Snapshot Interview:
Dr. Jennifer Kohn

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

This month we are talking to Dr. Jennifer Kohn

Dr. Jennifer Kohn was born and raised in Valparaiso, Indiana.  She earned her Optometric Doctorate from the Indiana School of Optometry in 2008. During optometry school, Dr. Jen served on the IU Student Organization committee and advocated for student and optometric rights in Washington, D.C. Post graduation, she continues to advocate for the health and safety of patients as the Northwest Trustee for the Indiana Optometric Association and for legislative rights for optometrists and patients on the Federal Advocacy Committee with the American Optometric Association. She was a founding member of the Young Optometry Leadership Organization in Indiana and is a board member for Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity in IL, where she volunteers her time providing eye care to underserved communities. For her dedication, Dr. Jen was honored with the Young Optometrist of the Year Award for Indiana in 2018 and subsequently earned the national title of Young Optometrist of the Year in 2019. 

Dr. Jen is the Chief Operations Officer at Moses Eyecare when she manages 100+ staff members, 14 doctors and 11 offices. When she isn’t working, Dr. Jen enjoys outdoor sports, scuba diving, reading, traveling and spending time with her husband, Andrew, and her dog, Miller.

“The motivation is easy. It is the smile on the faces of those you get to help. It is good for your soul.”

What motivated you to initially become involved in VOSH-Illinois?
Honestly? It was my husband. Dr. Andrew Kohn, current VOSH-IL president, has such a big heart and has such a passion for volunteering. He asked me to volunteer and after the first trip I was hooked!

How long have you been active in VOSH-Illinois and what has motivated you to stay involved all these years?
I have been involved with VOSH for several years now both as a volunteer and a board member. The motivation is easy. It is the smile on the faces of those you get to help. It is good for your soul.

What have been your greatest accomplishments in VOSH-Illinois or as an optometrist in general?
I feel like I have been blessed in my time as an optometrist. I was given the honor of IN Young OD of the year in 2018 and the AOA Young OD of the year in 2019 which was an overwhelming and exciting experience. I would like to think that my greatest accomplishments are still yet to come!

What have you learned from being involved in VOSH-Illinois?
Perspective. 100%. We get bogged down with the day to day grind and sometimes we lose sight of just how fortunate we are. When we have patients upset about how long their glasses took or frustrated that they have to wear bifocals now, it wears us down. But volunteering in clinics and seeing the appreciation for a long overdue pair of glasses reminds you why you love this profession. Even when it’s not perfect, these patients are thankful. I come back from clinics feeling thankful for the little things and recharged with purpose.

What advice would you give to student ODs who are interested in being involved with VOSH-Illinois?
Do it! Do not let your apprehensions or fears get in the way. There are so many other people there to help guide you. It is a rewarding experience unlike any other.

Tell us a bit about your mission trip clinic(s)? What are the biggest challenges and rewards of participating in VOSH clinics?
On my first trip I had several experiences that opened my eyes and my heart to VOSH. We were in Oaxaca, Mexico and at the time I did not speak a word of Spanish. I was way out of my league and just trying to do my best. We were 200 patients into the day (and not even close to halfway) and I thought, “what am I doing here??” So, a young woman walks up and sits in my chair and when I looked at her form and I saw we were roughly the same age. The translator helped me to understand that she had never worn glasses and was having trouble seeing. After her retinoscopy and refraction, her vision was much improved, and I was feeling really good about this patient! Then, this woman who was the same age as I started bawling. All I could think was, “oh no! What did I do?” Of course, I couldn’t communicate with her despite my best hand gestures and throwing tissues at her. Luckily, the translator across the room registered the panic on my face and came running over. It so happens that these were tears of joy. She went on to explain how she had an accident as a child and afterwards couldn’t see well. She never had glasses because she didn’t think they would help. After my exam, she saw clearly for the first time in as long as she could remember. She was crying with excitement and the idea that she would see her children’s’ faces clearly for the first time ever. Now, I am not an emotional person, but at this point I was bawling right along with her. We hugged and cried and, in that moment, I understood the power of VOSH.

One Comment

  1. January 31, 2022

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