heals at home
Eye doctor’s work in
El Salvador part of
CORTLANDVILLE — Since graduating in 2012, Dr. Eileen Howard has traveled to El Salvador with colleagues to provide much needed eye care to the people of the Central American country.
Dr. Brian Sirgany met Howard in 2008 when she worked with him as a technician at Roberts Eye Care Associates in Vestal before he left to start his own practice in Cortland County.
Having also done humanitarian and missionary work in Belize, Guatemala and western Alaska, Sirgany said he appreciates the work Howard is doing.
He said he went out of his way to contact her after she graduated, knowing she was someone he wanted to be part of his eye care team.
Howard is now an optometrist at Sirgany Eye Care at 930 McLean Road.
“It (humanitarian work) takes a special person,” Sirgany said. “I saw her passion and her work abroad and ... her work ethic and her persistence I thought would work really well with my practice. She’s a great person.”
Originally from Windham, Pa., Howard, 30, studied as an undergraduate at Indiana Wesleyan University. She also worked as a technician at Roberts Eye Care Associates in Vestal before graduating from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University.
During her time there, she began working her way up to becoming president of its Student Optometric Service for Humanity, or SOSH, which is a program started by a student of the university in 1968 with the goal of providing eye exams and glasses to the people of Haiti.
Today, 15 to 20 optometry students spend about a week every year providing eye care services to some of the most impoverished regions of the Caribbean as well as Africa and the Americas.
However, once Howard graduated and was no longer a student in 2012, the incoming president made the decision not to go back to El Salvador, opting instead to return to Haiti to strengthen the organizations ties there.
While she understood the decision, Howard said she knew that there would still be people in Central America who needed help and wanted to do something about it.
“The problem is ... if you went there for three years in a row, you now have provided care for people and you can’t just leave; you leave them hanging,” Howard said.