InfantSEE® program inspires students, community
Attendees of the InfantSEE® presentation, sponsored by the Allergan Foundation, at Northeastern State University pose with speaker Tom Sullivan on Oct. 23, 2015.
After an exam by an AOA InfantSEE® doctor of optometry last summer, a baby girl named Piper saw her parents clearly for the first time. The video of Piper's reaction to her new glasses became a viral sensation. It was one of the highlights of the year for InfantSEE, a public health program that aims to ensure vision care becomes a key component of infant wellness.
"We want to get kids on a firm developmental foundation so they can start using their vision."
"It's just a matter of activating that vision process," says Glen T. Steele, O.D., chair of the AOA InfantSEE and Children's Vision Committee and professor of pediatric optometry at the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, Tennessee. "We want to get kids on a firm developmental foundation so they can start using their vision."
Managed by Optometry Cares®—The AOA Foundation and funded by a grant from the Allergan Foundation, InfantSEE enables a volunteer cohort of doctors of optometry to provide a one-time, no-cost comprehensive eye and vision assessment for infants ages 6 to 12 months, regardless of the parents' income or insurance status. At the end of 2015, more than 7,200 doctors of optometry were members of the program.
As it does each year, InfantSEE visited several colleges of optometry in 2015 to spread the word about the importance of regular comprehensive eye exams for children. Events were directed at students and some were open to community members as well. More than 850 attendees were reached at five institutions:
- Indiana University School of Optometry
- University of Missouri-St. Louis, College of Optometry
- University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry
- Northeastern State University, Oklahoma College of Optometry
- Midwestern University, Arizona College of Optometry
Sharing the message of the importance of children's vision health
Alissa Proctor, O.D., coordinated the October InfantSEE events at the Oklahoma College of Optometry, where she is an associate professor. Speakers included Tom Sullivan, actor, entertainer and author—blind from an early age—who speaks at each InfantSEE event, and Robin and Jillian Benoit, a mother and daughter with a moving story about vision therapy.
"It makes you appreciate all that optometry does," Dr. Proctor says. "It just springboards [the students'] excitement."
Katy Wallace, who coordinates a program to improve the health of young children in Oklahoma's Cherokee County, attended the community event at the Oklahoma College of Optometry. She now plans to include information on InfantSEE in a health resource information packet distributed to new mothers, daycare centers and others.
"Most parents I know don't take their children to the doctor unless they think they're sick," Wallace says. "Hopefully we can share with our community the need for them to get their children's eyes checked at an early age."
Ashley Zinser, a fourth-year student at the Oklahoma College of Optometry, first learned about InfantSEE in Dr. Proctor's pediatrics class. "Those exams don't take long at all," Zinser says, "and they could be life changing."
Zinser is specializing in pediatrics and vision therapy, and she attended the October InfantSEE event for a boost of motivation before graduation. "It gave me, and I'm sure a lot of other people, reassurance that we're going into the right field," she says. "I think most people in my class will definitely be [InfantSEE] providers."
InfantSEE will continue its optometry school tour in 2016, with a visit to the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis in April and plans for other stops in the works.
Click here to become an InfantSEE provider or renew your commitment, and click here to support InfantSEE with a donation through Optometry Cares—The AOA Foundation.