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September 26, 2018

SOM students partner with FocusFirst for service learning project

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IMG 0962On Friday, Sept. 7, 31 UAB medical students volunteered in partnership with FocusFirst, a vision screening program run by Impact America. The students visited 23 different schools throughout Alabama and screened 520 children for potential vision issues. Of those, about 70 children will receive follow up vision care to ensure that they have the treatment or equipment they need to succeed.

FocusFirst concentrates on testing young children in urban and rural areas for potential problems with their vision or eye health. In the 2016-2017 year alone, FocusFirst provided vision care to 48,565 children in Alabama. Impact Alabama has been operating in the state since 2004.

Second-year medical student, Alana Jones, was an enthusiastic participant in the service learning project. “I recently read a report about hundreds of kids in Baltimore who were misdiagnosed with ADHD because they wouldn’t stay in their seats when, in fact, they just needed glasses to see the board,” she said. “Volunteering with Focus First allowed me to not only contextualize my basic science understanding of vision, but also to witness firsthand the impact of these early interventions, particularly in underserved communities.”

Rob Rosencrans, another second-year student, participated at the same site as Jones and shared, “I view service learning as a way to enact public health and prevention. Medicine and public health are often irrationally divided, but neither can actually function successfully without the other. There's a necessary synergy.” Rosencrans felt particularly useful when he realized that one of the children he helped screen had the same glasses prescription as him, but it had previously gone undetected. “I can't walk to the coffee pot in the morning without my glasses, let alone see a whiteboard,” said Rosencrans. “It feels good to use what skills and knowledge you have, little as they may be at this early stage of learning, for no reason other than interest and empathy.”

To view a photo album from one of the screening sites, click here.