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Last modified: Wednesday, May 12, 2010

IU Optometry, Ophthalmology team with Wishard to renew eye care for underserved in Indianapolis

Fourth-year students gain practical experience; patients to see shorter waits

May 12, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- A new agreement forged between Indiana University's School of Optometry, the School of Medicine's Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute and Wishard Health Services will renew IU's commitment to provide eye care to underserved residents of greater Indianapolis.

The new agreement will also provide service-learning opportunities for optometry and ophthalmology students while allowing Wishard to chip away at a backlog of patients seeking routine eye care through the hospital's Advantage program. In addition to Wishard Eye Clinic, patients will now also receive care at the Indianapolis Eye Care Center located at 501 Indiana Ave. in Indianapolis.

Wishard Eye Clinic

A crowded waiting room last week at the Wishard Eye Clinic in Indianapolis underscored the importance of a new agreement reached between Wishard, the IU School of Optometry and the IU School of Medicine's Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute forming a partnership to provide eye care to underserved populations in the greater Indianapolis area.

"The new agreement signifies both the demonstration of growing partnerships of IU Ophthalmology and Optometry as well as an important solution in caring for the eye care patients of the Wishard system," said Dr. Douglas Horner, director of clinical administration for the IU School of Optometry. "Once implemented and understood, this new partnership should alleviate most of the concerns we have had about serving a segment of eye care patients in Indianapolis and how best to fund such programs."

Patients are first screened for eligibility for the Wishard Advantage program and if accepted are seen by primary care provider. If an eye care referral is made, the patient is ranked by need, with the direst situations seen first. Working together, optometry faculty and fourth-year students provide the patient with a comprehensive examination, including eye glasses if needed, and if necessary a referral is made back to the ophthalmology clinic at Wishard for further care.

"This new agreement allows the School of Optometry to continue and to renew its commitment to providing eye care to the Indianapolis community," said Dr. Sarita Soni, interim dean of the IU School of Optometry. "Not only will it help address the need for comprehensive eye care for some of our least-served populations, but it also adds an important component of service-learning for our students."

Dr. Louis B. Cantor, chair of IUSM's Department of Ophthalmology and Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute, called the agreement unique and a sign of growing cooperation both inside and outside of academia to improve patient well-being.

"Our hope is that this new initiative will enhance service-learning, satisfy a need in our community and, possibly, provide an opportunity for future collaborations intended to better the overall health of Indiana residents," he said. "We look forward to being involved in a partnership that focuses on educational opportunity and service to those who need it most."

The Indianapolis Eye Care Center (IECC) is usually home to about a dozen fourth-year optometry students who train with supervising faculty. The clinic provides services in comprehensive eye care, in addition to pediatrics, binocular vision anomalies, contact lenses and vision rehabilitation. In addition, IECC is increasingly engaged in patient-based research initiated by School of Optometry faculty, resulting in opportunities for these and other patients at IECC to participate in patient-based research.

"Here at the Indianapolis Eye Care Center we have a long history of providing eye care to segments of the population who are most in need," said clinical associate professor and Fourth Year Primary Care Service Chief Dr. Brad Sutton. "We are very happy to be able to help Wishard meet the overwhelming demand for care in patients covered by their Advantage program."

Dr. Chi-Wah Rudy Yung, professor of ophthalmology, Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute, and chief of ophthalmology for Wishard Health Services and medical director of the Wishard Eye Clinic, said the new agreement should be beneficial for all concerned: students, the university, the hospital and most important of all, the underserved residents of greater Indianapolis.

"This collaboration, we hope, will stand as a perfect example of how healthcare providers with different expertise can join forces with an education institution like Indiana University and Wishard Health Services for the betterment of society," he said. "The Department of Ophthalmology has long been the sole eye care provider for Wishard patients; with the addition of the School of Optometry, we can now provide comprehensive eye care to more residents in need in Marion County."

Horner said the new agreement is now in place and that the clinic has already been receiving its first referrals from Wishard.

To speak with Cantor, Horner, Soni, Sutton or Yung, please contact Steve Chaplin, University Communications, at 812-856-1896 or