InfantSEE® program heartens students, elevates pediatric care
There's a defining moment in optometry school that brings everything into focus—when the 'how we do it' finally intersects with the 'why we do it'—and Alissa Proctor, O.D., can pinpoint the instant it happened during an InfantSEE® Student Program event.
"Watching their faces and hearing their laughs told me that everyone was enjoying themselves," recalls Dr. Proctor, a Northeastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry (NSUOCO) professor and a site coordinator for the student program. An initiative of Optometry Cares®—The AOA Foundation and in partnership with The Allergan Foundation, the InfantSEE Student Program assembled nearly 80 students and guests at NSUOCO, Oct. 24, not only to introduce, promote and expand the InfantSEE program but also invigorate students.
"There is so much information that these students have to know to pass their tests, board exams and clinic, so reminding them why they chose to be optometrists in the first place is vital. We don't want to lose sight of our mission—giving the gift of sight," Dr. Proctor adds.
Since 2012, the InfantSEE Student Program has visited 31 schools and colleges of optometry, and reached thousands of students, to increase visibility of the InfantSEE program and the importance of children's eye and vision care. That visibility has helped grow the InfantSEE program overall with more than 1 in 3 participating providers graduating within the past 10 years.
In fact, 466 optometry students nationwide pledged to become InfantSEE providers upon graduation following these most recent school visits at five institutions this fall, including:
- Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry
- Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
- Kentucky College of Optometry
- Midwestern University Arizona College of Optometry
It's that kind of passionate response that ensures InfantSEE continues spreading the word about the importance of comprehensive eye care beginning at six months of age. Since InfantSEE's inception, more than 145,000 infants received no-cost, comprehensive eye and vision assessments from nearly 4,000 volunteer doctors of optometry, changing countless lives in the process.
"I've seen the difference proper intervention can make in a child's life," Dr. Proctor says. "When it happens early, the results are almost taken for granted, but I've seen the subsequent problems when vision isn't corrected early in other patients—those kids struggle in school, in sports and social interactions. It affects their whole lives.
"That's why I hope those who had never heard of InfantSEE left with the knowledge and confidence to tell family and friends about the benefits of getting their kiddo's eyes examined. And, I hope those who had heard of InfantSEE left motivated and inspired to care for these little ones in their future practice."
Resonating with students, public
Part of the InfantSEE Student Program's success is attributed to delivering an effective message that resonates. In addition to a clinical presentation on infant wellness from AOA InfantSEE and Children's Vision Committee member Glen Steele, O.D., the student program also features business magician and inspirational speaker Jon Petz, who delivers a message about finding "significance in simple moments."
Petz emphasizes appreciating those impactful interactions that many might take for granted and seizing the opportunity to recognize and reflect those moments for others. Dr. Proctor says it's a message that rings especially true in pediatric care, as well as among those students in attendance.
"I am so glad I got the opportunity to attend because it really was an awesome event," says Peyton Isbell, NSUOCO student. Adds another student, Brianna Weber: "It was such a fun event. I love being surrounded by people who are so passionate about this profession. It makes me very excited for my future."
Moreover, InfantSEE's message about the importance of an initial eye assessment within infants' first 6 months is one that's resonating.
The first six years of a child's life are crucial developmental years when youngsters are most susceptible to vision changes. Likewise, any unaddressed vision problems during this time can have an undue impact. But often, parents don't know their child suffers from problematic vision until they enter school. That's why the AOA's evidence-based clinical practice guideline, Comprehensive Pediatric Eye and Vision Examination, recommends intervention at key milestones in children's development, including a baseline assessment between 6 and 12 months of age that immediately follows a critical period of eye growth and development.
"It's very important to continually educate the community about this program and to train future doctors of optometry about the importance of InfantSEE as well as provide them with the training to see these babies in their exam rooms," Dr. Proctor says.
Make a difference today
Optometry Cares—The AOA Foundation is committed to seeing its vision come to fruition, raising awareness about the importance of eye health, increasing access to vision care, and providing support to doctors of optometry and students in need. Here's how you can make a difference today:
- Learn more about becoming an InfantSEE provider and sign up today
- Consider a tax-deductible donation to Optometry Cares—The AOA Foundation as part of your end-of-year giving to help support InfantSEE and other initiatives
Find more children's eye health and vision care resources in the Pediatrics & Binocular Vision toolkit, and access the provider-to-provider letter for outreach to local pediatricians.
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