Six years ago, an assessment surveying the top health needs in East Parkside determined that eyesight was the greatest need. After receiving the results, Ranjoo Prasad, OD, clinical associate at Scheie Eye Institute and UCC, worked with colleagues at Scheie Eye Institute to implement a program to address eyesight issues in East Parkside over the next few years.
In 2009, another assessment found that eyesight was back on top of East Parkside’s health needs. Taking charge, Douglas Worrall, student at the Perelman School of Medicine, applied for a Penn Medicine CAREs grant and secured funding for a vision program at UCC.
Scheie provides the equipment, and also offers the lenses and frames at a significantly lower cost than available elsewhere.
Sometimes the screening, or the exam, detects sight threatening eye diseases and helps patients take the necessary actions to address them, such as expediting state financial assistance through UCC’s social work program.
The service is valuable to both members of the community along with the students treating them.
“It’s an amazing experience to get out of the classroom and away from the books a little bit and realize why I’m pursuing medicine in the first place,” said Douglas Worrall, student at the Perelman School of Medicine and treasurer of UCC. “To interact with patients and learn clinical medicine at an early level is a unique and special opportunity.”
Other students further Worrall’s sentiment.
“This clinic is an amazing opportunity to have that patient interaction and see its inner workings,” said Peter Chansky, senior biology major at Penn and co-coordinators with Penn junior Hugh Hamilton at UCC. “This clinic is really special because it brings together all these components of Penn, and we see all these cool pieces work together.”
Anne Marie Otto, administrative patient service representative, works with Chansky and Hamilton to schedule patients, ensuring the patients know where to be, are on time, and fulfill other organizational roles, such as making sure everyone is getting the screening exam they need. Ann Marie handles the second component, scheduling the second appointment and making sure the glasses have been ordered.
Many of the clinic’s visitors are uninsured, most of those who are insured are on Medicaid, others have insurance and do not realize it, so it is not easy for a number of these patients to afford glasses at full price or pay expensive co-pays.
Angelique Maury is one of those patients. Several years ago, a Penn student interned at Maury’s workplace and told her about UCC so that she could offer the information to her clients.
Maury did not anticipate using this
information for herself, but was very happy she did, noting that the thorough
physical and eye examination she received had far surpassed her expectations.
“I thought the quality of care would be rushed and a bit insensitive because the program is lead by students, rather than doctors,” said Maury. “Normally, I would see doctors leading and the students observing. I was impressed to find that the students’ quality of care and service delivery reflected that of well trained and experienced doctors. I thought this would be a shortcut way to a quick/fast physical without any quality attention. Contrary to my belief, my visit was comforting due to the friendly caring young men and women who were sincerely interested in my overall health.”
Maury suggested that some people using free health services feel they may not receive top quality care because sometimes the program may be poorly funded, operated by volunteers in training rather than experienced professionals, among other issues.
“I also received the eye examination as part of my first visit, and got more impressed as they followed up with me at their main office for my glasses,” said Maury.
Maury plans on continuing to spread the word of this resource to the many others who need it in East Parkside. The talented students and staff look forward to it.
“Everyone has a duty and obligation to give back to the community, no matter what you do and at what level or way, whether money, time and labor, or knowledge,” said Prasad.