The Michigan College of Optometry at Ferris State University announced a partnership with Mesick Consolidated Schools to provide complimentary eye examinations and eyeglasses to children as part of the college’s Students in Need of Eyecare Program.
Children identified by parents, teachers or school staff as needing eye care services will benefit from this collaboration between MCO and the Mesick school district.
Early in September, during the school’s open house, parents were provided an informational packet that included permission and history forms. Additionally, Mesick teachers were asked to identify children in need of services based upon a checklist of symptoms that could indicate a need for these vision services. The school district’s social worker and an elementary teacher are coordinating the program from the district’s end to make sure that all required forms and insurance information are collected in advance of the exams. The eyecare services will be provided when the chosen Mesick students will be bused to Ferris’ MCO building in Big Rapids on Tuesday, Sept. 17.
“The SINE program is the perfect combination of community outreach and hands-on clinical learning for our Ferris State University Michigan College of Optometry students,” said Dr. Sarah Hinkley, an associate professor and chief of Vision Rehabilitation Services. “We are providing third-year optometry students their first pediatric patient encounters with children lacking convenient or affordable access to eyecare.”
The chosen students will be examined by third-year clinical interns who will perform a comprehensive vision examination on a child under the supervision of pediatric faculty members. Children who require eyeglasses will be taken to the optical dispensary to choose their glasses, and the clinical intern will write a report to detail the results of the examination. That report will be sent to the school and family of each child. The children will be broken into two groups. While one group is undergoing examinations, the other group will tour Ferris’ Card Wildlife Center. The groups will meet up for a sack lunch on the North Campus Quad. After lunch, the groups will switch and the second group will have their eyes examined while the first group tours the Card Wildlife Center.
Funding for the SINE program is part of a collaborative effort that includes the Ferris Academic Service Learning office, the local Mesick Lions Club and MCO. The ASL office awarded a $500 grant as the project will allow the third-year students to experience one of their first encounters with a pediatric patient. The program also allows the MCO students to translate what they have learned from their pediatric coursework into a clinical setting.
The local Mesick Lions Club expressed interest in a financial commitment to the program. MCO will assist by blocking the normal University Eye Center schedule that day to accommodate the program. The college also will be providing the complimentary eye examinations and glasses while taking only the grant revenue and Lions Club donation to offset costs.
“This is a win-win for our students and the many school children it will benefit,” said Hinkley, who noted that Mesick Consolidated Schools is located in a rural community where the nearest optometry or ophthalmology office is approximately a 30-minute drive.
Hinkley, an alumna of the Mesick school district where her dad is still a sixth-grade teacher, was contacted to see if it was possible to initiate a program to help students in need of eyecare. She also is hopeful that, in addition to the eyecare value of the SINE program, the visit to Ferris could open the eyes of the young students to higher-education opportunities.