Vision USA helps doctors extend the power of their practice
Michael Holland, O.D., remembers visiting his father's optometry practice in Raleigh, North Carolina, as a child and seeing his father treat a variety of patients, even if they couldn't afford it. In and out of his professional life, the late Charles Holland, O.D., believed in giving back to the community, says his son.
"He instilled in me a desire to provide service to the community," says Dr. Holland, who went into practice with his father when he graduated from optometry school in 1990. "If one has the means to be able to do that, you should be glad to."
Dr. Holland took those words to heart. And like his father, Dr. Holland is a provider for Vision USA, a program of Optometry Cares®—the AOA Foundation. Vision USA matches doctors participating in the program with uninsured individuals in their area who need comprehensive eye care. The program has been around since 1990 and has made more than 430,000 patient assignments.
Dr. Holland is one of more than 2,800 doctors of optometry who provide comprehensive eye exams to low-income, uninsured patients. And the number is growing. In 2015 alone, 108 new volunteer providers joined the Vision USA network.
Growing while giving
Vision USA is not unlike medical mission trips some doctors of optometry take—the only difference being that it serves U.S. residents. To qualify for an exam, patients must have no insurance of any sort, including Medicare or Medicaid; they must meet strict income limits; they must not have had a vision exam in the past two years; they must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident; and they must not have received an exam through the program for the past two years.
For Dr. Holland, incorporating Vision USA patients into his practice has been seamless. He estimates he's seen six to 10 patients a year for the past 25 years. Still, he says, he doesn't even know which of his patients are referred to him through Vision USA. Everyone gets the same exam, whether they are Vision USA patients or not. And it's clearly not affecting his bottom line. The practice has grown from one office to two, covering Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina.
"It's one of the things about our oath: All health care practitioners get into the profession to be able to give back to the community, because you enjoy what you do and want to help take care of people and make a difference," he says. "I would encourage all doctors of optometry to participate."
Vision USA operates in 39 states, but there are some areas with no providers to conduct exams, which has led to waiting lists.
In a virtual kick-off, the AOA launches Leadership Institute with 130 doctors of optometry from across the country. A project of the AOA Leadership Development Committee, the Institute is a yearlong program designed to grow and support the next generation of leaders in the profession.
At the 2021 Leaders Summit, AOA-member volunteers set priorities for the year and launched new initiatives to lead the profession forward.