Building 'a strong optometry community' of support when disasters hit
There was the dangerous Hurricane Ian and then there was the devastating aftermath in Florida. In Volusia County, considerable damage was done to the home of Alyssa Perlman-Hensen, O.D.
“We had significant sewage flooding throughout our entire house and damage to our roof and ceiling, leaving our house unsafe and uninhabitable,” Dr. Perlman-Hensen says. “We were forced to move out of our home immediately.
“Through the generous funding from Optometry’s Fund for Disaster Relief (OFDR), my family and I were able to evacuate our home immediately and were supported in finding a place to live while our house was uninhabitable,” she adds. “This allowed me to return back to work and to patient care as soon as possible, assisting patients who also had lost their homes and belongings during Hurricane Ian as well.”
A program of Optometry Cares®—The AOA Foundation, OFDR offers urgent financial relief to doctors when disasters such as Hurricane Ian strike. Those disasters include—but are not limited to—hurricanes, tornadoes, civil unrest, earthquakes, floods and fires. Grants range between $250 to $4,000.
So far, there have been 15 designated storms during the 2022 hurricane season, notes Catherine Amos, O.D., OFDR’s chair. Three hurricanes made landfall along the U.S. coasts, Dr. Amos adds. The program expedites funds to doctors of optometry in response to natural disasters.
“Despite the number of hurricanes being below average, 2022 became the costliest Atlantic hurricane season on record, $53-$74 billion in insured losses from Florida to South Carolina," Dr. Amos says. "It is clear that storms are becoming stronger over time with climate change, plus more development in coastal areas equals more damage.
“OFDR is there for our doctors to provide financial help to those who have suffered property damage to their homes or offices,” she says.
Thanks to the generous support of EssilorLuxottica and CooperVision, the fund has been poised to restore patient care during disasters this year. The funds ease the financial strain on doctors and enable them to return more quickly to work. For Ian alone, the OFDR awarded $62,000 in grants to 24 doctors of optometry to cover widespread losses in Florida.
“It is hard to imagine what it would be like to sustain losses of this magnitude,” Dr. Perlman-Hensen says. “By making an end-of-the-year donation, you can help replenish the monies we have sent to our doctors in 2022 and build our reserves for what is coming in 2023.”
Home at last
Her ordeal had a satisfying ending, according to Dr. Perlman-Hensen.
“We spent the last two months at a condo while repairs were done to deem our house inhabitable again, and we are happy to announce we were just able to move back in!” she says.
“We are so appreciative to OFDR and our Optometry Cares family for extending a helping hand to us during this difficult time. We are so fortunate to have such a strong optometry community who supports us when disasters hit.”
How doctors can support Optometry Cares
Disasters are unpredictable and life-altering, but Optometry Cares is determined to ensure OFDR is always ready to help doctors of optometry, as well as optometry students, overcome challenging times. Your support helps Optometry Cares support programs such as OFDR. Here's how you can support OFDR or find grant information:
- Donate to Optometry Cares. Help make certain that OFDR funds are available for colleagues affected by disasters.
- Submit an OFDR application. Recently affected by a disaster? Learn more about grant criteria and complete the OFDR application and Form W-9.
Registration and housing for Optometry’s Meeting®, June 21-24, in Washington, D.C., are now open. See why doctors, paraoptometrics and optometry students can all benefit from the members’ meeting.