Judging by the response of baby Alysha's mother, the AOA and Optometry Cares' InfantSEE® event at Southern California College of Optometry (SCCO) on Dec. 9 in Fullerton, California, made an impression—opening eyes about the necessity of infant and children's eye health and vision care.
About 260 people attended events at SCCO aimed at the community, doctors of optometry and optometry students at SCCO. It was the final stop of the year for the annual AOA and InfantSEE tour of universities and colleges of optometry sponsored by The Allergan Foundation.
One parent in particular was inspired by the cause. "It is my No. 1 objective to make sure my baby girl is in good health and developing properly," said Payal Vashi, 8-month-old Alysha's mom, at the SCCO stop. "I was very shocked when my optometrist friend (Reena Patel, O.D.) told me a child's first eye exam should take place at six months of age because I had never heard that recommendation before."
She adds, "I felt that I had checked off all the boxes to ensure the proper health of my child, but needless to say, I was eager to take my baby in for her first eye examination. I expected the doctor to just move a finger around and see if my baby would be able to track well, but I was extremely surprised to see how thorough and comprehensive the evaluation was. The entire experience at the infant vision workshop was very pleasant and educational. I will definitely help spread the important message of early infant eye examinations to my friends and family!"
The tour included presentations at:
- Southern College of Optometry (SCO) in Memphis, Tennessee
- State University New York (SUNY) College of Optometry in New York, New York
- Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago, Illinois
- Western University of Health Sciences, College of Optometry in Pomona, California
- Southern California College of Optometry (SCCO) at Marshall B. Ketchum University in Fullerton, California
The five campus stops attracted more than 1,360 people.
The tour stopped at SUNY College of Optometry Sept. 7-8. The event, "Healthy Beginnings Start with Healthy Eyes," drew more than 150 people to its student and community events. The program focused on the prevalence of vision problems in children and the necessity of eye examinations for youngsters.
Healthy vision is key to child development, says Glen Steele, O.D., chair of the AOA's InfantSEE and Children's Vision Committee. That presents an opportunity for doctors of optometry, Dr. Steele says, to become InfantSee providers.
Find more information and learn how to enroll as an InfantSEE provider.
"My challenge to students at all of the schools is to commit 10 words to patients: 'I will walk with you every step of the way,'" says Dr. Steele, who is also professor of pediatric optometry at SCO.
Appeal to students and doctors
Attendees heard powerful stories from providers and parents. At SUNY, guest speaker and parent advocate Robin Benoit spoke of her daughter, Jillian. Benoit had no idea her daughter had a vision problem—despite being screened at ages 4 and 5 by her pediatrician and at school with an eye chart.
"The screenings failed my child," Benoit said.
Now in high school, Jillian was eventually diagnosed with amblyopia and treated. It was a painful journey at times, but Benoit would do it all again if it helped her daughter. "You go to bat for your kid," she said. "That's what moms do."
Doctors of optometry go to bat for children, too.
At SCCO, more than 60 doctors of optometry provided eye assessments to 22 infants at a workshop and attended a lecture, "Examining Infants in a Primary Care Setting," by Reena Patel, O.D., who is an assistant professor there.
"This event was an extraordinary vehicle for us to promote the importance and benefits of infant vision care," says C. Troy Allred, O.D., assistant professor and chief of pediatric vision service and Studt Center for Vision Therapy at the University Eye Center at Ketchum Health in Anaheim, California. "Many in attendance at the community event commented that in spite of working with children and infants on a daily basis, they did not fully realize the crucial role that vision plays."
Dr. Allred adds, "Our students were inspired and motivated by the program and the potential they have to make a difference in the world. The program has a unique way of encouraging students and faculty to reexamine our role in changing lives for the better."
Drs. Allred and Patel organized the event. The feedback, they say, was positive.
Dr. Patel adds: "They enjoyed the hands-on format of the workshop and stated the experience really helped boost their confidence level for examining infants. The parents said they found the workshop to be very educational and were motivated to share their new knowledge of the importance of early eye examinations with other parents. Overall, it was a win-win situation for everyone, especially the infants."
Events included performances by actor, singer and author Tom Sullivan, who is legally blind.
InfantSEE is a program of Optometry Cares®—The AOA Foundation. Please consider a contribution to InfantSEE and help ensure that eye and vision care becomes an essential part of infant wellness care to improve a child's quality of life.
Optometry’s Fund for Disaster Relief provides immediate assistance to doctors to expedite their ability to provide critical patient care, as well as optometry students suffering property damage, during times of disasters. Learn how to apply for a grant or donate.
Over three dozen Opportunities in Optometry grants have been awarded since 2021, helping traditionally underrepresented minority groups within the profession apply for optometry school.