KMK Scholarship winner Johnnie Pascual

Congratulations to Johnny Pascual for his winning essay submission earning him a free KMK subscription for this year. Good luck on Boards!

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Below is his essay submission:

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Johnny Pascual September 15, 2019

Hello Scholarship Committee,

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Optometry has been an integral part of my life since I first accompanied my father to his first eye exam when he was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy. Now that am older, I have become aware of how my family’s socioeconomic hardships, in addition to our unfamiliarity with the complicated healthcare system. Since my relatives were undocumented Guatemalans, many didn’t even have the knowledge about accessing medical attention which resulted in them living with treatable diseases. My family in particular was lucky enough to be granted government-assisted healthcare, “Medi-Cal”. Others in the South-Central Los Angeles communities, including my close relatives, were not as lucky. The sight of witnessing my father and relatives suffer from treatable eye complications helped develop my innate altruistic mindset. These experiences, are the reason I decided to pursue a career that involves making a difference in the lives of others, by providing healthcare but also by becoming involved in healthcare policy.

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This past spring, with the guidance of the California Optometric Association (COA), Berkeley Optometry students were able meet with our state’s lawmakers. Legislative Day, as it was known was perhaps the most memorable experience of optometry school so far. I was able to advocate for policies that benefited all residents of California regardless of socioeconomical status. Medi-Cal reimbursements have become stagnant for many years now. My mother currently is under Medi-Cal coverage and she is limited to only a very few providers for her eye exams. The COA encouraged us to explain this type of circumstance to our lawmakers, I was able to connect my personal experience to the current problems that are plaquing our state. I spoke to four different state-legislators, as a student of color that grew up in the inner city of Los Angeles I was able to share my personal story to inform them why current policies are hurting low income families. In the near future, I want to become involved in legislative policy to expand access to healthcare services.

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The implementation of affordable healthcare policies, can give access to modern eye treatment and avoid the financial burden accompanied with severe eye disease. I believe that one of many challenges for future optometrist in general is bridging the cost of healthcare and legislative policies. As the demographics of the US becomes more diverse, there should be affordable healthcare access to all groups. It is up to people in my generation to find the solution of accessibility with improving patient care. As someone who has observed and experienced limited access to healthcare, I hope to be one of many leaders in my profession to change the current policies for Medi-Cal.

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