Article Date: 10/1/2005

reflections THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY
Making It Happen

Optometry shares a common vision with the rest of medicine.
EILEEN M. GABLE, O.D.,
CHICAGO

Recently, I had a defining moment in my professional career that also touched my personal life. I was traveling to Tegucigalpa, Honduras with the Fellowship of Christian Optometrists student group from Indiana University to provide optometric services to the less fortunate there. "What could Chicago's South side and Honduras have in common?," I asked myself. While the backdrop differs considerably, we found that the need is the same — the poor and the underserved are unable to access and afford proper medical care.

While I have always considered myself sensitive to others' needs, the experience of treating vision problems in a third-world country impressed upon me how basic it is to offer care without remuneration. Directing the Illinois College of Optometry's Vision of Hope (VOH) program would fulfill my dream of delivering vision services to Chicago's uninsured.

Hope is on the way

The success of VOH was truly remarkable. More than 2,000 patients from 17 social service agencies received vision care at the Illinois Eye Institute over an 18-month period. Even more remarkable was this population's demonstrated medical need. It was greater than simple vision care. Not only did the clinical findings for these patients demonstrate substandard care for common chronic medical conditions, but a significant portion of this population was considered at risk with no access to appropriate medical care.

The solution is simple: Connect these patients with healthcare providers who will perform the services they need. Research shows that patients will seek care for visual problems without regard to underlying medical disease. Therefore, as O.D.s, we must be poised to have our profession serve as the entry into the healthcare system. After all, isn't effective healthcare a team effort?

Joining forces

We built upon VOH's initial mission of partnering with social service agencies and created the Vision of Hope Health Alliance, a landmark partnership between social service providers, optometrists and primary care physicians to provide full medical care to indigent patients.

Some may ask if medical providers with differing degrees and expertise can work together for the common good of patients, but I had already experienced such teamwork.

This time, I found myself in the Philippines with other medical professionals, including surgeons, pediatricians, dentists and social workers. While the need was enormous, delivering care was simple. We shared equipment, experience and expertise. But more importantly, we shared a vision — caring for those in need.

Thus I'm confident that the VOH Alliance will succeed. We will set a new standard by increasing cooperation between community agencies, eyecare providers and healthcare providers, thereby increasing quality and effectiveness of care to underserved communities. I am very fortunate as an optometrist to ignite a spark and bring change throughout the medical community.

For more information on the Vision of Hope Health Alliance, please contact Dr. Gable at (312) 949-7000, or e-mail her at egable@eyecare.ico.edu.

DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE? DISCUSS YOUR STORY WITH RENé LUTHE, SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR OF OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT, AT (215) 643-8132 OR LUTHER@BOUCHER1.COM. OM OFFERS AN HONORARIUM FOR PUBLISHED SUBMISSIONS.



Optometric Management, Issue: October 2005