Snapshot Interview:
Dr. Christina DalPorto

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

This month we are talking to Dr. Christina DalPorto

Dr. Christina DalPorto is a La Grange, Illinois native who pursued her dream of becoming an optometrist since the 10th grade. Dr. DalPorto received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Iowa and subsequently completed her Doctorate at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry. She pursued residency training within the V.A. Palo Alto Health Care System, specializing in Primary Care and Brain Injury Vision Rehabilitation, and has additional clinical experience in the fields of Pediatric Optometry and Vision Therapy from The Eye Institute in Philadelphia. In the fall of 2019, Dr. DalPorto became a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry. Dr. DalPorto has volunteered with Volunteer Optometric Service to Humanity since 2011. In her spare time, Dr. DalPorto loves to travel, exercise, bake, and spend time with family and friends.

“We all have something that we can offer to others and I think it’s beautiful when people realize their gifts/talents and share them with others.”

What motivated you to initially become involved in VOSH-Illinois?

From a young age, my parents instilled in me the importance of service and volunteerism. We all have something that we can offer to others and I think it’s beautiful when people realize their gifts/talents and share them with others. My passion for optometry and my desire to share that with others in a meaningful way is what drew me to Student Optometric Service to Humanity (SOSH) when I was in optometry school. My experience on that trip was very rewarding and led me to pursue volunteer opportunities with VOSH after graduating. Including my years as a student, I have been involved in VOSH for 12 years.

What have you learned from being involved in VOSH-Illinois?

It has reinforced the true gift of sight and access to healthcare and how fortunate most of us are to have both. VOSH clinics always put life into perspective. Everyone deserves to be cared for and it’s often startling to see patients who are in such dire need, but don’t have the means or the access to have their needs fulfilled. I’ve also been inspired by the volunteers- both those within VOSH and the local volunteers who help at the clinics. I learned that while there is great need and great poverty, there are also so many wonderful people with huge hearts who give back.

What advice would you give to student ODs who are interested in being involved with VOSH-Illinois?

I would encourage them to get involved! VOSH is an incredible organization that allows you to use your knowledge and skill for the greater good. It’s an opportunity to hone your clinical skills and to think outside the box when you don’t have as much technology at your disposal. It’s also a great way to expand your horizons, step out of your comfort zone, and serve others while working alongside your colleagues.

Tell us a bit about your mission trip clinic(s)? What are the biggest challenges and rewards of participating in VOSH clinics?

I’ve been fortunate to travel on VOSH mission trips to Haiti on one occasion and Kenya on two occasions. I think that the challenges and the rewards all become one in the same at some point. Exams are often done in tents with minimal equipment and no access to electricity, which poses a challenge. Yet, there are always bright minds and teamwork that ultimately overcomes those challenges. The other challenge is not having enough time to serve everyone. There are so many in need and it often feels like we’ve only made a small ripple in a huge ocean. However, the reward is that at least we’ve made some impact. For those whom we’ve helped, it’s often life changing.

What have been your greatest accomplishments in VOSH-Illinois or as an optometrist in general?

Of course, helping patients in need of glasses is a great accomplishment and I’m always inspired by the patients and their stories. One in particular that stands out was a young girl who had never worn glasses and was a -12.00 OU. The look on her face and the smile she had when she tried on glasses for the first time reminded me of why VOSH is so necessary. Additionally, I find staying in touch with some of the local volunteers and patients has also been somewhat of an accomplishment- staying connected after the trip is over and being reminded of their reality after returning home to my “routine.” I also found a sense of accomplishment in fundraising for the trips. I organized a 5K run to fundraise for the trip to Haiti, and that was a really great learning experience.

Would you like to add anything else about your experiences with VOSH? Perhaps you could share a brief story or experience that affected you during a VOSH clinic?

I had one very impactful experience during a VOSH clinic in Kenya. We were wrapping up for the evening and some of the local volunteers ran in as we were cleaning up to tell us that a blind man had been traveling all day by himself to see us in the hopes that we could get him a pair of glasses to help him see again. After I completed his exam, I had to give him the difficult news that he had end-stage glaucoma and couldn’t regain his sight, even with glasses. He was shocked, and his first question was, “does that mean I’ll never get to read my Bible again?” I nearly started crying from his devastated tone. After returning home, I couldn’t stop thinking about this gentleman and how his hopes had been shattered. I was talking to my Mom about the situation, and she suggested that we send him an audio Bible. Unfortunately, since he came in after the clinic was “closed,” I didn’t have any information about him; I didn’t even know his name. I reached out to two of the local volunteers and after several weeks they were able to track him down! They ultimately ensured that he received the audio Bible and walking cane that we had sent and they even sent a video of the exchange. He was overjoyed when he heard the audio Bible start. If it weren’t for the kindness and generosity of those around me, I probably still would be wondering about this man. It was inspiring to see people come together across continents to help someone in need.

What else do you do other than VOSH related activities? What do you do in your spare time? What do you do for fun?

I really enjoy exercising! I try to do at least one running/cycling/triathlon race per year, so I’m typically training for something, which keeps it exciting and fresh!