Volunteers with the student-operated Kansas City Free Eye Clinic (KCFEC) are working to extend free eye care to the city’s refugee community. The plan took a national stage in October when Ravali Gummi, a sixth-year medical student at UMKC, pitched the idea to more than 1,200 college students from across the globe and national leaders at the Clinton Global Initiative University.
The annual meeting is an event of the Clinton Foundation that brings together young visionaries from across the globe to discuss and explore global challenges.
Gummi serves as student clinic director of the KCFEC. Imran Nizamuddin, a fifth-year medical student, is the organization’s communications director. Both were invited to attend this year’s Clinton Global Initiative University in Boston based on a Commitment to Action plan submitted on behalf of the KCFEC.
In addition to being selected to attend the national meeting, their action plan, “A Vision for Our Refugees: The Efforts of a Free Eye Clinic,” was one of just five chosen for presentation on the main stage during the meeting’s opening session.
After making her presentation (that begins at 37:35 of the video), Gummi had the honor of shaking hands with former President Bill Clinton.
“The opportunity to speak on stage prompted many conversations through the rest of the weekend, as students approached us to ask more about our free eye clinic or to share their own efforts,” Gummi said.
In her presentation, Gummi explained how the KCFEC has treated more than 3,100 patients and distributed more than 1,000 pairs of free eye glasses since its inception eight years ago. Five years ago, the clinic moved to a location densely populated with homeless shelters to target local underserved populations.
“This year, we are seeking to reach the increasing number of refugees entering the Kansas City area and enhance their access to eye health care,” Gummi said.
During the Clinton Global Initiative University program, Gummi and Nizamuddin networked with other students, met with national leaders and learned about the diverse array of global challenges facing the world.
In 2009, KCFEC began in part as a commitment from Clinton Global Initiative University with a grant from the foundation. About 30 volunteers, including UMKC medical and physician assistant students, and Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences students, actively participate in the KCFEC.
In addition to the initiative to expand eye care to the refugee community, Gummi said the clinic is working toward starting a new mobile eye clinic to better serve patients for whom transportation is a barrier.