Impact of InfantSEE Event on “Future Eye Doctors”

UIWRSO students, faculty, staff, friends and family came to enjoy the InfantSEE event on Friday, September 26. It was in a beautiful venue on main campus, and everyone was dressed for the occasion. It was a great event to bring awareness to the InfantSEE program and see how blindness has affected one talented individual, Mr. Tom Sullivan. As I sat in the crowd and listened to the InfantSEE statistics from Dr. Glen Steele, I was amazed by the stories of children whose lives were saved from this program. Tons of “awws” came from the crowd as we saw pictures of children who participated in the program and were essentially saved by it. Tom Sullivan was next, and he was an amazing performer. He called all of the students in the crowd “future eye doctors” and addressed us as such for the remainder of the event. He made everyone laugh, cry, and just feel great about the program. It is so wonderful to see someone make the best of a situation and share their experiences.

I asked several of the students what they felt about the InfantSEE program and event, and if they believe they will be involved in the program after they graduate from UIWRSO. Here were some of the comments I heard throughout the night:

“I had heard about InfantSEE in my undergrad program, but this event helped me to get more details about it, and now I am pledging to participate in InfantSEE when I graduate.”

“Tom Sullivan is an inspiration for us all. We, as students, can make a difference and prevent blindness from happening.”

“This was a great way for faculty and students to come together. I can personally say that it was incredible to see our professors promote this kind of program because we look up to them. Watching them be involved in something so important makes me realize how important it is, as well.”

“I never thought of myself as such an integral part in someone’s overall health. Most people just think we check their eyes, and that’s the end of it. We need to raise more awareness of this program, and the easiest way to do that is be providers ourselves.”

“I am privileged to be part of a school that believes in and promotes such an amazing program.”

When asked the question “Will you be an InfantSEE provider when you graduate?” 100% of the students I asked said, “Yes.” You could not have asked for a better outcome from the event. The program and the event personally moved me, as well. I pledge to be an InfantSEE provider when I graduate and have my own practice. To know that you could prevent blindness and even save a child’s life just by giving a pediatric eye exam moves me beyond words.

 

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Last photo courtesy of James DeMarco.

 

AOA InfantSEE Event at UIWRSO

Dr. Wingert, Mrs. Benne, Dr. Steele
Dr. Wingert, Mrs. Benne, Dr. Steele

On Friday, Sept. 26 at 6:00 pm, UIW Rosenberg School of Optometry hosted an AOA InfantSEE Event in the UIW Rosenberg Sky Room. Dr. Maki, UIWRSO Professor, and Mrs. Benne, UIWRSO Assistant Dean, have worked hard to plan a wonderful evening with Dr. Steele and Tom Sullivan. The purpose of this event was to raise awareness for InfantSEE:

InfantSEE®, a public health program, managed by Optometry Cares® – the AOA Foundation, is designed to ensure that eye and vision care becomes an essential part of infant wellness care to improve a child’s quality of life. Under this program, participating optometrists provide a comprehensive infant eye assessment between 6 and 12 months of age as a no-cost public service.  Read more about InfantSEE here.

Dr. Wingert started off the event with the Dean’s Welcome and left the crowd wanting to hear more about the program. He then passed the microphone to Dr. Steele, AKA Dr. Bubba of Southern College of Optometry (SCO). Dr. Steele’s lecture presentation almost reminded me of class. I really liked how he used case examples of  how an optometrist helped the pediatric patients via the InfantSEE program, in fact, we learned of how the program saved lives. Dr. Glen Steele, OD, FCOVD, FAAO is the current chair of the AOA’s InfantSEE program; his passion for raising awareness is so strong that he travels to multiple optometry school to speak about the InfantSEE program. With his strong educational background and southern humor, I truly enjoyed his message and took it to heart.

After Dr. Steele gave a warm introduction to InfantSEE, he brought Tom Sullivan on stage. He was blind since shortly after birth, but Tom

Mr. Tom Sullivan
Mr. Tom Sullivan

is an award winning actor, author and composer dedicated to spreading a message of hope and inspiration for overcoming adversity. He created a hilarious motivational program for the optometry students or as he calls us “Young Future Doctors;” He taught as to nurture our passion for optometry and the importance of public health initiatives such as the InfantSEE program. Mr. Sullivan shared his childhood, his ups and downs, but what I took away most was understanding the stigma that a blind person faces everyday. I went into optometry wanting to help people with their vision, but it wasn’t until this night that I understood the amount of impact that a pediatric eye exam can have. I was motivated and the passion he brought to stage resonated with the audience as they roared with laughter or listened in silence. Never have a heard a speaker, sing, cry, scream, and educate so well; It was an unforgettable night!

The event ended with a dessert reception. Dr. Steele and Mr. Tom Sullivan walked around the reception to talk to the students and faculty of UIWRSO. It was a great event that was made possible by UIWRSO in collaboration with Allergan and the AOA (American Optometric Association).