By Feyi Aworunse, OD, FAAO
Oct. 27, 2021
As the holiday season approaches, optometrists, like many others, are thinking about how to give back to their community. I too will be thinking of new ways to contribute to those in need in my community. An essential part of my current efforts is participating in Changing Life through Lenses (CLTL)®, a program from Essilor Vision Foundation (EVF). The great thing about CLTL is it gives optometrists a way to provide vision care and eyewear to patients in need with little-to-no financial burden.
No Better Time to Reach Out to Those In Need
An estimated 80 percent of what a child learns is through vision, so clearer vision gives them the opportunity to be more successful in school and life. As we approach the holiday season, there is no better time for children to have the opportunity to see their best. No matter how you celebrate, the holidays are filled with wonder. Imagine a child unable to clearly see their family’s faces and the colorful sights of the season. CLTL makes it easy to give children a gift that will allow them to see their best, be their best and live their best lives.
Positively Impact the Community You Serve
My passion for optometry is rooted in my desire to impact the community I serve through empowering those who are often overlooked or under-served. What better way to empower a person than by giving them the opportunity to see their best?
My goal has always been to not only provide quality eyecare, but also to bridge the gap that exists for many patients who receive an eye exam, but are unable to obtain glasses due to inaccessibility or financial barriers. I first enrolled in the CLTL program in 2018, soon after the program was announced. I was excited to hear there was a way to meet this need through a low-to-no-cost initiative. The CLTL program continues to be an integral part of my daily practice.
At the Eye Clinic at Nashville General Hospital at Meharry, approximately 40 percent of the patient population is uninsured or receives charitable care through our indigent care program. This allows them to receive care through all primary and specialty care clinics at a low or no cost. In the Eye Clinic, they receive comprehensive (routine and medical) eyecare, including surgical services when needed.
For the CLTL program, I identify patients who either received indigent care through the facility or informed me of financial hardship despite having medical coverage. I discuss the program with them, including the lenses and frames they are able to receive at no cost, if they choose to participate.
Soon after starting at the Eye Clinic, I quickly encountered many established patients who would return for their annual exams without being able to obtain new glasses due to financial challenges or not knowing where to go and how to navigate the optical system. By bridging this gap with CLTL, we have been able to meet the needs of over 400 patients ranging in age from four to 92.
Making Good Works Affordable & Doable for ODs
The CLTL Relief Fund is a great incentive for eyecare providers to participate in charitable efforts, especially if they were previously hesitant due to perceived time or financial constraints. With the CLTL Relief Fund, CLTL participants who provide vision services to charitable patients between June 1 and December 31, 2021, can receive a subsidy of up to $1,500. To receive payment, ODs must be enrolled in the CLTL program.
The pandemic has resulted in many practices having to shift gears and change their approach to how health and eyecare are delivered. In addition to that, many people have suffered the losses of financial stability or insurance coverage and now find themselves needing assistance in obtaining medical devices, such as glasses. The CLTL Relief fund has the potential to reach more providers, thus reaching more people in need.
The time commitment to participate in CLTL is not overwhelming. If you consider how much time you would spend volunteering in any other capacity, it would amount to less than a few hours a week, depending on the volume of orders. We do not have an on-site optical, so I participate in the frame selection process with my patients and discuss options and adaptation expected for their lens type or prescription, especially for first-time wearers.
I also set aside time during the week to submit orders in bulk. Our clinic staff assists with notifying the patients when their glasses have arrived via phone or messaging system. All of this is in addition to our normal job duties, but it is an extension of why we do what we do.
The grateful smiles and happy tears are priceless. As a doctor, we never feel like we have enough hours in the day, but with proper training and delegation, it is possible to integrate CLTL into your practice on an ongoing or periodic basis.
Do Good & Enhance Your Fulfillment as a Doctor
Participating in the CLTL program has been one of the most exciting parts of my job. It has been amazing to witness the impact this program has had on my patients. The fact that patients are able to participate in the frame selection process, as they would at a full-service optical, sets this program apart from many others.
I had an 8-year-old girl brought in by her mother, who noticed she was squinting and stood close to the TV. Her mother had a history of severe nearsightedness, so she was concerned that her daughter may have the same issue. It was the child’s first eye exam, so she had a fun time learning about her eyes and vision. As I was doing her refraction, I watched as her smile got bigger and bigger as the line she was able to read got smaller and smaller. We turned her blurry world into a vibrant and clearer one, and she was thrilled at what she could see.
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I was aware that affording glasses was an issue, so I surprised her (and her mother) when I told them about the CLTL program. She was excited to pick out her first pair of glasses in her favorite color – pink! At a follow-up visit, she came wearing her glasses and told me that she wears them all the time and was excited to start school the next day after a year and a half of virtual learning. Her mother said her daughter would even fall asleep in her glasses sometimes. Seeing that her glasses were well-worn, I gave them the bonus of a second pair of (pink) glasses, so she could continue seeing and doing her best in school.
This little girl’s story is just one of many touched by my clinic’s participation in the CLTL program. I see so many patients who inform me that with their new glasses they were able to secure employment, obtain their driver’s license or see clearly during their classes. Being able to take part in their story, by providing them a pair of glasses so they can see and live better, is truly an honor.
Feyi Aworunse, OD, FAAO, practices at the Eye Clinic at Nashville General Hospital at Meharry. To contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org