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Dr. Devinder Grewal: Looking to Help Others

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Dr. Devinder Grewal loves her Lodi community, and it shows in the energy she puts into serving others. As a local Lodi optometrist and board member for several local organizations, she brings passion to the San Joaquin Valley.

It all started with a routine checkup and a pair of eyeglasses that changed Devinder Grewal’s life. As a young girl, her parents took her to the local optometrist to improve her nearsighted vision. While waiting for her first exam, she observed her compassionate optometrist, Dr. Peter Hetzner, interacting with patients. Wearing her new pair of glasses, she could see the kindness with 20/20 vision. This led her to imagine a future career in optometry.

Over the years, her eyeglasses would grow thicker but her vision of helping others remained clear. “I always knew I wanted to go into health care because I love working with people,” she recalled. After those few visits, Devinder remained unwavering in her goals, and another influential figure, her father, Gurcharan Grewal, who had immigrated to the United States from India, impressed upon her that education was the pathway to following her dreams. In 2004, she completed her undergraduate degree in biology from California State University Sacramento and continued to the University of California Berkeley to pursue her doctorate in optometry. By 2010, she had finished school and started volunteer work in Punjab, India, the place her parents had migrated from years before. She also had the opportunity to go to Mexico multiple times with Lions Clubs International to do eye exams. In addition to volunteering, she wanted to serve the community she grew up in, San Joaquin Valley, where she has been practicing since and where that dream became a reality.

Giving Back to the Community
For the past 13 years, Dr. Grewal has practiced in the San Joaquin Valley. Fluent in Spanish and Punjabi, she has been able to serve a larger patient population. Beyond her nine-to-five profession, she knows there is still a greater need to serve. With her skills and experience, she has had the opportunity to provide service to the people in the San Joaquin Community who might not otherwise have the means to receive care. Such outreach includes everything from mobile eye exams to volunteering at local health fairs.

Her desire to get involved has expanded so much that in 2018, she joined Leadership Lodi, an organization that encourages young professionals to take an active role in impacting the greater community. She also serves on the Lodi Memorial Board, the United Way of San Joaquin and the board at YMO (Your Kidney, My Kidney, Our Kidney). YMO will be hosting a blood drive and health awareness fair at the Deshmesh Darbar Sikh Temple in Lodi on March 17, 2024. “Being first generation, our San Joaquin community helped us a lot, so getting the opportunity to give back to the community gives me so much joy and happiness,” she admitted.

Taking Chances
While her volunteer work has been primarily local, in 2015, she took part in a two-week mission trip to Bolivia. With four other optometrists, she followed the Bolivian countryside from La Paz to Coroico on a road called El Camino de La Muerte, the Road of Death, in order to help children in rural villages receive eye care. “I was 34. I hadn’t traveled by myself,” she said. Beyond her family trips to India, she found herself in an unknown part of the world, completely unfamiliar with her surroundings. She relied on her Spanish fluency and her small cohort of optometrists to screen children ages 4 to 12 for amblyopia, an eye condition known as lazy eye. By the end of the two weeks, she found herself leading trainings with her cohort and giving lectures to the local people in Spanish. “It was one of the best experiences and took me out of my comfort zone,” she recalled.

She’s also had other influential people encouraging her to see and try new experiences, including her mentor, Kristen Spracher-Birtwhistle, CEO of United Way of San Joaquin, Marina Narvarte, CEO of YMO, and Wayne Craig, CEO of Lodi Memorial Hospital Foundation. But her biggest encourager is her newlywed husband, Kim-Long Hua-Rupp, who is a psychiatry resident at St. Joseph’s Medical Center.

Getting out of her comfort zone has also helped Dr. Grewal to appreciate her surroundings. “I love the people in the Central Valley, being a part of the boards and coming together and working together,” she affirmed. And it is where she continues to seek new opportunities.