOSH Illinois were such trailblazers and I have a great deal of admiration for them. Many of them went on dozens of trips, helped thousands of patients and went on to participate in VOSH International as well.

What have been the biggest changes in VOSH-Illinois since you first became involved?
I think it has to be the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic. Remote meetings, travel advisories, cancelled clinics etc. It’s required us to pivot in several ways and some of them, such as Zoom board meetings, will likely be here to stay.

What do you see as VOSH-Illinois accomplishments and goals in the next 5 years?
One of the things I’m most proud of during my time as president has been connecting with the SVOSH chapters in Illinois. Our very own vice president, Dr. Abby Gonsalves, was a former SVOSH president at ICO prior to becoming involved with VOSH Illinois. Moving forward, I think these connections will only become stronger.

What advice would you give to student ODs who are interested in being involved with VOSH-Illinois?
Go for it! Absolutely no one regrets getting involved. Once you go on that first trip or participate in that first clinic, you’re hooked. And whatever reservations you had will be completely gone. I was lucky enough to speak to the graduating fourth year optometry students at Midwestern earlier in the summer. I told them that their clinical skills are a gift which will reward them for a lifetime and a career. But they are also a very unique means with which to help others that very few people have. VOSH is a great way to facilitate this very thing.