Jackson Roberts: Medical Volunteer
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Fifty people are crammed into an air conditioner-less church. The heat is unbearable. A man incessantly touches his eye, trying to indicate that it’s numb. Despite the language barrier, a small medical team soon understands the man’s message and begins to treat him. Among nearly five other medics treating approximately 50 victims in the church, senior Jackson Roberts begins to work.
Roberts spent part of the past summer on a medical volunteering trip to Roatan, Honduras. Organized and led by the Director of the division of Global Ophthalmology at the University of Virginia, Dr. David Khorram, the nine-day trip started in June, including Roberts, a student from another high school and two medical school students. “We worked at the Vessels of Mercy Clinic [performing] cataract surgeries, pterygium surgeries and evisceration surgeries,” Roberts said.
The team was able to complete about 50 surgeries. “Personally I took blood sugar levels, eye pressure levels, did glaucoma tests and vision screenings,” he said.
Roberts discovered the medical opportunity from his aunt, who had found a Facebook post describing the trip. After contacting Khorram, who had been looking for potentially interested students, Roberts was able to apply, as the application was largely informal. “He goes on trips like this all the time to try to give students who are interested in ophthalmology experience,” Roberts said.
Leading up to the trip, Khorram gave coursework to the students. This was a step further into volunteering programs for Roberts as last summer he took a public health volunteering trip to Washington D.C., working with a free clinic for refugees and the homeless.
While he is not sure about going into the medical field, Roberts wants his career to center around being of service to others.
“We had to do surgeries on people who remove their eyes, when in the U.S. you can just take pills that would help your eye to heal, but over there they didn’t have the necessary medications so the guy doesn’t have his eyes anymore,” Roberts said. “I was able to witness real economic and medical disparities and real problems that need to be fixed.”
Roberts’ dedication to helping others is apparent to those around him such as junior Sarah Linton (his girlfriend) and history teacher Mike Mikulec.
“Jackson is somebody who I’m proud to call a student and a friend,” Mikulec said, “I know from what I’ve seen [teaching him] he was always one of those kids that was always helping others, helping explain concepts and things like that, and he seems to be one of the first people to go out of his way to help others.”
“He has a huge heart for others,” Linton said, “He does so much good for people literally all around the world and I can tell it’s something he really is passionate about.”
Roberts is thinking about continuing his volunteering trips throughout college. “The school I’m going to (Duke University) has a program where they fund you to go anywhere in the world you want to and do some kind of service initiative with other kids,” he said.