Article Date: 6/1/2009

A Vision For Sight
reflections THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY

A Vision For Sight

I became involved with VISION USA to ensure the working poor obtain eye care.

DANA COCKE', O.D. SEATTLE

One of the reasons I became an optometrist was to help those who don't have access to eye care. So, when I heard about the American Optometric Association's VISION USA program through my local optometric society roughly 13 years ago, I immediately wanted to get involved. Since 1999, I've been the VISION USA committee chairperson in Washington State, and I hope to get involved on the national level soon.

Overview

The VISION USA program is comprised of volunteer optometrists who provide free eye care (i.e. comprehensive vision exams and quality lab- and frame company-donated eyewear) at their practices to both low-income working adults and their children who don't qualify for eyecare coverage from government or private healthcare assistance. It started in Kentucky in the mid 1970s and became a nationwide not-for-profit program in 1991. Thus far, more than 385,000 patients have benefited from VISION USA.

The VISION USA Project provides free comprehensive eye exams to low-income families.

Aside from the AOA's national public relations (PR) effort to make possibly eligible patients aware of VISION USA, participating O.D.s promote it within their practices, and state affiliations distribute PR materials, such as flyers, to related community organizations, such as The Salvation Army.

To apply for eligibility, patients must visit www.aoa.org/visionusa.xml. If the patient qualifies, VISION USA sends a letter to a participating O.D. in the patient's zip code to make him or her aware of it. Also, VISION USA sends a letter to the patient inviting him or her to schedule an appointment with that O.D. The patient then brings the VISION USA letter to the appointment.

Because bettering or correcting one's vision leads to improvements in productivity and efficiency, and, therefore, the opportunity for job and school advancement, the VISION USA program enables these patients to improve their lives.

VISION USA patients

Eye exams on children often reveal undiagnosed refractive errors and/or accommodative and binocular vision disorders. Adult patients often present with ineffective, over-the-counter readers, outdated spectacle prescriptions, lack spectacles altogether or have undiagnosed or inadequately treated ocular diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration, and traumas, such as retinal detachments.

In fact, a man in his early 30s presented with a retinal detachment in one eye, which occurred a few months prior to his visit. He was cutting grass when the lawnmower propelled a pebble into his eye. He said he had no way of seeing an eye doctor until he qualified for VISION USA. I was able to find an ophthalmologist willing to provide a free surgery consultation. State grant money paid for the actual procedure.

You can become a VISION USA O.D. by contacting the AOA or your state's optometric society. I cannot think of any greater satisfaction as an O.D. than in knowing that my efforts are providing these patients with access to eye care, better paying jobs, improved learning, and, as a result, better lives. OM


DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE? DISCUSS YOUR STORY WITH JENNIFER KIRBY, SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR OF OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT, AT (215) 628-6595, OR JEN.KIRBY@WOLTERSKLUWER.COM. OM OFFERS AN HONORARIUM FOR PUBLISHED SUBMISSIONS.

Optometric Management, Issue: June 2009