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Ophthalmology Student Interest Group brings eye exams to student-run clinic

Apr. 24, 2014

The IU-Student Outreach Clinic recently passed the five-year mark as a provider of free medical care to underrepresented individuals who reside on near east side of Indianapolis.

Eye exam

A near east side community member recieves a free eye exam at the IU Student Outreach Clinic.

This is also the first year that people who seek assistance at the clinic have been able to receive in-house eye exams and free eyeglasses from the medical student volunteers.

"Starting this year, the IU-SOC (IU-Student Outreach Clinic) now offers vision services thanks to the work of the IU School of Medicine Ophthalmology Student Interest Group," said Andrea Wenzel, a fourth-year medical student and president of the student interest group. "We're pleased to help provide free medical care along with other services from partners including the IU schools of medicine, dentistry, law, social work, physical therapy, occupational therapy and the Butler University School of Pharmacy."

On April 23, Wenzel was named the recipient of a 2014 Plater Civic Engagement Medallion Award for her role in establishing the eye clinic at the student outreach clinic. She was nominated by Chi Wah "Rudy" Yung, M.D., professor of ophthalmology, who serves as the faculty advisor for the Ophthalmology Student Interest Group. The award was presented during an afternoon ceremony at the IUPUI Campus Center.

The IU-Student Outreach Clinic patients report unmet health needs for a variety of reasons, including costs, lack of insurance, lack of transportation, lack of a primary care provider and a fear of the medical community, said Wenzel, who added the student outreach clinic, including the new eye clinic, helps close this health care gap by providing a non-threatening medical presence directly in the community. 

OSIG members were integral in the acquisition of key equipment required to screen visitors to the clinical for preventable disease such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. Eye equipment added to the clinic this year includes:

  • A non-mydriatic fundus camera to photograph the interior surface of the eye.
  • A slit-lamp and phoropter, which are used to test visual acuity, from the IU School of Optometry.
  • A large auto-refractor and multiple visual field machines from Prevent Blindness Indiana.
  • A retinascope and occluders, secured by Dr. Yang, who also helped students map out logistics involved in providing eye exams in a community clinic setting.

Ana Pearson, a fourth-year medical student, procured a $12,000 grant from the IU Woman’s Philanthropy Council for the purchase of the fundus camera. Wenzel led the effort to establish a partnership with OneSight, a large philanthropic organization that provides a free eye exams, prescriptions and glasses through participating retailers such as LensCrafters. 

During a recent four-hour shift at the IU-Student Outreach Clinic, Wenzel said 18 medical students were able to provide vision screenings to 20 patients, with half receiving a prescription for free eyeglasses through local vendors due to the partnership with OneSight.

Medical students who volunteer at clinic are able to triage patients, test visual acuity, use an auto-refractor machine, measure inter-ocular pressure and photograph the interior surface of the eye. First- and second-year medical students with no ophthalmology experience are also able to practice measuring inter-ocular pressure and checking visual acuity.

Many actions are performed under the supervision of a resident and faculty member. The clinic also requires at least one faculty and one resident volunteer each month to provide glasses prescriptions. Faculty and resident volunteers have included Dr. Yung; Amy Waddell, M.D., assistant professor of clinical ophthalmology; and Sally Primus, M.D., and Evan Dunn, M.D., both residents in ophthalmology.

Although the eye clinic is in its first year, Wenzel said the Ophthalmology Student Interest Group members are confident it has "tremendous potential" to give back to the community while fostering an environment for learning between medical students, residents and faculty.

Established in 2009, the IU-Student Outreach Clinic is located on the near east side of Indianapolis. There are about 15,000 homes in this community, with 50 percent or more of the residents living at or below the poverty level, according to a 2007 community assessment.

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