There are many things that cross students’ minds as they make their way through their college years and one of them is a legacy. The idea that when they leave their university’s campus, they made a difference and, in their own way, gave back to the institution that housed them for a few years.
“We’re only here for three years so we were trying to think of something that we can do to impact this school in a positive way and leave UTSA better than we entered it,” said co-founder of Unite for Sight Sammar Ghannam. “Improve UTSA and help it become a top tier school and reach that level that we are working towards every single day.” Ghannam along with Anisha Guda have decided they’re ready to leave their mark.
Both sophomores realized that their time at UTSA was short — shorter than most UTSA students.
As part of the Facilitated Acceptance to Medical Education (FAME) Program, Ghannam and Guda only get to study at UTSA for a limited amount of time before moving on to continue their pursuit of a medical degree. It was this shortened residence at the university that led both biology majors to actively search for something they could make an impact with.
After scouring the web through different outlets as well as different colleges and non-profit organizations, Ghannam and Guda came across the Unite for Sight Global Health Organization. The pair immediately knew this is what they wanted to pursue. The organization will impact not only college students, but society at large.
Founded in 2000 at Yale University by Jennifer Staple-Clark, Unite for Sight looks to fight blindness on a national and international level.
After a very competitive process, UTSA was selected by the national organization to hold the newest chapter of Unite for Sight. Part of this involved finding an advisor.
Enter professor Michael Reilly of Mechanical Engineering and Biomechanics in the College of Engineering — the perfect fit.
“The mission of this organization — preventing blindness — is very important to me as a vision researcher,” said Reilly. “I’m very happy to have the opportunity to work with students to achieve this goal in my research lab and now with Unite for Sight.”
And battle blindness they will. One of the unique aspects to the organization is that each chapter has the opportunity to adopt a clinic abroad. With fundraising efforts they are able to provide eye care to patients in a different country.
The UTSA chapter is currently looking into the adoption of a clinic in Honduras. For every $50 raised one person could get a cataract surgery. But the global reach of the organization is only one piece of multiple goals Ghannam and Guda have.
“One goal is to leave an impact on the university and that is through helping students to reach out on a global basis,” said Guda. “The second, is to provide students with methods to enrich their education.”
The second goal ties in with another aspect of Unite for Sight that sets it apart from other organizations.
Available for members are different certifications that they can obtain at the end of their membership. When they graduate they are qualified in Leadership and Global Health. It is the different types of internships that give way to multiple fields to find a space within the organization. From business to English and health, Unite for Sight will help lead to the bigger goal Ghannam and Guda have.
“We hope this unifies all UTSA students and finds a common interest,” Ghannam said. “Hopefully show them a path to success.”
The visionary outlook that leads these two young women helps them shoot for recognition at a national level by hoping to fundraise enough to be recognized in the Global Health Initiative Conference at Yale later this year. It is the same visionary outlook that will continue to attract attention to UTSA, its students and student-lead initiatives.
“These students are exemplary in their ambition and willingness to put in the effort to get things done.” Reilly said. “Many people have some vague notions about what they would like to achieve in life, but these young women took action to make their goals happen.”