The grant will help purchase a recreational vehicle and convert it into a mobile eye care unit, providing vision screenings and comprehensive eye exams to underserved populations in Oregon.
The Pacific University College of Optometry began its mobile eye care service in 2003 with a modified delivery truck, complementing the care provided at six Pacific EyeClinics in the Portland area.
For the past 12 years, optometry students, under the direction of licensed doctors of optometry, have provided on-site vision screening and care to underserved populations throughout Clackamas, Multnomah, Washington and Yamhill counties.
The program focuses on providing care to children ages 3 to 7, whose vision is critically related to their academic success.
“Children often don’t complain of poor vision, because they don’t know what ‘normal’ vision looks like. Unfortunately, undiagnosed vision problems can cause children to fall farther and farther behind their peers,” said Dr. Sarah Martin, director of community outreach for the College of Optometry. “The Pacific EyeVan outreach program allows us to diagnose and address these problems and allows children to focus on learning.”
The EyeVan also serves vineyards, migrant camps, and community health and wellness workshops.
Demand for this care is increasing, and the new EyeVan will allow Pacific University to expand services and partner with other local agencies. With the new unit, Pacific will expand its service area to 13 northern Oregon counties and also will add retinal evaluation and screenings for eye disease related to diabetes and high blood pressure.
In 2014-2015, Pacific EyeVan provided vision screening services to more than 2,990 people, including 505 who received comprehensive refraction and eye health exams. The college plans to increase its total number served with the EyeVan by 25 percent, and its comprehensive exams by 50 percent, in the next five years.
As part of the expansion of services, Pacific University will partner with the Casey Eye Institute to coordinate outreach to Native American populations in Oregon, including the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.
“We are excited to partner with our peers in the region and expand our services, particularly to populations that our students have wanted to serve for some time,” Martin said. “Thanks to the Spirit Mountain Community Fund, a new EyeVan will allow us to travel farther and provide more vision care for Oregon residents.”
The Spirit Mountain Community Fund was established in 1997 by the Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde. The Fund, which has granted more than $69.1 million to organizations around the state, benefits citizens striving for self-sufficiency and projects in the areas of Arts & Culture, Education, Health, Historic Preservation, Public Safety, Environmental Preservation and Problem Gaming. The Community Fund previously awarded the Pacific University College of Optometry a grant in 2012 to help build the Pacific EyeClinic Cornelius’ new location.