reflections - THE HUMAN SIDE
Helping Children in Need
The VSP Pediatric Outreach Program touches
optometrists personally and professionally.
VALERIE M. KATTOUF, O.D.
2003, Anthony D'Andrea [Vision Service Plan's (VSP) director of development] approached
me to develop a community vision program concentrating on the pediatric population,
stressing the need for early vision intervention and treatment. Months later, the
Pediatric Outreach Program (POP) was born. We have visited more than 40 Head Start
agencies in the Chicago area. Most of these agencies and their constituents are
underserved, with a high occurrence of amblyogenic risk factors. To date we've seen
about 3,000 children. Of those, 15% to 20% have significant refractive errors and
one-third are uninsured.
POP has had more impact on my professional and personal lives than I ever expected.
What started as a small program that may have lasted just months has turned into
a service that the community is starving for. Three components of the program have
had a compelling effect on those involved.
Kattouf examines a preschool patient.
The most compelling stories are of the children.
I'll never forget the combative three-year-old boy whose retinoscopy revealed 13.00D
of myopia. After putting a trial frame on, he literally breathed a sigh of relief,
lay calmly in his mother's lap and begged me not to take off the glasses. Kids who
had been diagnosed with developmental delays now thrive with proper spectacle correction.
Parents and agency employees
The adults involved in our outreach program benefit
most from the education they receive. Examining non-verbal and preschool children
seems impossible to many. Most parents believe that because their child is fully
functioning and able to track objects visually, that vision problems and amblyopia
are not possible. The POP has allowed optometry to demonstrate its scope of practice
as well as the benefits of early detection and treatment of vision problems.
Participation in the POP has a lasting impact
on the students involved. Most start out with little to no experience with young
children. They begin tentative and fearful, usually allowing the child to control
them. After two weeks of high-volume, comprehensive eye exams, the students' comfort
level and confidence soar. At the end of the three-month rotation their technical
skills are superb, as are their abilities to diagnosis and treat infants and preschoolers.
Many students have told us they appreciate the program and the skills they've gathered.
Students say they want to complete pediatric residency programs as well as start
similar outreach programs in their own communities.
Worth every minute
The POP has been a bright spot in my career. The
impact that those involved have made in training future optometrists and treating
young patients who may otherwise go without care creates a tremendous amount of
pride in my profession.
For more information on the VSP Pediatric
Outreach Program, contact Dr. Kattouf at (312) 949-7000 or e-mail her at
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@LWWVISIONCARE.COM.
OM OFFERS AN HONORARIUM FOR PUBLISHED SUBMISSIONS.
Optometric Management, Issue: September 2006