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John J. Abbott, R.Ph., Friends of the Congressional Glaucoma Caucus Foundation; Thomas Quinn, O.D.; Scott Strickler, M.D.; Zane Lazer, M.D.; Susan Quinn, O.D.; Thomas Littler, O.D.; Jon Mesarch, O.D.; Jack Brose, D.O., dean of Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine (OU-COM); and Wayne Carlsen, D.O., OU-COM associate professor of geriatrics. Susan and Thomas Quinn, Strickler, Lazer, Littler, Mesarch, and Carlsen are physicians and optometrists who will be participating in the Student Sight Savers Program starting this November.

Glaucoma screening program will be a sight saver for Southeastern Ohio

by Kevin M. Sanders
Dec. 19, 2007

On Nov. 30, the Student Sight Savers Program (SSSP) came to Southeastern Ohio. The program, which provides free glaucoma screenings, is open to all, but particularly reaches out to underserved, underinsured and uninsured patients. Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine’s (OU-COM) Community Health Programs will administer SSSP, which uses medical students under the supervision of local optometrists and ophthalmologists to conduct the screenings. SSSP is funded by the Friends of the Congressional Glaucoma Caucus Foundation.

The program will serve this community well, says Kathy Trace, R.N., director of Community Health Programs.

“One doctor in the community told me that he, not infrequently, gets patients who when they come to see him are already legally blind,” says Trace.

“Glaucoma is a preventable cause of blindness, but if untreated leads to blindness. There are too many people who don’t regularly see eye doctors because they can’t afford it or don’t think it’s necessary.”

Coordinating the work students and physicians for SSSP will be Susan Quinn, O.D., who serves on Athens city/county health boards and has practiced in Athens for more than 24 years. Quinn says that area optometrists and ophthalmologists have responded very positively to participating in the program. Twenty-two of the 24 she contacted agreed to do so, she says.

Medical students will benefit, says Quinn, by working with optometrists and ophthalmologists and by providing hands-on care for the community.

“Glaucoma has no early symptoms, so people may have the disease and not know it. It’s a chronic disease, and if it’s diagnosed, patients need to be seen regularly. They need regular testing to make sure the disease is well controlled. Sometimes they need surgery,” she says.

Patients who need medical help beyond the scope of SSSP will be referred for follow up care, says Quinn and Trace.

“There are resources that allow us to send them to providers in the area to get the proper care,” says Quinn.

One of those resources is Prevent Blindness Ohio, says Trace. Prevent Blindness Ohio is a voluntary vision health and safety organization dedicated to the prevention of blindness.

“Prevent Blindness Ohio will help link to providers and help pay medical bills,” she says.

Although SSSP screens primarily for glaucoma, about 10 percent of those screened are referred for other eye problems, says John J. Abbott, R.Ph., a consultant and member of the board of directors of the Friends of the Congressional Glaucoma Caucus Foundation.

Abbott recommended OU-COM for inclusion in the program. More than 40 other medicals schools across the nation have Student Sight Saver Programs.

“We want to throw as wide a net as possible for our screenings,” says Abbott. “No one is denied screenings no matter what their income level is.”

“SSSP,” says Quinn, “is a great public health initiative.”

To learn more about SSSP, contact Community Health Programs at (740) 593-2432.

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