RSHS Hall of Fame Inductee Dr. John Demshar Travels Globe to Help Less Fortunate

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SweetwaterNOW congratulates the Class of 2019 Rock Springs High School Hall of Fame inductees. We will feature each inductee throughout the week leading up the banquet on Saturday, September 7. Profile features are made possible by Tanner Family Dentistry.

Dr. John Demshar – Distinguished Alumni

John Demshar was born on August 29, 1948, in Rock Springs, the son of John Sr. and Betty Demshar. He attended Our Lady of Sorrows Parochial grade school and Rock Springs High School where he lettered in football and wrestling, graduating in 1966.

In 1968 he was drafted into the US Army where he was deployed to South Vietnam in 1969. He was an Infantry foot soldier with the 25th Infantry Division, stationed in Tay Ninh, Vietnam.

He received the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal, the Army Commendation Medal 1st Oak Leaf Cluster, the Combat Infantry Badge and the Air Medal. He attained the rank of Sergeant E-5 after 13 months of active duty. He served 13 months in Vietnam. Upon his discharge, he returned to Rock Springs.

Post-Vietnam Years

In 1970 he enrolled at Western Wyoming Community College where he received an Associate of Arts degree in 1972. In the fall of 1972, he attended the University of Wyoming making the Presidents Honor Roll in the spring semester.

In 1973 he was accepted into the Optometry program at the University of California, Berkeley. He graduated with Honors in 1977.

In 1978 he opened a private Optometric Practice in Stockton, California where he met his future spouse, Debbie.

From 1981 through 1987 he taught part-time in the Contact Lens Clinic at UC Berkeley where he was promoted to Assistant Clinical Professor in 1982 based on his “most favorable teaching and collegial evaluations”.

In 1997 he was instrumental in forming Brookside Optometric Group as one of the Senior Partners in California’s largest Independent Practice of Optometry. At his retirement in 2018, the group consisted of 16 Doctors.

Lions In Sight

In 2000, he joined Lions In Sight of California and Nevada. Since that time he has participated in an average of four to six clinics annually. With this group, he has traveled extensively throughout Mexico doing clinics in all 37 states, all but one country in Central America, and all but 4 countries in South America, and several countries in the Caribbean.

In 2004 he was part of a relief team that went to Sri Lanka after the devastating Tsunami. He has since participated in clinics in India, Serbia, Armenia, and Albania.

In 2010, he became a board member and its Clinical Director. John joined the Mother Lode Chapter of the Flying Samaritans participating in one clinic annually with them in 2016.

Lions In Sight does 12 clinics annually. Clinics in Mexico are typically 4-day clinics, and those outside of Mexico are week-long clinics. Patients histories are taken, and then they are seen by the doctor who determines their prescription and then performs an eye health evaluation. Referrals for glaucoma, cataracts, and other medical problems are referred to a local ophthalmologist if one is available.

Many have to be referred to distant cities for treatment. Typically a clinic starts at 8 a.m., with a 15-minute lunch, concluding at 6 p.m. On the 4-day clinics between 800-1,000 patients are seen by four doctors working two days. On the weeklong clinics, 4,000 -5,000 patients are seen by eight doctors working four days.

Dr. Demshar have given generously of his time and money to many worthy causes.

Why He Does It

As mentioned above. these clinic days are exhausting. However, the smiles that are seen and in some cases the extremely emotional situations that come up as people who have never been able to see or those who haven’t been able to read for years are suddenly able to see again! In the US we take for granted our ability to see clearly and comfortably.

Thousands of elderly patients who just assume that as they grow older they permanently lose their ability to see and that nothing can be done are given a pair of reading glasses and vision is miraculously restored.

Hundreds of young people who were extremely nearsighted and unable to see people’s faces across the room are suddenly able to see across the street. Many have broken into tears which results in us doing the same.

When asked why he does this Dr. Demshar’s answer is “these emotional situations referenced above where he has been able to bring the “gift of sight “ to so many people”. Working with these groups has been very rewarding and makes him appreciate what we have here in America.

To date Dr. Demshar has participated in 126 Clinical Missions in 20 countries and he has examined approximately 40,000 patients.

In 2013 Dr. Demshar and his wife Debbie started Summerfest, which is held in their backyard. This is an annual Fundraiser for the four nonprofits that he does eyecare for (Saint Mary’s Homeless Shelter, Lions In Sight, Central Valley Flying Samaritans and Mother Lode Flying Samaritans). This fundraiser brought in $14,000 last year and has thus far raised $65,000 to support these groups.

In partnership with Tanner Family Dentistry, we bring you these profiles of the inductees as we approach the Hall of Fame ceremony.

Central Valley Flying Samaritans

In 1991, Dr. Demshar participated in his first clinical mission in San Felipe, Baja, Mexico with the Central Valley Flying Samaritans. This is a group of Flying Doctors with eleven chapters in California and Arizona responsible for taking care of the medical needs for the needy in the state of Baja.

Each chapter is responsible for one city in Baja. He has participated in two clinics annually since that time. Shortly after this trip he realized that his hometown of Stockton could use this same type of medical care for its homeless and needy population.

He contacted a local councilperson and she gave him the names of David Brewer the CEO of the St. Mary’s Dining Hall and Homeless Shelter, and Bill Brown the CEO of the Gospel Center Rescue Mission. He contacted both of these gentlemen and offered to do vision examinations, provide eyeglasses and take care of their medical eye-care needs at no cost to them.

He began seeing patients once monthly at each location. He worked in the hallway of the Medical clinic at St. Mary’s and the prayer room at the Gospel Center. This was rather cumbersome as he had to haul all of his equipment and glasses to each location and do setup and tear down after each clinic.

In 1999 St. Mary’s built a freestanding medical clinic where he was able to carve out two rooms, one for examinations and one for dispensing eyewear. Since that time all patients coming from the Gospel Center Rescue Mission, and three other outreach centers have been funneled into the medical clinic at St. Mary’s. He continues to do this twice monthly.

One other Dr. currently helps out. For the past 5 years, he has incorporated students currently working to get into Optometry School where he teaches them the essentials of how to perform an examination so that when they get to the University of their
choice they are one step ahead of their fellow students.

Stockton Children’s Home

In 1994 he approached Mark Phelps, the CEO of the Stockton Children’s Home. At the time they were sending their children to a local ophthalmologist and paying for the examination and the glasses. They were also tying up a counselor for two hours while the student was being seen.

He offered to do on site examinations and provide eyewear at no charge. He continued to do this until 1996 when his partner Dr. Richard Vanover (A Sheridan native and UW graduate also) took over the program.

In 2005 Dr. Demshar was awarded a Paul Harris Fellow by the North Stockton Rotary club for high “humanitarian efforts both locally and abroad”.

In 2015 he was recognized by Lions In Sight for completing his 100th Clinical Mission to Zihuatanejo, Mexico for “bringing the gift of sight to people in need around the world”.

On February 24, 2015 he was recognized by the Mayor and Stockton City Council with “John Demshar Appreciation Day” for” flying to faraway places to provide eye care to the needy of the world and for his efforts to bring eye care to Stockton’s less fortunate population”.

In 2015 he was also recognized by the California State Senate for “26 years of dedicated service to the San Joaquin Valley and Humanitarian Vision Clinics around the World”. In 2019 he was awarded a Wayne Cannon Fellowship by Lions In Sight for “his dedication in bringing eye care to the poor of the world”

Dr. Demshar and his wife Debbie have been married 36 years and have 3 grown children, one grandson and one on the way.