School of Medicine Students Staff Free Eye Care Clinic

October 08, 2007

University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry students, supported by physicians from the faculty and the community, will provide free eye care services for the uninsured at a monthly clinic at St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center, 417 South Ave.

The eye care clinic is a collaboration between the School of Medicine and Dentistry, St. Joseph’s, the University of Rochester Eye Institute and Project Eye Care, a program of the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ABVI)-Goodwill Industries of Greater Rochester, which already provides free care. The first clinic takes place from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9.

The clinic -- which is available by appointment only -- is open to anyone who does not have medical insurance and does not qualify for insurance programs, such as Medicaid.

“The hope I have is that the clinic will be long standing,” said Sara Bozorg, a fourth-year School of Medicine student who helped organize the clinic. “It bothers me to think that there are people who can't see only because they don't have glasses. Or that there is someone losing vision from glaucoma, cataracts, or diabetes who just needs someone to see them, help them understand what is going on, and help with medications.”

The clinic will provide comprehensive eye exams and access to eyeglasses and referral services. Volunteer physicians from the Eye Institute and the community will supervise the clinic. The Eye Institute donated equipment for the clinic. The School of Medicine and Dentistry also provided money to buy equipment.

Project Eye Care was launched in 1995 by George Bresnick, M.D., then chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at the Medical Center. In 2000, ABVI-Goodwill took over the project.

Project Eye Care, which will book appointments for the School of Medicine clinic, conducts two or three clinics a month at St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center and Mercy Outreach Center in Rochester. More than 250 people a year receive eye care through the program. Project Eye Care is booked for the next three months at its regular clinics.

“The School of Medicine clinic will reduce the waiting time and it provides the only evening clinic,” said Kimberly Lawrence, Project Eye Care program coordinator. “A lot of people who don’t have insurance work and getting away from work for an eye care appointment is difficult.”

St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center has provided free medical services for several years. School of Medicine and Dentistry students also have staffed a weekly evening medical clinic at St. Joseph’s since September 2004, part of the project called UR Well Student Outreach.

“This is a way to help reduce avoidable blindness and visual impairment,” Bozorg said. “It’s also a good learning experience for students, and for community ophthalmologists who want to get involved in teaching.”

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