August 19, 2015

West Birmingham residents don’t have to look far for eye care

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optometry western clinicAlexia Vaughn, O.D., clinical assistant professor in the UAB School of Optometry supervises an optometry student performing an eye exam on a patient at the Western Health Center optometry clinic.A longstanding program through the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Optometry landed a new opportunity to better serve the community and its students.

For more than 40 years, the Community Eye Care program, UAB Eye Care’s outreach arm, has provided vision services to the Birmingham metro area.

Community Eye Care Director Felton Perry, O.D., clinical associate professor in the UAB School of Optometry, says they regularly have new opportunities to serve. The latest came in 2015, as the new Western Health Center, a part of the Jefferson County Department of Health, opened a full service health center for the residents of western Jefferson County. 

“Community Eye Care has always sought ways to give back to our community because there is always something you can do and always a way to get it done,” Perry said. “We’ve got doctors, we’ve got School of Optometry students, and we saw a need for optometry care in this area, so we operate an Optometry Clinic Monday through Friday by appointment, and serve patients from infancy and up.”

Located on the Bessemer Super Highway in Midfield, the Western Health Center was created from the merger of the Western (Ensley), West End (near Baptist Princeton) and Bessemer Health Centers. The Optometry Clinic accepts most medical and vision insurance, and uses a sliding fee scale based on Federal Poverty Guidelines and determined for us by the Health Department for those who are uninsured.

“We’ve got doctors, we’ve got School of Optometry students, and we saw a need for optometry care in this area, so we operate an Optometry Clinic Monday through Friday by appointment, and serve patients from infancy and up.”

“We rotate third- year optometry interns through the clinic, supervised by our Community Eye Care Faculty Doctors of Optometry,” Perry said. “In this way, the clinic provides eye care to patients of all ages, training for the interns under expert supervision, and opportunities for UAB and the School of Optometry to interact with the residents of our hometown.” 

Perry says getting out into the community offers a chance for the doctors and interns to see a broader group of patients.

“It’s a great place for the faculty to be,” Perry said. “Getting to go out into the community like this makes me a better doctor, and it will help our students too. They are forced to think on their feet, and they get experience dealing with various situations like language barriers, multiple health problems and maternity cases.”

Third-year School of Optometry student Spencer Sechler says over the past several months since the new clinic opened, they have been able to treat more patients than ever before in this part of Birmingham.

“I am really appreciative to be a part of it,” Sechler said. “I think a lot of people have preconceived notions about optometry school, and from what I have seen, few get the opportunities to learn and serve others in a new facility like this. It’s nice to get out in the community and have the equipment we need to take care of patients.”

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