Pacific University students from the College of Optometry, the School of Occupational Therapy and the School of Dental Hygiene provided care to clients of Project Homeless Connect in Hillsboro last week.
Optometry Community Outreach
The Pacific University College of Optometry believes in the importance of eye care for all people. Our optometry students put this belief into action through clinical training experiences in the community outreach program.
We are proud and inspired by the commitment of our Doctor of Optometry students to the community outreach program. Our Community Outreach Team consists of optometrists on faculty at Pacific, program director Dr. Jamy Borbidge, program coordinator Lisette Romig, and most importantly, our incredible optometry students.
Care for Underserved Populations
Optometry students are the heart of the Pacific University Optometry Outreach Program. Our students contribute around 3,000 hours per year, providing eye care services to underserved populations in our community.
The Optometry Community Outreach Team focuses on two main programs:
- Pediatric vision screenings at local elementary schools
- Comprehensive dilated vision screenings on our mobile clinic, the EyeVan, for low income and under-insured community members
The outreach team typically schedules over 100 events a year. About half of these events involve driving the EyeVan to community centers, churches, homeless shelters and migrant camps in the Portland metro area where our optometry students provide eye care services. In a single year, the program provided over 600 pairs of glasses to community members who could not otherwise afford glasses.
The other half of our events are dedicated to identifiying local children who are at risk of having vision problems. Our first and second year optometry students visit local elementary schools throughout the year and provide screenings. We typically screen well over 1,000 children each year. Vision is critical for learning and our optometry students help set up local kids for success in school.
Clinical Experience for First-Year Students and Above
Optometry students start participating in the Optometry Community Outreach program during their first semester of school and can continue participating all the way through their last semester of their fourth year.
“It felt great to be able to impact children’s lives positively even though we’ve only been in school for less than a month!”
—Ryan Gerbing '23
First and second year optometry students primarily focus on practicing their newly learned skills during pediatric vision screenings in elementary schools and Head Start programs. For our first-year students, going on an elementary school screening provides their first clinical encounter with a patient.
Third and fourth year students spend most of their time on the EyeVan using their advanced skills to perform comprehensive dilated vision screenings and providing eyeglasses to those in need.
Student Feedback on the Program
There are many reasons our optometry students are passionate about the community outreach program. Clinical experience provides a chance to put classwork to practical use.
“[I] enjoyed interacting with the kids and practicing some of the skills we have learned in class and labs.”
—Weston Sherwood '23
For other students, the community outreach program offers a morale boost as they complete a rigorous program.
“Working with the kids can brighten a stress-filled day of optometry school.”
—Jerad Croswell '22
Overwhelming the students’ passion stems from the care they provide to those in our community with limited access. This is true for students participating on the Eye Van and in the elementary school screenings.
“I liked seeing patients that don’t always have the access to get an eye examination each year as recommended. I felt that we provided a safe and caring environment for these patients to get the vision care that they need.”
—Nhung Do '21
Students note that the outreach program provides valuable hand-on opportunities to learn how to provide culturally competent care.
“The community outreach program is the reason I came to Pacific because it fueled my passion for public health. Your clinical skills are put to use immediately within the first year. It gives you an opportunity to meet so many wonderful patients and hear their stories.The EyeVan is truly unique because it has given me the tools to continue with a career in public health and serving my community!”
—Keiji Shiyomura ‘21
"The community outreach program at Pacific has been an amazing addition to my optometric education. Not only has it been great to give back to the community but it has also given me many opportunities to learn from the individuals we serve. The program has shaped me into a better clinician."
—Nick Grant '21
Our Community Partners
Our optometry community outreach program would not be possible without the help of our community partners. We currently work with over thirty different organizations in the greater Portland area, including Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Centers, Providence Health and the Domestic Violence Resource Center.
The wide range of organizations include community health centers, faith-based organizations, groups working with migrant workers, organizations assisting people experiencing homelessness and groups focused on survivors of domestic violence.
Students gain experience working with a variety of patient populations and our partners help host clinics and assist in the scheduling and follow up care of EyeVan participants.
Pacific University optometry students continue to help provide eye care to the underserved, using the EyeVan and working in tandem with partners like OHSU’s Casey Eye Institute and the Oregon Lions Foundation.
An innovative gift to Pacific helped link outreach efforts in optometry and dental hygiene, creating interprofessional care opportunities for students to gain hands-on experience while meeting the critical needs of our communities.