How VISION USA benefits ODs, students and the underserved who need vision care
"Our primary mission as eye care providers is to give the American public the highest quality care, even those who don't have traditional resources."
Andrew Carnegie, captain of the American steel industry, famously said, "No man can become rich without himself enriching others."
No quote could be truer when talking about Volunteers In Service In Our Nation (VISION USA), an Optometry Cares®—The AOA Foundation initiative.
VISION USA, along with AOA-member optometrists who have volunteered to become providers, gives eye exams to eligible low-income individuals.
VISION USA offers services in 39 states and the District of Columbia. For an individual to be eligible for an exam, they must meet the following requirements:
- Have no private or government insurance, including Medicare or Medicaid.
- Have income below the established level based on household size.
- Have not had an eye exam within the past 24 months.
- Must be a United States citizen or legal resident with a social security or legal resident number.
- Have not received a doctor referral through the VISION USA program in the past two years.
Seize the opportunity
Jennifer Deakins, O.D., visiting assistant professor at the University of Houston College of Optometry (UHCO), is a new provider with the VISION USA program. She was recently involved in the Alcon Pilot Project, which assisted low-income, uninsured students at Tarrant County Community College (TCCC) in Texas.
Dr. Deakins is the clinical director—along with Jenny Terrell, O.D.—at Community Eye Clinic in Forth Worth, Texas. Community Eye Clinic is a student externship site for both the UHCO and Rosenberg School of Optometry.
"The VISION USA program is a win-win for us," Dr. Deakins says. "Our students are able to see more patients, and we are able to help people with poor access to care."
Providing care to the underserved is something Deakins considers, "just the right thing to do."
"Our primary mission as eye care providers is to give the American public the highest quality care, even those who don't have traditional resources," says Deakins.
Her clinic has examined a number of students from the TCCC sessions—and patient reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.
"Most of the patients were just grateful to have access to care, and many of them said they've never had such a thorough eye exam before," says Deakins.
"A lot of times, people who don't have traditional resources come in thinking they just need glasses, but up to 25 percent of the folks we saw through VISION USA had something else going on—either dry eye, hypertension or warning signs for diabetes."
Dr. Deakins hopes that by exposing the clinic's externs to the VISION USA program now, they will be motivated to give back and become providers in the future.
"It's important to make sure that, within your community, you've been a positive influence as far as eye care and health care," says Dr. Deakins.
How you can help
- Volunteer to be a VISION USA provider.
- Donate to Optometry Cares online, and specify VISION USA in your gift.