Optometry helping the homeless?

Total votes: 668
Guest: Robert Bell, from Project Homeless Connect

Previously unaware of the enormous unmet demand for eye care within his San Francisco community, Robert Bell began using his influence as a long-time eye care industry executive, consultant, and speaker to inspire more eye care professionals to volunteer and to bring in more optical and optometric resources, equipment, and eyewear to the Project Homeless Connect vision program in San Francisco.  Hear about Robert’s journey and how you can do the same thing to support your own communities.

Date: Wednesday, May 18, 2016


Hello Dr. Gerber!

My name is Lynn and I'm one of the Vision Directors of the Seattle King County Clinic. It's a mass clinic that a group of medical professionals has put on in the last 2 years at Key Arena in Seattle that helps those in our community that are homeless, low income, or those that just cannot afford basic health needs. It's very similar to what Robert Bell does with Project Homeless Connect, but on a much larger scale. In 4 days, we see about 1,300 patients for comprehensive eye exams (pre-testing, refraction, dilation, and OCT if necessary), and we provide them with a brand new pair of glasses (not a used pair!) a few weeks after their visit. Not only do we offer Vision Services, but we offer full dental and medical services as well. Dental cleanings, fillings, crowns, dentures, flippers...all on the same day. Radiology services (x-ray, ultrasound, mammograms), acupuncture, podiatry services...there are just too many services to list.

We are in need of finding a company that would loan us equipment for our 2016 clinic. In the previous years, we have used equipment from Remote Area Medical and California Careforce, but this year they are both hosting clinics the same week we are. We have tried contacting VSP, VOSH, and Marco but all seem to be doing events during the same week as well (October 27th through October 30th). Would you have any ideas on where else we could borrow/rent equipment? We are happy to pay for any shipping and staff that need to come with the equipment. Buying the equipment we need outright currently is not an option. It's not that we couldn't afford it, it is more of a matter of storing over $200,000 worth of equipment in a container for a year and it not being used.

Aside from the equipment question, I would like to say that serving those in our community is a feeling unlike any other. When I was a teenager there was a period of time where my father couldn't afford new glasses for me, and those couple of years were a real struggle since I'm a -5.00 OU. When I got into the eye industry, a big priority of mine was helping people that can't afford something that a lot of us take for granted. Or that we don't realize we are so dependent on until we don't have it available to us. There are people in our own neighborhoods that are going without glasses, even right now. They are struggling to see. Bumping into other people in the grocery store. Getting into car accidents even unfortunately.

It is so easy to volunteer in your community. You just have to know where. VOSH is a great place to start, and there are chapters everywhere. We meet a couple of times a month. Remote Area Medical is also another great organization to get into. And of course, you could always join the Seattle King County Clinic team!

Thanks for reading Dr. Gerber, and have a good evening!

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