NECO faculty and students work with a team from VSP to provide comprehensive eye exams and prescription glasses to four area elementary schools
On April 14-16, 2015 New England College of Optometry partnered with VSP Vision Care to provide comprehensive eye care to children at four of the Boston Public Schools. Two forty-foot mobile eye clinics from NECO and VSP visited three schools in Roxbury, MA—the Higginson Elementary, Higginson-Lewis and Nathan Hale Schools—and one in East Boston, the Donald McKay Elementary School.
Over the course of the three days, NECO faculty and students worked side by side with VSP personnel to provide vision screening, eye exams and eye glasses to children in need. Eye exams were conducted by NECO professors Drs. Bruce Moore, Beth Harper, Catherine Johnson, and Gary Chu, pediatric residents Preeti Mokka and Anna Kirillova, and third and fourth year students from NECO. They were joined by Paulette Tattersall, Pediatric Program Director for New England Eye On-Sight Mobile Vision Clinic, On-Sight Clinical Co-ordinator Farida Layakoubi, and driver Ed Braverman . They worked side by side with the team from VSP, Carol Streit, Kate McIntyre, Alejandra Ortiz, Bill Watts and Kim Rankin, who were able to create eyeglasses immediately onsite in their finishing lab onboard the VSP Mobile Eye clinic.
Drs. Bruce Moore and Beth Harper work with students to provide eye exams
Kim Rankin, VSP Mobile Clinics Operations Manager, explains, “VSP Mobile Eyes was honored to partner with NECO and New England Eye. Working alongside the optometry students, faculty members, and the talented On-Sight staff, the team was able to help children in need at 4 schools in the Boston area.”
For many of the students examined, clinicians on the mobile clinic provided their first comprehensive eye exam. In total, 95 children were examined and 31 were determined to need eyeglasses. Of those that required glasses, 16 had never before had an eye exam. Not only did they receive a comprehensive eye exam, they were able to received glasses built immediately on site through VSP’s mobile eye clinic’s finishing lab.
VSP builds prescription eyeglasses on-site for instant results
In addition to identifying those students requiring glasses, three six-year-olds were diagnosed with Amblyopia—a disease that is treatable in young children if caught early, but is also the leading cause of blindness in adults under the age of 55 years old if left untreated. The connection between vision and learning is critical for identifying issues some children have in school. During the eye exams, NECO staff and students were able to reveal misdiagnoses and help clarify why some children were having difficulty in school.
Paulette Tattersall explains: “Often school personnel do not know students need to be wearing eyeglasses. Providing eyeglasses directly to the patients in their schools, many of whom have never before ever received eye-care, sends an amplified message – teachers, nurses and the children immediately experience the difference, literally in front of their eyes. Providing eye care in this way (eye exams followed by the immediate creation and distribution of fashionable, high-quality, prescription glasses) is the best chance that treatment prescribed by the eye-doctor will be regularly achieved, enabling the best outcome for the child. Thank you VSP!”
This was particularly evident in the case of a child who was experiencing severe learning challenges at school. The child’s teacher explained that she had noticed that when this student was trying to read from right to left, the child was unable to discriminate letters and numbers and language issues. An Individual Education Plan (IEP) meeting at the school that morning to discuss the child’s needs included many possible strategies, but no recommendation for an eye assessment. Fortunately, the mobile eye clinic was available to exam the child. Dr. Bruce Moore noted, “our exam found the child had dense amblyopia in both eyes, what we call isoametropic amblyopia. It is uncommon, but not rare, and often very difficult for the schools or pediatricians to detect because many of the kids develop fairly good coping mechanisms. He was basically living in a blurred world, but never really knew that. “ Given a proper diagnosis and prescription glasses, the student will be much better equipped to perform in school in the future.
Another powerful experience for the clinicians and NECO students involved an eight year old who had been misdiagnosed with ADHD and learning disabilities, when in fact the issue stemmed from poor eyesight. Kim Rankin describes the experience of a shy, pensive child climbing up the steps to the VSP Mobile Eye Clinic: “While waiting to see the doctor, we talked with the child and found out that the student doesn’t play sports, and prefers hand held video games. The consistent squinting was our indicator that this child probably needed glasses. We found out they had never had an eye exam. The results of the exam showed that the student needed an RX of -6.00 DS in both eyes! The child selected a frame and was invited in to the VSP Mobile Eyes finishing lab to help make the glasses. The entire team was ready with cameras to capture the child’s reaction when the new glasses were dispensed. The broad smile emerged when this child realized what they had been missing.”
Third year student Melissa Link was also touched by the experience: “Working on the New England Eye’s On-Sight mobile eye clinic was truly amazing. To be able to provide full comprehensive eye care for those children who cannot receive it was such a valuable experience. When we placed glasses on this one child, the biggest, happiest smile I have ever seen came across their face. The moment of providing such a simple, but very important treatment to this child and several others are irreplaceable memories of my optometric profession.”
New England College of Optometry is proud to share this meaningful partnership with VSP to provide access to comprehensive eye exams and prescription eyeglasses to children in underserved communities. Nearly one in four children has a vision problem that could affect learning, and children from low-income families are three times less likely to receive the eye care or glasses they need. The NECO-VSP partnership underscores the importance of healthy, enhanced vision as a key component in developing the skills necessary to achieve a brighter future.