Student Emma Zgonc selected as a Unite for Sight Global Impact Fellow

Emma Zgonc
Debra McBride
January 22, 2020

Emma Zgonc, a Sociology Major in the Honors Tutorial College and a Master of Global Health student, has been selected to be part of the Unite for Sight Global Impact Corps this summer in Ghana.  Emma stated, “I was looking for opportunities to complete my master’s scholarly project and found Unite for Sight, an established non-profit, that offers volunteer and research opportunities in Ghana, India and Honduras. Unite for Sight partners with and supports eye clinics worldwide and it seemed like a good fit with my background in diabetes advocacy and education.”

As a Global Impact Fellow, Emma will spend July 8 – August 11 in Accra, Ghana, volunteering alongside local ophthalmologists to deliver eye care services.  She will also be working with local partners and doctors to develop a related research project to meet local community needs. Research project examples might be looking at barriers to eye care or exploring local perceptions about cataract surgery.  Emma plans to collect research data while in Ghana and will analyze and write up her research upon return. Being a Global Impact Fellow will help Emma meet her dual goals of improving her research skills and gaining additional experience working in other countries and cultures.   

During her experience and research, Emma hopes to see some relationship to diabetic retinopathy due to her interest and past experiences with diabetes.  Emma has traveled before to volunteer with the non-profit AYUDA to assist with diabetes education in the Dominican Republic. She has also been involved in the Ohio University College Diabetes Network, trained through the Diabetes Institute to be a Peer Support Mentor to a local child with type 1 diabetes and has advocated to congress on lowering insulin pricing. 

During her first global health experience in the Dominican Republic, Emma stated, “I thought I knew everything about diabetes, but soon learned that wasn’t true.  You have to go into another country and project humbly and with an open mind to be able to take in everything and learn.”  Her advice to others is to “Do your research before you go.  You can never be completely prepared.  Be ready to learn and partner with people to get the best experience.”

Unite for Sight partners with and supports eye clinics worldwide.  Programs are locally managed by ophthalmologists at partner eye clinics.  Year round services include eye examinations, diagnosis and care, follow-up care, education and preventative care. The Unite for Sight website notes that they have provided services to more than 2.9 million people worldwide including 109,000 sight-restoring surgeries. The Global Impact Fellows receive extensive pre-departure training and learn first-hand about best practices in public health, international development, cultural competency and cross-cultural communication.  Fellows have the option to both volunteer and conduct research in partnership with local providers.