Nov. 29, 2007
By Kevin Sanders
Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine students will help bring free glaucoma screenings to the public through the national Student Sight Savers Program.
Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness, and there is no cure. But it can be treated once it is diagnosed.
OU-COM's Community Health Programs will administer the local offering of SSSP, which allows medical students to conduct the screenings under the supervision of local optometrists and ophthalmologists. SSSP is affiliated with more than 45 medicals schools across the nation.
The first session will be offered from 9 a.m. to noon Friday during the Albany Senior Health Fair at the Albany Senior Center. Please contact Community Health Programs at 740-593-2432 to find the date of future screenings.
The program will provide the screenings to all, with special emphasis on reaching underserved, underinsured and uninsured patients. Patients who need medical help beyond the scope of SSSP will be referred for follow-up care.
The program will serve the Athens area community well, said Kathy Trace, Community Health Programs director.
"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," she said. "One doctor in the community told me that he, not infrequently, gets patients who are already legally blind when they come to see him." (Glaucoma leads to blindness only if left untreated.)
Susan Quinn, a longtime Athens doctor of optometry, will coordinate the students' and physicians' work. Area optometrists and ophthalmologists have responded positively to the program, with 22 out of 24 physicians contacted agreeing to participate, Quinn said. Medical students benefit by working with optometrists and ophthalmologists and by providing hands-on care for the community, she added.
"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," Quinn said. "They need regular testing to make sure the disease is well-controlled. Sometimes they need surgery."
Resources are available for patients to receive further care when needed. One such program is Prevent Blindness Ohio, a voluntary organization that connects patients and physicians and can help pay medical bills for those who need assistance, Trace said.
Although SSSP screens primarily for glaucoma, about 10 percent of those screened are referred for other eye problems, said John J. Abbott, a consultant and member of the board of directors of the Friends of the Congressional Glaucoma Caucus Foundation, which funds the program. Abbott recommended OU-COM for inclusion in the national program.
"We want to throw as wide a net as possible for our screenings," Abbott said. "No one is denied screenings no matter what their income level is."
To learn more about SSSP, contact Community Health Programs at 740-593-2432.