Last modified: Thursday, December 20, 2007
Indiana University optometrist named Rural Health Fellow
Program teaches leadership in rural health issues and advocacy across the country
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Dec. 20, 2007
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- An Indiana University optometrist was recently one of 12 people across the country awarded the National Rural Health Association's Rural Health Fellowship. The Rural Health Fellows (RHF) program -- now in its second year -- is an intensive, year-long program intended to develop leaders in communities across the country by training them in the issues and advocacy tactics relevant to rural health.
"The program creates leaders in rural health issues who can go to bat for their respective communities," said recent recipient Jeff Perotti, Indiana University's School of Optometry community outreach director. "I saw the program as an opportunity to have direct guidance on how to approach the issues of rural health, and the program's lessons go hand-in-hand with what we're already doing."
The School of Optometry currently provides services to medically underserved individuals in four existing rural clinics. Additionally, the Eye Care Community Outreach (ECCO) program -- which began in 2004 -- matches low-income individuals without health insurance with local eye doctors to provide them with comprehensive vision care. The school also provides services in homeless shelters, schools and prisons.
Regular eye exams are not only important for correcting vision, says Perotti. Serious health conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, and brain tumors can be spotted through an eye exam.
The RHF program extends well beyond optometry. In fact, Perotti is the first optometrist awarded the fellowship. The program will bring the 12 fellows together three times while providing education and training throughout the year to "educate, develop and inspire a networked community of leaders who will step forward to serve in key positions in the National Rural Health Association, affiliated rural health advocacy groups, and local and state legislative bodies," according to the RHF website.
"There's definitely a large need," said Perotti. "If you look at Indiana alone, there are 809,000 people without health insurance and 778,000 people living below the poverty level who are potentially underserved. Our goal is to get out there and serve them."