Thursday, December 11, 2014
Eye Care for the Underserved
By: Katherine A. Clore, O.D., Associate Professor UAB School of Optometry
As a Doctor of Optometry and Associate Professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry, I find many rewards in my profession. From providing primary patient care and preparing future optometrists for a professional career, to research and community service, all aspects of the profession are exceptionally satisfying. However, recently the School of Optometry provided a community outreach program named "Gift of Sight," which gave me a special sense of fulfillment.
The first-time program is a mobile extension of UABSO's Eye Care Clinic whose goal is to provide eye care to those who might not otherwise be able to afford comprehensive eye exams. A comprehensive dilated eye exam can reveal ocular diseases as well as ocular manifestations of systemic diseases. If other care is needed, patients are referred for appropriate treatment throughout the health care community.
According to BB Jefferson, Clinic Coordinator at UAB's School of Optometry Community Eye Care, over 200 patients were seen for complete dilated eye exams. In addition, they were offered donated gift items such as hats, gloves, socks, scarves and blankets. The interns were excited about helping others as well as being able to diagnose and treat various conditions! A quote from one of those who helped helped, with tears running down her face said “I haven’t had a Christmas like this since I was a little girl.” It is always gratifying to treat a patient and have a successful outcome, but it is especially rewarding with patients who likely would not have the opportunity to receive treatment otherwise.
A 2011 study of over 11,000 adults by the CDC found that almost 40% who were considered to have moderate to severe visual impairment said they had skipped seeking care in the past year because of cost or lack of insurance.
In a study conducted in 2007 by the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they concluded that approximately 5 million high-risk adults in the United States could not afford eyeglasses when needed; being female, having low income, not having insurance, and having vision or eye problems were each associated with such inability.
The "Gift of Sight" to these people is especially precious and The UAB School of Optometry is proud to provide services to those who might not have access otherwise through its year-round Community Eye Care program.
Community Eye Care is an outreach program from UAB Eye Care to the community. Vision screenings are provided at many area schools during the fall. There are also vision screenings at many senior centers and health fairs. Comprehensive eye care is provided at several health department clinics in Jefferson County, such as Bessemer (Bessemer Health Center), North Birmingham (Northern Health Center) and Ensley (Western Health Center). The Community Eye Care Service also provides comprehensive vision services for the adult clients at United Cerebral Palsy of Birmingham (LincPoint).
Community Eye Care also partners with various campus entities to provide services in underserved populations in the Black Belt and for the homeless in the Greater Birmingham area. As collaborators with the Friends of the Congressional Glaucoma Caucus Foundation, mutual goals of disease identification and patient education are met as well.
In describing the program, Dr. Felton Perry, Director of Community Eye Care, is quoted as saying, "It's our way of giving back... We owe it to the community."
The need for vision care is great and Community Eye Care is always exploring other opportunities to serve the community, either through screenings, examinations or education.
If you have an opportunity that you would like to explore with Community Eye Care, contact UAB Eye Care at (205) 975-2020, and leave your contact information with the operator. Someone in the Community Eye Care Service will return your call.