Optometry Cares ®—The AOA Foundation , in partnership with the Essilor Vision Foundation, launched a no-cost lens and lab services program for AOA members participating in the VISION USA program in Texas and Alabama. Unveiled in June, this trial model provides material and service support for VISION USA doctors to use when caring for their communities.
Since 1991, VISION USA providers have donated their services to help more than 430,000 low-income, uninsured individuals across 40 states and Washington, D.C., receive free, basic eye examinations. However, only Washington state and Ohio currently provide materials support. This new partnership ensures eligible patients, now in Texas and Alabama, also can receive free no-line bifocal and single vision lenses at the conclusion of their VISION USA exam.
Dana Cocké, O.D., VISION USA Committee chair, stops short of calling the initiative a pilot program, but acknowledges that the model could set the groundwork for a national rollout in the months ahead. Ultimately, Dr. Cocké says, the committee hopes this model would encourage more doctors to become VISION USA providers.
"I don't know why you wouldn't want to be a VISION USA provider," Dr. Cocké says. "It tells the whole community that we're here for you and we want to make a difference in these people's lives."
VISION USA is clearly tapping an unmet need in communities nationwide. Since the program's launch, volunteer doctors of optometry have made a significant difference in families' eye and vision health needs with notable milestones, including:
- 3,400+ community organizations referring patients for care or services.
- 45,000 calls received yearly at the VISION USA helpline.
- 95% of applicants have been diagnosed with an eye condition.
- 79% of applicants need glasses.
Vision USA providers making a difference
Philanthropically, VISION USA providers give back out of a sense of community involvement and a passion for making a difference. That's what this year's VISION USA Service Award honorees display: hard work and selfless volunteerism. But for all the providers currently making a difference, VISION USA encourages even more participation.
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.