More than a Health Fair

The Catholic Charities Wellness and Resource Fair is put on by the Catholic Charities, Archdioses of San Antonio, Inc. The UIWRSO vision screening took place during the fair on Saturday, April 5, 2014 from 9am-1pm. Free services included: eye exams, Diabetes, blood, and cholesterol screenings, kidney health screenings, mammography screenings, drug consultation, and ask a doctor/nurse.

All the volunteers loaded into the school van and we put all our equipment in the back. We drove to the Holy Redeemer Catholic Church at 1819 Nevada Street, San Antonio, TX. The church was right in the middle of a residential area and most of the people in the neighborhood attending the health fair also go to church there as well. It was a festive environment with music and food in the air. Zumba was danced outside while we started setting up inside the church. The staff was extremely helpful and provided us with extra tables and space!

To optometry students, a health fair is usually time to work a vision screening, but on this occasion I had some time before the fair to walk around and talk to the other providers participating.

The dentists and dental hygienists perform free teeth cleanings for the community.  I got a goodie bag from them with toothpaste and toothbrush inside, woohoo! The nurses performed mammography screenings and demonstrated proper techniques for a self-exam. Some of the optometry students got their fingers pricked to check their cholesterol and sugar levels.

I had the pleasure of visiting with Dr. Cynthia Nguyen, Assistant Professor at the UIW Feik School of Pharmacy. The volunteers at the pharmacy table educated the attendees about the drug labels and different types of drugs media, for example, you must shake suspensions drugs (vigorously), while solutions do not require shaking. This reminded me of class and I remembered how some patients do not shake their glaucoma suspension eye drops enough; hence, they do not get the therapeutic dosage until the end of the bottle.

It is always amazing how a simple vision screening can keep so many people healthy!

It is at these fairs that I learn more and more about other health professions and only then can I further appreciate their work. I also feel more confident in whom to refer my future patients to, because I know more about their scope of practice. I also talked optometry to the other providers and educated them on the benefits of a screening versus a full eye exam.  I hope that through our communication at small health fairs, like this one, can lead to a better and integrative health system.

image_2 image_1


Photos courtesy of Linh Phan

Vision Screenings – An Inside Look.

[pb_slideshow group=”4″]


UIWRSO is all about helping the community, especially with vision screenings. Our school gives us the opportunity to start any event with approval from our student affairs office. I have participated in multiple vision screenings and even led a couple myself. Yes, there was paperwork involved, but the documentation ensures the interns’ safety and legitimacy of every event that we partake.

Most of the screenings are local to San Antonio, however there were times when we carpooled to Austin to help out with big health fairs like  the Special Olympics  in Austin (1.5 hours away!)

Local K-12 schools also commonly ask UIWRSO to help with the school mandatory vision screenings or they ask  if RSO students can come to their special events! Metzger Middle School invited us to their Super fitness day!”  Shelia Gibson, a PE teacher from Metzger middle school first contacted Dr. Coates, the UIWRSO Director of Volunteering Services, and requested that UIWRSO students volunteer. If Dr. Coates approves of the event, he will contact the Clinic Coordinator, or vice versa, depending on who was contacted first.

After that, Dr. Coates decides which student org would be most appropriate to help out with an event, and the student leaders of that organization will decided if they want to take on such a screening, group up with another club, or let Dr. Coates know that they can’t make it.

SVOSH was lucky enough to be available to volunteer for this event. The officers then filled out student affair’s paperwork and coordinate with Nathan McCarthy, the Clinic Coordinator to make sure that the right equipment is allocated for that day! Also if the club decides to take on a vision screening, they must find a supervising OD, usually a doctor from UIWRSO who happens to be free at that time and date. The supervising OD does more than just watch the students; this optometrist will have the power to refer patients who did not pass the screening to the UIWRSO Eye Clinic for a full eye exam.

Overall vision screenings are always a fun experience!

Thanks to them, I can gladly say that I can run through a Pediatric screening more efficient than I ever imagined. I have deepened my friendships with many classmates through screenings and  it’s always a pleasure to see my fellow interns out there in the field, working together to help the community, one school at a time!

Low Vision Rehabilitation Center

IMG_8518_FotorI am currently in-house for my last semester of optometry school.  My in-house semester consists of rotations through Bowden Eye Care and Health Center, CommuniCare Health Centers on Callaghan and in Kyle, San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind, and the contact lens clinic and the vision therapy/electrodiagnostic clinic at the University of the Incarnate Word Eye Institute.

My first and current rotation is at the Low Vision Rehabilitation Center at the San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind.  The center is in a new building that was unveiled this past fall.

The new building also has a low vision store, library, playroom, technology room, conference room, other Lighthouse program rooms, and a production facility.

IMG_8521_Fotor IMG_8498_Fotor IMG_8501_Fotor

IMG_8525_FotorThe Lighthouse employs legally blind or visually impaired individuals at the production facility who manufacture and assemble items such as mechanical pencils, rollerball pens, highlighters, aerospace insulation blankets, and other textile apparel items.

Every morning, my clinic group and I walk through the manufacturing and assembly plant to get to the Low Vision Rehabilitation Center, and it is really inspiring to see the employees hard at work.

Some employees have multiple impairments, such as visual and hearing, yet they do not let their impairments hold them back from working and being self-sufficient.  It is great to see these individuals enjoy and succeed at their jobs.


As interns, my classmates and I are able to provide comprehensive eye exams and low vision evaluations for patients at the Low Vision Rehabilitation Center, many whom are Lighthouse employees.  The Low Vision Rehabilitation Center has very friendly staff members.  Daniel Espinosa, the Low Vision Clinic Manager, and Meloney Castro, the medical receptionist, are great to work with, and they both love working at the Lighthouse.

We are also fortunate to have four different low vision specialists who we get to work with during our rotation at the Lighthouse:  Dr. Nancy Amir, Dr. Christopher Choat, Dr. Stephanie Schmiedecke, and Dr. Matt Valdes.

Each doctor has many years of experience in low vision, and I find it very helpful to learn from each doctor’s different style of practicing and teaching.


Low vision is often an overlooked specialty of optometry, but it can definitely be a rewarding field of practice.  My classmate and I recently saw a patient who was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration several decades ago.

He had canceled his newspaper subscription since he was no longer able to read it.  After a low vision evaluation, my classmate and I were able to prescribe the patient a pair of spectacle microscopes in order to read newspaper print comfortably again.  The patient was so ecstatic when he was able to read a newspaper that he thanked us profusely.  This was definitely one of my highlights as an optometry student.

One important thing that I have learned is that although optometrists may not be interested in providing low vision services, they should be aware of the benefits of such services and refer to low vision specialists when appropriate.  I have heard several patients remark on how they wish someone had told them about low vision services sooner and how happy they are to find that such services exist.

The San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind is a great organization, and I am glad that I get to rotate through the Low Vision Rehabilitation Center.

IMG_8506_Fotor  IMG_8505_Fotor