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Alexis Schueller

School of Public Health, College of Charleston

2023 Intern: Welcome

April 2023

My experience as an intern at Operation Sight has been nothing short of wonderful. As a Charleston native studying Public Health at the College of Charleston, I felt strongly about choosing an internship site that addressed the health needs of our community. When I came across Operation Sight, I was immediately intrigued by their mission to restore vision and improve the lives of South Carolinians.

Operation Sight is a nonprofit organization tackling public health issues head on by serving financially vulnerable populations that experience a multitude of barriers to obtaining healthcare services. These common barriers include low socioeconomic status, difficulty accessing services, lack of health insurance, and cultural and language barriers. This internship has provided experience in applying my public health studies to “real world” scenarios through learning how a nonprofit operates, obtains funding, assesses community needs, and builds trusting relationships between program participants and partners. My time with the organization has heightened my awareness of how these barriers can impact an individuals’ quality of life and overall financial, emotional, and spiritual stability.

Many of the classes that I have taken as a senior Public Health major at the College complimented my internship at Operation Sight. In my Global Health class, we discussed the Healthy People 2030 goal of increasing access to vision services globally, in order to prevent the burden that cataract development has on a person’s vision and ability to perform everyday activities, such as working, driving, and cooking. I was able to take a class that examined the U.S. healthcare delivery system, where I learned more about how health conditions may have a greater impact on certain populations and groups due to a lack of resources. In an “Introduction to Public Health” section, we discussed the social determinants of health. These determinants have a direct impact on health at an individual and community level. Factors include the conditions that a person lives, works, plays, and is educated. These factors directly influence health outcomes and one’s ability to access health care when necessary. Programs with missions similar to Operation Sight’s are key to supporting the quality of life of individuals. Underserved populations often lack access to resources for preventative care and health improvement services. Operation Sight lifts that burden by providing low income uninsured individuals with free eye care.

As an intern at Operation Sight, I was responsible for a variety of tasks. These included filing and organizing paperwork, reaching out to participants to conduct a post-operative Quality of Life survey, participant re-enrollment, mailing application packets, and updating the data system. The Executive Director, Taryn, also introduced readings that were helpful in understanding how to better serve every population. By working closely with Taryn, I was introduced to new concepts and was able to play a small role in advancing the organization’s mission.

My favorite task was conducting and entering the post-operative Quality of Life survey data and testimonials. These surveys give the participants the opportunity to share their experience with Operation Sight, offer feedback on the organization’s performance, and discuss the impact that the surgery has had on them. In the 4 months that I was able to work with Operation Sight, I spoke with several participants about their improved quality of life following their surgeries. I connected with a participant that emphasized her gratitude towards the program and shared her experience as someone with restored vision after years of cloudy, blurred, and dull vision. She shared that, since her cataract surgeries with Operation Sight, she is able to see her grandson’s face more clearly and has regained her independent lifestyle. This made me more aware of how the quality of an individual’s vision can greatly impact their quality of life. I also realized that some people may not have realized how drastically their vision had worsened until it was restored. Many of the participants spoke about how the loss of vision impacted their ability to drive, hold or obtain employment, and increased their dependence on family members for everyday tasks. From regaining the ability to drive and work, to being able to see their grandbaby’s face more clearly, each participant adds to the overwhelming list of abilities that Operation Sight and it's team of volunteers, staff, and supporters has gifted them with.

Compassion is essential to an internship position at Operation Sight. Taryn emphasized how important it is to have and to show compassion, empathy, and an understanding to each individual in every interaction. I viewed myself as a compassionate person, but I was able to understand what it means to show compassion to others in a professional space.

Overall, I am very grateful for my internship experience at Operation Sight.I really enjoyed being able to apply my public health studies, while getting a glimpse of what it takes to operate a successful nonprofit organization. Taryn was extremely helpful, informative, and knowledgeable. She offered both professional and academic guidance throughout my time interning. This internship has solidified my choice to continue public health efforts in a field that works closely with individuals that experience hardships and poverty. This experience has also validated my interest in pursuing graduate school. I am able to see how furthering my education may allow me to play a bigger role and have a greater impact in serving community needs, as Operation Sight continues to do.

My internship at Operation Sight has been truly wonderful and allowed me to see how gratifying and rewarding it can be to work with specific populations that experience a multitude of disparities.

2023 Intern: Projects
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