More than 165 million U.S. adults wear prescription eyeglasses, and the majority of consumers pay between $100 and $150 just for frames, according to The Vision Council. But not everyone can afford these eyeglasses, which is why programs like Respectacle at Wake Forest University School of Medicine are so important.

Respectacle is a national nonprofit organization that collects donated prescription glasses and helps repurpose them for people who may be struggling to obtain them through conventional means. The School of Medicine just started their chapter of Respectacle this academic year, which is now comprised of around 60 medical students. In the first two months alone, participating students have already produced around 600 prescription eyeglasses, making them the third-ranked chapter in the country for this year.

Members of the School of Medicine’s Respectacle chapter collect these glasses by placing six donation boxes throughout Winston-Salem, where individuals can then donate their gently-used prescription glasses. At the end of each month, students collect these glasses and host a volunteer event where each pair is cleaned, processed and inventoried. Students take photos and record the details of each pair, such as frame color, size and condition of the lenses and frame. This information is then uploaded to the Respectacle website and added to the organizations national online catalog of glasses. Second-year medical student, Bryce Polascik, founded the School of Medicine’s Respectacle chapter and is currently serving as president of the organization.

 Bryce Polascik, second-year medical student and founder and president of Wake Forest’s Respectacle chapter. "One thing I love about the School of Medicine is its openness to new student ideas and initiatives. Not only are they open to our new ideas – they are very encouraging about them." – Bryce Polascik, second-year medical student and founder and president of Wake Forest’s Respectacle chapter.

“Our first month as a fully functioning student group resulted in us processing and inventorying 350 pairs of prescription eyeglasses,” Polascik said. “We then shipped all of the glasses back to the Respectacle headquarters. Each pair will ultimately be distributed across the country to those in need who may be struggling to access a pair of prescription glasses.”

Respectacle is just one of more than 35 student organizations at the School of Medicine. 

“I think it is very important for students to become involved in various student organizations that align with their personal interests,” Polascik said. “Organizations, like Respectacle, provide a great opportunity to start applying yourself outside of the classroom early. One thing I love about the School of Medicine is its openness to new student ideas and initiatives. Not only are they open to our new ideas – they are very encouraging about them.”

Levi Kaufman, MD, assistant professor of ophthalmology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, is the faculty mentor for this student organization.