Article Date: 7/1/2013

Good Deeds Spur Growth
practice profile

Good Deeds Spur Growth

I provide pro bono eye care to foster care children.

ADAM CLARIN, O.D., PALMETTO BAY, FLA.

THE UNIQUE SIDE OF OPTOMETRY

For the last five years, I’ve been donating eye exams and glasses — about two per week — to foster care children in Miami-Dade County, Fla. When I graduated from optometry school, I didn’t have a lot of patients yet, and my wife was adopted right before entering the foster care program and has always advocated for foster care children, so I decided to give back to these children in need. Family friends involved in the program helped set up the initial meeting with the agency’s head.

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Dr. Clarin has benefitted both personally and professionally from working with children in need.

Giving back

Today, the practice is busier than ever. While I could easily fill those pro bono slots, I won’t because I value the relationships I have with the foster care agency and the children.

Personally, I feel a sense of pride and fulfillment in having the foster care children come to the office. Professionally, it keeps the staff grounded: Everyone in my office enjoys giving back.

Secondary outcome

This effort has had some unexpected benefits too: Our practice has gained many new patients, including the social workers, drivers and foster care agency staff.

Also, our local newspapers have written articles about us, and the practice staff was featured in the annual report for Our Kids of Miami-Dade/Monroe. This organization oversees the entire foster care program in South Florida.

Getting started

If you’re interested in giving back to your community, here are some tips for success:

Choose an organization with which to work. Find something you’re passionate about to make the service meaningful.

Don’t over analyze. Determine how many pro bono patients you want to see, and don’t worry about loss of income. The rewards — self-fulfillment and new patients — outweigh that concern in the end.

Meet with the organization’s leader. Hash out the details, and develop a plan (e.g., patients per week, available times and training needed).

Be open-minded. I thought we would treat young children, but teens often present before “aging out” of the foster care system. While I still see some of the young children, it is different — but no less rewarding — than I thought it would be.

Build relationships. Treat your pro bono patients the same way you treat your paying patients: Ask about their hobbies, life goals, etc. You want to make their visit as comfortable as possible.

Be prepared. In the case of seeing foster care children, often they experience a multitude of difficulties in their lives. Therefore, my office underwent training with the foster care agency to properly process the patients and handle various situations, such as who would bring the patients to the appointment and what kind of identification we needed to collect from them.

Stay in touch with the organization. This way, you can keep tabs on the logistics, such as what to expect in terms of the patient’s background and emotional state and the needed forms.

Several organizations exist that could use our eyecare expertise. By giving back, you’ll not only enhance the lives of the less fortunate, you’ll also feel fulfilled, while elevating your practice in the eyes of the community. Everyone truly wins. OM

DO YOU HAVE A UNIQUE PRACTICE? E-MAIL JENNIFER.KIRBY@PENTAVISI0NMEDIA.COM, OM OFFERS AN HONORARIUM FOR PUBLISHED SUBMISSIONS.



Optometric Management, Volume: 48 , Issue: July 2013, page(s): 96