"The patient population that we serve are not eligible for government assistance but they are not quite capable of getting private insurance or financing their own medical care. So being an intermediary between these patients and the medical world that they have trouble accessing becomes crucially important to their health," says Andrew Siedlecki, a Dartmouth medical student who currently volunteers for the student-created Vision Screening Program at the Good Neighbor Health Clinic.
Siedlecki and his fellow classmate, Evelyn Bae, volunteer at the local Good Neighbor Health Clinic to perform vision-screening exams for the underserved and uninsured populations of the Upper Valley. The program was started by Dartmouth medical students Edmund Tsui and Sandolsam Cha in 2011, with support from the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, and has been maintained by Geisel School of Medicine students for the past three years. The equipment and time necessary to perform the exams is minimal, but the impact on a population that has very few options for regular ocular health care has been significant.
Siedlecki and Bae have been running the program this academic year, and have noticed the impact that simple vision screening tools have had on the community, and on their education at Geisel.
"They're just initial screening tools that we use to see whether they need to see an optometrist and whether we can refer them out. If they have very obvious problems that need immediate attention then we send them to DHMC to get immediate care or see an ophthalmologist," says Bae. "I think being able to have these experiences, it really compliments the education and learning that we do at Geisel."