Stressing care in pediatric eye, vision care

Stressing care in pediatric eye, vision care

"InfantSEE is really the entry point into a lifetime of eye and vision care."

Kerry Beebe, O.D., took to heart former President Jimmy Carter's appeal to optometry: Find a no-cost opportunity to initiate eye care at an early age.

Kerry Beebe, O.D.

The 2016 Dr. W. David Sullins Jr. InfantSEE® Award winner, Kerry Beebe, O.D.

That entreaty for the nation's youngest inspired the Brainerd, Minnesota, practitioner to join InfantSEE®, a public health program of Optometry Cares®—The AOA Foundation, fueling a passion for pediatric vision care that quickly made his practice the place for pediatric eye exams community-wide. Last year alone, Brainerd Eyecare Center submitted more than 115 infant assessments.

"I've always been excited about this program, just looking at it and thinking, 'If we could convince just one more doctor of optometry to see one more baby, then we're really making a difference,'" Dr. Beebe says.

Past president of the Minnesota Optometric Association (MOA), Dr. Beebe served on the Board of Directors of the North Central State Optometric Council and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Diabetic Eye Disease Task Force. He is a past recipient of the MOA Optometrist of the Year and MOA Distinguished Service awards, as well as the AOA Optometrist of the Year award.

The 2016 Dr. W. David Sullins Jr. InfantSEE Award winner shares his thoughts on InfantSEE involvement, how to be successful in infant and children's exams, and bolstering relationships in the pediatric care community.

What does it mean to receive the Dr. W. David Sullins Jr. InfantSEE Award?

I've been involved since day one with President Carter's challenge, so it's good to have the opportunity to really carry forward this program and the vision of Dr. Sullins. I'm certainly grateful to be recognized for something that's really been a passion for me over the past 12 to 15 years. It's an honor.

How and why did children's vision become a focus for you?

Our practice has always been a full-scope practice. We've examined kids to nursing home patients, and everyone in between. But before InfantSEE, we really saw no babies, so getting involved with InfantSEE completed this whole picture of full-scope primary eye care. It also really made us recognize that this is an underserved population. In the U.S., we have a really good health care system, but the longer you're in practice, the more you realize these babies and young children can have significant visual problems that families had no clue were present.

What's the secret to being successful with these youngest patients?

You have to realize that as an optometrist, you already possess the skills to see these patients, even if you haven't seen babies before. You may have to go back and become a little more proficient at the clinical part, but start with one baby, and you'll start finding problems that will really build your confidence. All it takes is helping that first plus-10-diopter baby, and you and your staff will get excited.

How do you reinforce the importance of children's vision with your patients and community?

This may be the most important question. Everyone in our office, from the front desk to the opticians, the billers and coders, and technicians, are onboard with InfantSEE and children's vision. That's very important. We do simple things in our practice such as having an InfantSEE poster in the reception and exam rooms, making it a talking point with all ages of patients. Kids to grandparents want to know about this program and how we examine children.

Next, we get out into the community. The AOA has great bursts of media exposure, but AOA can't drive the children into your office. As a doctor, you really have to get out and do it. Our practice talks to service clubs, we participate in health fairs and about every three months, we go in and talk to new-parent support groups. InfantSEE is on our website, and we write letters to infants' pediatricians after every eye assessment. Then, you find it's not only your office that's promoting the InfantSEE program—it's childcare providers, pediatricians, birthing centers, all of these non-optometry groups that start promoting the program—and that's when you really start helping larger numbers of babies.

Why should an AOA member consider becoming an InfantSEE provider?

InfantSEE is really the entry point into a lifetime of eye and vision care. The concept of doing this one-time, no-cost eye assessment is still extremely important, even since the introduction of The Affordable Care Act. InfantSEE allows you to educate patients and other pediatric providers about eye and vision care without having insurance and fees as part of the discussion. And it's the same with pediatricians and other health care providers; they can promote the program on its merits and not have to discuss costs. The most important reason, however, is you will be bringing eye care to babies and changing the lives of families. It will warm your heart.

Click here to learn more about InfantSEE.

June 15, 2016

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