KUSI and Torrey Pines Break are proud to announce UCSD’s Eyemobile for Children as this week’s honoree of the Breaking Away Award of Excellence. Founded in 1999, by UCSD’s Shiley Eye Institute and ophthalmologist, Dr. Stuart Brown, the Eyemobile was the nation's first full state of the art eye clinic on wheels dedicated to preschool children. The vision--no pun intended--was to remove all barriers to comprehensive vision care to underserved communities in San Diego County.
We presented the award to Iliana Molina, who started with the Eyemobile as an intern in 2003. Today, she is the Director of the program and has helped it expand into other regions and tells us that due to its success, the model has been adopted by Prevent Blindness Northern California, the University of California Los Angeles and Irvine. She tells us that vision problems are usually undetected in children, because it’s the only thing they’ve ever known, so they don’t know that they have a problem to address. Eyemobile provides in-class screenings which then offer referrals for dilated eye screenings aboard their yellow bus. They then prescribe and deliver polycarbonate (shatter-free) glasses to them, at no-cost to their families, within two weeks. These costs are all covered by UCSD, Alliance Club of San Diego, community grants and donations.
We asked Iliana what her favorite part about working with the Eyemobile is, she says, “It’s important to know that it’s not just about seeing, it’s about their cognitive learning abilities increasing through the synapses in their brains…I have teachers and parents tell me that children who used to not participate are now sitting still, paying attention and willing to learn.” As their bus slogan says, they’re “giving children the world to see.” Not only are they giving children these basic abilities, but they’ve also diagnosed high-risk vision problems such as tumors, glaucoma, cataracts, and more. “It’s heartbreaking when we find these severe problems, but it makes me so happy to be able to facilitate the treatment they need, even if they don’t have insurance we cover everything for them,” Iliana says. “I don’t want people to have to make the choice between groceries or glasses.”
The Eyemobile team consists of just 9 employees- a director, two pediatric optometrists, three screeners, a clinic manager and two coordinators. It has driven over 100,000 miles around San Diego County, screened over 160,000 children and provided over 25,000 full dilated eye exams, and has delivered over 8,000 pairs of glasses. The founders’ dream is to one day screen every single child in the San Diego County, no matter what zip code they're from. So far, they have served 250 schools and hope to increase their screenings to 180,000 this year.
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