InfantSEE® student program stirs passion for pediatric care

November 26, 2019
Aspiring doctors of optometry pledge to provide essential care to children.
InfantSEE student program stirs passion for pediatric care

Optometry students at Southern College of Optometry were eager to learn during their InfantSEE event about the eye care of young children.

More than a few eyes of future doctors of optometry were opened when the InfantSEE ® Student Program visited five schools of optometry during 2019.

During the program, hundreds of optometry students were introduced to InfantSEE, an initiative of  Optometry Cares ®—The AOA Foundation , with support from The Allergan Foundation. The student program is aimed at raising awareness around infant eye care and vision health, as well as expanding the number of doctors providing eye assessments to the youngest population.

School visits included presentations at:

  • Indiana University School of Optometry.
  • Southern College of Optometry (SCO).
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham College of Optometry.
  • University of Missouri-St. Louis College of Optometry.
  • The Ohio State University College of Optometry.

The presenters were persuasive.

"I am passionate about becoming an InfantSEE provider when I go into practice," says Christy Alfano, SCO class of 2020.

Alfano called the event educational, life-changing and fun.

"Just as we educate patients on all of the treatments for dry eye or glaucoma, for instance, it's important to educate parents on all the services available to them and their children," Alfano says. "I believe early eye assessments are so important to detect any visual or health problems that may alter the child's development."

InfantSEE campus visits

The InfantSEE Student Program began in 2012. Since then, 36 campus events have been conducted. Generally, 100 to 200 optometry students attended each on-campus presentation.

Glen Steele, O.D., kicked off the program during this year's school visits, supported by other members of the AOA InfantSEE & Children's Vision Committee. Speaker, author and entertainer Jon Petz then offered more inspiration to students—talking about the power the students will have as future doctors of optometry to transform the lives of children.

"Our goal for the visits is first about introducing students to a program of care beginning in a child's first year of life," says Dr. Steele, professor of optometry at SCO, who co-founded InfantSEE, a program that provides no-cost eye assessments by local doctors of optometry to children between the ages of six months and a year.

"When children's eye conditions are identified at an earlier age, the potential for decreasing the impact of the condition on life, health and development is greater," he says. "We also seek to raise awareness that the AOA is producing materials and a plan to help new graduates establish a footprint in their community by providing care for these young children."

Changing minds and lives

Over 1,100 students who have come through the program have pledged to participate in the InfantSEE program after they graduate. Among the comments from students from a post-event survey in 2019:

  • "This is definitely an aspect of our career that gives so much service to the community."
  • "Very informative and encouraging to join the InfantSEE program."
  • "I love InfantSEE events because they really help me solidify my choice to become an optometrist."

Alfano attended and helped organize the SCO event.

"Dr. Steele did a wonderful job teaching us about the value of this program and the importance of advocating for the tiniest patients," Alfano says. "One of the most important things we can do, as students and future doctors, is to learn about all the resources available for our patients.

"The event was great about informing us on the importance of giving an infant an eye assessment, how easy it is to become an InfantSEE provider and also how to connect patients to an InfantSEE provider if you choose not to offer that service. I realize some of my peers may be intimidated by giving an infant an eye exam, but it's important to offer the information to any parents with little ones."

This summer, InfantSEE, with support from Johnson & Johnson Vision, hosted a Squirming Patients 101 pop-up session for students and new doctors during Optometry's Meeting ® 2019. These AOA+ pop-up sessions provide a fast-paced, interactive and engaging learning opportunity for attendees. Presenters spoke briefly about the importance of comprehensive eye care beginning at six months of age and then demonstrated infant eye assessment tips and tricks with babies.

InfantSEE resources

Optometry Cares is committed to seeing its vision come to fruition, raising  awareness about the essentialness 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.

Sign up and become an InfantSEE provider today.

Consider a tax-deductible donation to Optometry Cares as part of your end-of-year giving to help support InfantSEE and other initiatives.

Find children's eye care and vision health resources in the Pediatrics & Binocular Vision toolkit, and  access the provider-to-provider letter for outreach to local pediatricians.

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