ODs provide eye care to service members

ODs provide eye care to veterans

Respectful appreciation permeated both sides of the ophthalmoscope as Kathy Doan, O.D., looked into the eyes of Marine Corps veteran John J. Holland.

"This is not only an opportunity to give back to veterans, but also a chance to stress the importance of eye care."

Born in Vietnam, Dr. Doan fled the war-torn country in 1981 for the United States, where, today, she's an optometrist in St. Louis, Missouri. She says she owes everything to veterans such as Holland, who served as an air traffic controller in Vietnam.

"I truly am honored to know that I have a chance to give back to all these veterans," she says.

'We're here to help'
AOA members summed up those sentiments exactly with participation in the 115th Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) National Convention, July 19-23, in St. Louis.

This was the 11th year the AOA provided no-cost eye health and vision assessments to hundreds of American veterans as part of the VFW Health Fair. It also was the first year the AOA partnered with the Blinded Veterans Association to offer service members information vital to their eye health.

Nearly two dozen Missouri Optometric Association member-optometrists, and University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) College of Optometry faculty and students, volunteered their time to provide routine screening to help identify veterans at risk for eye health problems and educate them about the importance of timely optometric care.

"This is not only an opportunity to give back to veterans, but also a chance to stress the importance of eye care," said Angel Simmons, O.D., UMSL College of Optometry faculty member.

The convention provided a cross-section of today's diverse veteran population, and how optometry is suited to provide a range of eye care—older veterans of the Second World War require care for age-related macular degeneration or low-vision rehabilitation, while Korean and Vietnam veterans face glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy, and still, too, younger veterans suffer from vision problems from traumatic brain injuries.  

"They all come from military backgrounds and a lot of what they've been exposed to triggers the conditions that we see," Dr. Simmons said. "This is our way of promoting that eye care is a big deal and we're here to help."  

Mutual gratitude
Holland is no different than his comrades when it comes to ocular conditions. The former VFW post commander in Denver, Colorado, and National Military Service Chairman, had cataract surgery only a year earlier.  

"This is really the first I've had my eyes looked at since, so it was a great opportunity," he said. He added with a laugh, "I learned I'm not at any risk for glaucoma at the moment, so that's good."  

As Holland's vision assessment concluded and Dr. Doan finished the paperwork, she put a hand on his shoulder to thank him for his service. "God bless America," she said.  

Holland clasped his hand on hers, and smiled.

July 28, 2014

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